The holidays can be stressful for everyone—especially children with diabetes. Like all children, they must deal with the stresses of family visits, a flurry of activities, and various expectations at this time. But unlike most children, children with diabetes often feel restricted in the presence of enticing foods during the holidays. How can you help your child enjoy the holidays when the restrictions of diabetes cause him or her to feel different and left out?
The challenges a child faces during the holidays often depend on his or her age. You can help by understanding your child’s developmental level and the special issues he or she may confront at this time.
Preschool children tend to think in terms of good and bad. They may see the dietary restrictions and treatment of diabetes as punishment for something they have done. Therefore, your challenge is to ensure that the holidays are positive. Here are some tips:
School-aged children are able to take more control of their diabetes with each passing year. At school, they will learn to ask for help and will become more comfortable talking to their friends about diabetes. However, children need to feel that any skill they learn is an accomplishment, not a punishment. It is important that you help your child to continue developing a positive identity and a sense of independence. However, you should also keep in mind that your child may go through periods of denial and become lax about self-care skills. These tips can help during the holidays:
Adolescence is from about age 11 to age 20. This is a period of development marked by abstract, conceptual, and future-oriented thinking as well as creativity, trying different identities, and taking risks. This is also a time when many parents may expect the worst. Adolescents with diabetes may be more apt to cheat with their record keeping and fail to test their blood, especially during the holidays. Like other adolescents, they may engage in binge eating and drinking. They want to fit in and may have difficulty adhering to their food schedule when hanging out with friends. Here are some tips to help your adolescent:
To the degree that you have control over what and when your child eats, here are some additional tips for the holidays:
The holidays can be a challenging time for children with diabetes. But with a little planning and creativity, they will have visions of sugar-free plums dancing in their heads!
American Diabetes Association
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Canadian Diabetes Association
Diabetes mellitus type 1. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 3, 2015. Accessed April 13, 2015.
Eating out. American Diabetes Association website. Available at http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/eating-out/. Accessed April 13, 2015.
Guthrie D, Bartsocas C, Jarosz-Chabot P, et al. Psychosocial Issues for Children and Adolescents With Diabetes: Overview and Recommendations. Diabetes Spectrum. 2003;16(1):7
Healthy holiday eating tips. Harvard University, Joslin Diabetes Center website. Available at http://www.joslin.org/docs/Healthy_Holiday_Eating_handout.pdf. Accessed April 13, 2015.
Six Holiday Tips. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/holiday-meal-planning/six-holiday-tips.html. Updated July 11, 2014. Accessed April 13, 2015.
Last reviewed April 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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