How Parents with Diabetes can Make Their Wellness a Family Priority
For many of us, diabetes is a family affair. Especially when a parent has diabetes, managing the disease with physical activity and healthy food choices can impact every member of the family. This World Diabetes Day, we’re thinking about this as an opportunity to explore the ways diabetes can actually help the entire family get healthy.
What do you do when your kids want pizza but you know your blood sugar has been high today? Or when you need to burn some energy but you can’t get your kids to get off the couch and go to the park with you? As a parent managing diabetes, you have an opportunity to model positive choices that can help your kids prioritize wellness for the rest of their lives.
Here’s how to get started.
Explaining Healthy Living to Children
Kids often have a difficult time processing change, especially when it means less of the things they enjoy, like sugary snacks or television time. Sit down and explain to them that the human body is like a machine, and that what you put in has to match the effort that goes out. This will help them understand the relationship between food and activity.
Ask your children which foods they would guess give them the most energy from how they feel after eating. Which foods make them feel best after they have eaten? Do any make them feel icky? This dialogue opens up a natural opportunity to talk about how food makes you feel as a person with diabetes. “Sugary foods like that affect me differently than other people, and it is important for me to make sure I exercise to burn off sugar,” you might explain. And then ask for their support. Saying, “Will you help me?” gives your child the chance to start habits of wellness feeling like they are a helper.
Fun Exercise that Brings Blood Sugar Down
Your child might seize the opportunity to help you exercise, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be ready to start running marathons. Find fun, child friendly activities like nature hikes or bike rides you can both enjoy equally. It has been suggested that by exercising when you are young, you are more likely to carry these habits into adulthood.
Still, not every kid will jump at the chance to get active. There are a few things you can do to coax your little one into getting off the couch:1
- Make it fun by letting them choose something they are interested in doing to break a sweat.
- Find an activity outside of organized sports, like taking the dog for a walk.
- Offer lots of positive feedback when they put down their tablet and exercise.
- Let them invite a friend along to your family’s active outings.
Meal Planning for Diabetes Management
The last area of wellness where parents can find it challenging to make themselves a priority is at mealtime. Kids definitely go through phases where they will only eat certain things, and the stress of fighting about it can impact blood sugar as much as eating a frozen dinner and being done with it.
Instead of fighting this battle on a daily basis, take a step back and consider how a little more strategy could help:
- What if you challenge your kids to find low-carb dinner ideas online that they want to try cooking?
- Or if every trip to the grocery store is a game, where the team goal is to only buy foods with certain nutritional benefits or contents?
Children may be creatures of habit, but remember those habits are learned. By taking steps to make less processed foods more appealing to the kids’ minds, you will make it easier to support the changes you need to make for you and your family.
Children whose parents have Type 2 diabetes have a higher chance of developing it themselves. This is just one of the reasons healthy day-to-day routines can help your kids in the future.2 Plus, by making your diabetes management a bigger priority in family life, the odds are greater you will be around to see that future.
Have you read the Family Field Guide to Living with Diabetes yet?
Download today for more ideas about how your family can live healthier lives every day!
1 Henry, Sarah. “Kid Fitness: When Your Child Won't Exercise.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/parenting/features/kid-fitness-when-your-child-wont-exerci.... Accessed October 23, 2018
2 “Genetics of Diabetes.” American Diabetes Association, www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/genetics-of-diabetes.html. Accessed October 23, 2018