How to Give Your Child Diabetes in 3 Easy Steps
All I can say is that this is what worked for me. It's easier than you think. My daughter was diagnosed with “pre-diabetes” at her last physical a few weeks ago. She just turned 11. I guess we saw it coming for the last three years – her weight shot up a few years ago and each year her BMI put her at the top of the “overweight” section of her growth chart. But we let it go.
Don’t take this article the wrong way. Of course, I’m not advocating that you “give” your child diabetes or any other illness. I’m just highlighting, in a satirical way, that the parents hold the bulk of the responsibility for their minor children’s health and well-being. The early stages of Type 2 Diabetes in children is reversible with proper diet and exercise.
Step 1: Agree to Disagree
The most important factor that led to my daughter’s downward health spiral was that my husband and I disagreed on how to address her weight gain three years ago. We bickered about it and after a year of inability to find common ground, we “agreed to disagree.” I became the Bad Cop and he became the Good Cop. If I said NO, he said YES.
Parents need to be on the same page. The child’s well-being is the primary goal and adults need to act like adults and not play out their personal disagreements in their kids’ lives. Kids are very astute when it comes to playing off their parents against each other and getting what they want.
A better tactic would be to go to the pediatrician together. Somehow find the time so that both parents can go to the child’s annual physical. Ask questions in private and with your child and spouse present. The pediatrician can act as a mediator and is more or less impartial manner.
Step 2: Single Her Out
We have two other children who are physically active and in the “safe” ranges of their BMI growth charts. So we naturally focused on our overweight child because she needed all the extra attention, right? Wrong. This further isolated her and made it even harder to make healthier adjustments going forward.
No family member lives in a vacuum. We are interacting with each other all day long – we share meals together, converse with each other, live in the same space, and follow along with each other’s daily lives. To single one out tends to isolate that person and lead to shame and confusion. If one child can have a bagel with butter for breakfast, why can’t the other?
The more we realized our one daughter’s unhealthy habits (unbalanced diet, little exercise, poor supervision) were actually shared by the entire family – just in a greater magnitude. This meant that we were all at risk for the same negative health consequences. She was just the first to see the worst effects. Consequently, we made the changes throughout the household. I started to reduce the amount of bread and pasta products in the house and when preparing dinner offered three vegetables instead of one. Sure this led to some kicking and screaming among the other two siblings, but it didn’t last long.
Step 3: Allow the iPhone to Babysit
I’m so busy that if my kids are busy with their devices, it gives me time to get things done around the house. It used to be the television that kept the kids occupied, but today it is the myriad of electronic devices such as iPhones, Nintendo handhelds and tablets that take care of the kids when we’ve got too much to do.
The problem is that these devices -- while engaging and fascinating to kids – cause a host of problems, including trouble falling asleep, violence and aggression, limited social interaction, and reduced physical activity. Exercise is critical to a child’s physical and emotional development. They need to burn off those calories as well as the stresses of each day. Group exercise and sports teach valuable social skills, build lasting friendships and give a sense of accomplishment.
Kids should have some physical activity every day – and so should you! Free up some time to spend with your kids and spouse. We’ve taken to walking the dog together; bicycling to the library instead of driving; and assigning simple household chores to stimulate action instead of sitting around. The best advice I can give is to be a role model for healthy active behavior without being terribly demanding – not every kid should play a varsity sport; but every kid should have some physical outlet to keep moving.
Life and child rearing is always a work in progress. I’m happy to say that we’re all on the road to a healthier lifestyle. If I can leave you with a mantra:
Eat Right: There’s little mystery remaining about what food is good for you and what food is bad. Limit what is in your home and don’t pretend that you will never have ice cream again.
Exercise Daily: Find the right activity for each person – it might be walking, biking, lifting weights, soccer or any other team sport. But it has to be something.
Be Honest: Each family member needs to be honest and real about their habits. No hiding and no shame. When you see the benefits of healthy living, each person will want to achieve it.