Communicating diabetes with peers, tips from our Child Life Specialist

As summer is coming to an end, families are beginning to prepare for the start of the school year.  With that, anxiety may arise for children with diabetes to return to school with new diabetes routines and feelings of being different. For some children that have had diabetes in past school years, a new classroom or changing schools may refresh some of these feelings.  Making sure peers and teachers have the correct and relevant information can help your child cope with diabetes and can help curb questions and misconceptions.  Having a conversation with your child about what they want their peers to know about their diabetes and how they share the information can help empower them as they enter the school year.

Key topics to consider covering when informing peers about diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes is when the body no longer makes insulin; insulin is what helps the body use food for energy. So someone with diabetes needs to give their body insulin through shots or a pump.
  • Kids with diabetes didn’t cause their diabetes; it wasn’t any one’s fault. (It definitely wasn’t eating too many cookies!)
  • Kids with diabetes can still eat cookies! They just have to plan for it and give their body insulin. Children with diabetes should eat the same healthy diet we recommend for all children.
  • Diabetes isn’t contagious so they didn’t catch it, and other kids can’t catch it from them.
  • When kids with diabetes go to the nurse’s office they are doing their finger pokes and insulin to keep their body healthy
  • Kids with diabetes can still do anything anyone else they can do: run, play, gym class, field trips, so it is okay to play with them like any other kid!
  • Kids with diabetes might sometimes feel low and need to check their blood sugar. Sometimes they don’t feel like themselves when they are low (shaky, tired) and might need a friend to walk with them to the nurses office or to tell an adult with this happens.

Resources for the classroom

The following three books are helpful resources for pre-K through school age children. Talking points and conversational questions to help peers understand diabetes can be found at the end of each book.

Lara Takes Charge: By Rocky Lana and Sally Huss
Coco Goes Back to School: by Susan Amerikaner (digital version here)
Taking Diabetes to School:  by Kim Gosselin

For older children, Diabetes center provides a great movie list and resources explaining diabetes. For teachers, there is an educator site with topics to cover and activities to help with classroom understanding.

If you need more support or direction as your child returns to school, feel free to reach out to child life at [email protected] or 651-220-7701.

Erin Roehl