No parent wants his or her child to suffer. In fact, parents go to extreme measures to protect their children from harm. But when it comes to diabetes, there's no gate to lock or bully to stop. Fact is, there are 186,300 people under the age of 20 who have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. About one in every 400 to 600 children and adolescents has type 1 diabetes. Two million adolescents (or 1 in 6 overweight adolescents) aged 12-19 have pre-diabetes.

Getting Over the Shock

Many parents go through a mourning period when they find out their child is diabetic. Emotions run the gambit from sad to mad, to guilty and overwhelmed. The key is to get into a positive frame of mind; negative feelings are not going to help your child cope. Remaining positive and having a plan is the best way to help your child now and in the future.

Tips for How to Talk to Your Child

First, speak in an age-appropriate way. According to, children who have been diagnosed with diabetes may feel they've done something to cause the disease. It's important for parents to emphasis that kids don't do anything to cause diabetes.

Stress to the child that diabetes is not going to go away, but it's OK to feel sad or angry about it. Encourage them to talk openly about their condition.

Keep a positive outlook. Explain that working together, you can keep diabetes under control. Avoid using phases such as "cheating" and "being bad" if your child veers from the diabetes management plan.

Help your child understand the relationship between healthy eating and exercise, and how these things affect blood sugar levels, which affect their mood swings. If they understand what they eat and their lifestyle affects how they feel, they can start to take responsibility for managing their diabetes.

Avoid being overprotective and reinforce the goal and expectation that kids with diabetes can do anything that kids without diabetes can do. Discuss with your child that it's OK to talk to friends about diabetes. There's no reason a child can't enjoy parties and sleepovers.

Helpful Resources

The American Diabetes Association offers an incredible amount of information and helpful resources. Some of these include:
  • Everyday Wisdom, a kit that can help your family adjust to the everyday life with diabetes.
  • Planet D, an online experience for children with diabetes. Through diabetes information, personal stories and message boards, kids learn that they aren't alone.
  • A Place for Parents Message Board, which is a great place to meet other parents of children with diabetes.
  • ADA's Family Link program can connect you with other families of kids with diabetes in your area. They offer parent mentors, family events, information about diabetes camps, and links to top experts in the field.

Contrary to popular belief, diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar. According to the ADA, this myth probably began when people with diabetes were absolutely forbidden to consume sugar. Researchers no longer believe this. A child can still have all of his or her favorite sweets as long as it's a scheduled part of an eating plan.

For more information, call 800-342-2383 or visit