Throughout the world, several hundred thousand children and teens are diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. It is a prevalent disease, impacting an estimated 200,000 young patients in the United States alone, with the diagnosis rate growing at 1.8% and 4.8% for Type 1 and Type 2 patients over the last five years. The issues surrounding diabetes diagnosis among children are far-reaching, not only for the child or teen but for their parents as well. Diabetes is a life-changing diagnosis because it presents health challenges that are anticipated to continue throughout a lifetime.
Because of the growing number of diabetes diagnoses among children and the devastating effects it can have on a child’s psyche, it is necessary for parents to know what can be done to offer support and encouragement along the way.
Warning Signs for Diagnosis
The first step for parents with children who may have diabetes is the realization that diagnosis is not always an easy task. A team of medical negligence specialists in the UK shares that the warning signs of the disease are often mistaken for other, more common issues in young patients. This means parents are initially given the wrong diagnosis, and children are left to struggle with an ill-suited treatment plan or no treatment plan at all. Without proper intervention as a child with diabetes, complications can arise that leave a life-long impact on the emotional and physical well-being of a young patient. For that reason, it is crucial for parents to recognize the warning signs and seek out medical attention for their child promptly.
A leading diabetes organization has offered the following guidance for parents who are concerned about a child’s health and well-being, focused on identifying the four T’s. The top warning signs include:
When one or more of these warning signs is present in a young child or teen, parents are not always quick to connect the dots with a potential diagnosis. The unfortunate reality is that an estimated 14% of parents who do see these warning signs as potential diabetes indicators receive an accurate diagnosis after the first visit with a medical professional. Many times, getting the right diagnosis takes a second opinion or follow up testing, both of which parents should be diligent about receiving.
Managing Emotional Responses
One a correct diagnosis is received, parents may feel as though they are on the path toward manageable treatment plans and monitoring of the condition over time. However, many parents of children with diabetes do not anticipate the emotional responses young patients have to a diabetes diagnosis. There is a great deal of fear that comes with the news, due in part to the fact that children are not fully aware of how the condition will impact their lives moving forward. They may also be concerned about how they will be received by other children, or if they will be left out of activities that are foundational parts of their youth.
Some children who have received a diagnosis of diabetes also experience depressing along with fear. They may sink into a pattern of isolation and social withdraw because of the diagnosis. Parents need to be aware of the potential for these negative, but understandable, reactions among children. Avoiding the difficult emotional responses after a diagnosis could lead to a lifetime of mental health challenges, and poor management of the disease over time.
Steps Parents Can Take
Above and beyond getting the right diagnosis early on, and being aware of the emotional responses children may have after diagnosis, parents can take extra steps to ensure their child feels supported and encouraged. First, recognize there will likely be a period of mourning for both you and the child or teen. Diabetes is a life-changing condition that requires ongoing management, medication, and doctor visits. It can feel like a personal loss when a diagnosis is delivered, so both parents and the child should be given appropriate space to grieve if they need it.
Next, parents should take great care to offer a positive environment after a diabetes diagnosis. Avoiding social withdrawals and depression is more likely when the child feels as though there is hope for their future with diabetes. Explain that there are several treatment options available, and ways to efficiently manage the condition on a day to day basis without interrupting life. In this discussion, it is, however, important to be honest with the child about what’s ahead.
Finally, parents can help their children recently diagnosed with diabetes by introducing the support of others. Whether that is in the form of family and friends, community organizations or neighborhood groups, children with diabetes need to know they are far from alone in their fight against the disease. Introducing these resources as safe places to talk about treatment and disease management, along with other concerns or successes is one of the most beneficial moves parents can make for their children with diabetes.