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Enjoying the Holidays When Your Child Has Diabetes

The holidays can be stressful for everyone—especially children with type 1 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

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

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:

Adolescents

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:

What Else Can You Do?

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!

RESOURCES:

American Diabetes Association
http://www.diabetes.org

JDRF
http://www.jdrf.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

Canadian Diabetes Association
http://www.diabetes.ca

REFERENCES:

Diabetes mellitus type 1. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116244/Diabetes-mellitus-type-1. Updated March 20, 2017. Accessed April 4, 2017.

Guthrie D, Bartsocas C, Jarosz-Chabot P, Konstantinova M. Psychosocial issues for children and adolescents with diabetes: overview and recommendations. Diabetes Spectrum. 2003;16(1):7-12. Available at: http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/diaspect/16/1/7.full.pdf.

Healthy holiday eating tips. Harvard University, Joslin Diabetes Center website. Available at http://www.joslin.org/docs/Healthy_Holiday_Eating_handout.pdf. Accessed April 4, 2017.

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 4, 2017.

Surviving the holidays. Beyond Type 1 website. Available at: https://beyondtype1.org/surviving-the-holidays-parenting-guide-for-t1d-kiddos. Updated December 20, 2016. Accessed April 4, 2017.

Top 10 tips for surviving the holidays with children and diabetes. Akron Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://inside.akronchildrens.org/2013/12/05/top-10-tips-for-surviving-the-holidays-with-children-and-diabetes. Accessed April 4, 2017.

Last reviewed April 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 4/4/2017