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7 Lifestyle Tips For Parents Whose Children Have Diabetes

As a parent, learning that your child has diabetes can feel devastating. But with a little lifestyle care, children with chronic diabetes can also live a full and healthy life.

In light of World Diabetes Day today (November 14), try some of these tips to help look after your child with diabetes:

1. Be supportive as a family

When a child has diabetes, it affects the entire family. Siblings might resent the extra attention that a child with diabetes gets, as well as having to make sacrifices such as having to eat healthy meals instead of occasionally being allowed to eat junk food. But it is important to support a diabetic child and not make them feel alone or that they are to be blamed for this health condition. It is important that your child feels loved and supported enough to gain a positive sense of control over their condition and lead a healthy and happy life.

2. Create a set routine

Children can better manage diabetes when they have a regular schedule at home and at school that helps them eat at regular times, administer insulin regularly, plan ahead and have a snack before exercise, and regularly monitor their blood glucose throughout the day.

Informing the school staff is also important, so that the faculty can help your child participate in group activities and normal classroom activities (sports, exercise classes or excursions) normally as much as possible.

3. Eat healthy as a family

Avoid low nutrition carbs for high-fiber, whole-grain foods such as brown rice, whole-grain pasta, corn, peas, sweet potato, brown bread and wholegrain cereals. Likewise encourage non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, peppers and zucchini that are low in carbohydrates and will help your child feel fuller naturally. Not only do they add more fibre to the diet, but will also help reduce added sugar from each meal. Practice portion control to prevent overeating and also avoid forcing your child to finish all the food on their plate if they aren’t able to (avoid wastage by watching quantities). Despite the upcoming holiday season, remember to include all food types during a meal, because restricting certain foods can lead to poor eating habits, so just remember to keep an eye on your child’s carbohydrate intake.

4. Minimise junk food

Eliminate high calorie - low nutrition foods such as sodas, fruit juices, other sweetened drinks and junk food from your family’s diet. Instead, stick to water and educate your child on healthy food choices such as choosing lean, skinless meats and having low-fat dairy products. Pack a healthy lunch and snack from home if your child won’t be able to get something nutritious enough from school during the day. Healthy, low calorie snack choices can include vegetable sticks, fruit and low fat cheese.

5. Cook at home instead of dining out

Cooking at home on a daily basis might not be the easiest thing to do, but minimising eating out all the time can really help your diabetic child control their diet and useless calories. Choose margarine and vegetable oils without trans fats such as canola, corn, sunflower, soybean, or olive oils. Likewise, avoid deep frying and opt for healthier, fat-free cooking methods such as baking, broiling, grilling, poaching or steaming.

6. Be a good food and exercise role model

It's important for everyone to eat healthy and exercise, so make it a lifestyle habit in your family. It’s a great way to bond and spend quality time together. Children tend to model themselves after their parents, so be a good role model and choose healthy foods and an active lifestyle that will help inspire your child to make better choices for himself too. Cut back on screen and device time and encourage outdoor time instead. An hour a day is ideal, be it just walking, riding a bike or playing a sport. Depending on what activity your child chooses to do, plan a little extra time for him to have a snack beforehand to prevent low blood sugar as a result of exercising.

7. Be protective, but encourage independence

It is very common for caring parents to be overprotective of the child suffering from diabetes, but being overprotective can actually have a negative effect on your child, as it could promote a sense of low self-esteem and feeling helpless, instead of feeling able to manage some aspects of their diabetes themselves (don’t expect young children to be able to administer insulin or track their blood sugar levels themselves). Encourage your child to be self-reliant about managing things like controlling their diet and knowing how to deal with hypoglycemia (when blood glucose becomes too low), if it occurs (for example, your child should carry ’emergency’ food such as jelly beans with them at all times). Encourage your child to tell their friends about their diabetes and to teach their friends what to do in the case of a hypoglycemia attack.

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