While most of the past year has been focused on avoiding and containing the spread of COVID-19, other conditions have been laid to the wayside. One of the chronic conditions that have seen a significant increase is pediatric diabetes. In some regions and hospitals, rates of children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have almost doubled. Since children have overwhelmingly been attending classes virtually inside their homes, they miss out on some of the health benefits of going to school. Children miss out not only the social aspects of seeing friends and teachers, but also the guarantee of physical activity through recess or physical education.
In its place, most students are stuck sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day. Additionally, school lunches are typically formulated to provide nutritional benefits to their students. For some students, this may be the most fulfilling and nutritious meal they eat throughout their day. For households with working parents or unstable incomes, the only options for sustenance may be quick and cheap meals that provide little nutritious value.
However, parents and guardians can play a huge role in instilling healthy habits into their children from an early age. Encouraging children to play an active part in their health can set a foundation that will last for a lifetime. Below are some tips for empowering and supporting your child with pediatric diabetes to make healthy decisions.
Make it a family mindset
Get the whole family involved! Instead of singling out your child, bring the whole family along for the journey. If your child needs to eat more nutritious meals, ask each member of the family to find a healthy recipe that they want to try and have the whole family help cook it. Want to try a new substitute for a favorite snack? Make it fun! If your child likes spaghetti and meatballs, try making “zoodles” with zucchinis or buy spaghetti squash to replace the pasta. Getting active is also an easy way to get the family involved. Search on YouTube for exercises that are family-friendly. Or take family walks around your neighborhood after dinner. Encourage your child to come with you if you are walking to the store or running errands. However, most importantly, take the time to find something your child will like! A healthy lifestyle is most sustainable when it’s fun!
Make it fun
No one (and I mean no one) likes to be forced to workout or do something they do not want to do. Your child is just the same. A healthy lifestyle will not be the same if your child can’t find joy in what they are doing. Ask your kid what they might be interested in. Look into local sports or clubs in your area that your kid can try out. If there is a dance studio or ice skating rink near you, encourage your child to try it out. Staying active is not only running or lifting weights, it’s just about moving your body! Finding a few activities that your child likes encourages them to stick with it and possibly even develop a new skill.
Don’t tie self-worth to health or size
Having a healthy child not only means being physically active, but mentally healthy as well. While health is important, it is essential to keep in mind the self-worth and confidence of your child. Encourage them to incorporate healthy habits, not for aesthetic reasons, but to keep them strong and happy. Remind them that their confidence should come from things like their personality, character, or achievements. It’s important to promote their self-esteem so their desires to live a healthy life come from a positive place, and not from self-loathing.
Overall, preventing or living with pediatric diabetes takes more than just diet and exercise. Going to regular doctor check-ups and consulting with healthcare professionals on the healthiest choices for your kids is also important. Starting these healthy habits will build a good foundation for your child that can follow them throughout their lives.