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4 Tips for Raising a Diabetes-Friendly Family

Real Talk

January 17, 2024

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Photography by SeventyFour/Getty Images

Photography by SeventyFour/Getty Images

by CJ Walker

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Medically Reviewed by:

Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI

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•••••

by CJ Walker

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI

•••••

•••••

I have found that open communication, education, and getting family involved are essential to raising a diabetes-friendly family.

A diabetes diagnosis not only affects you individually but can also significantly affect your family. It can change your daily routines, diet, and lifestyle.

My main concern after receiving my diabetes diagnosis was my children’s future. My children were 8, 6, and 4 years old at the time. As a work-at-home mom, I juggled managing a home, caring for our kids, and starting my business while my husband had a demanding work schedule.

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We didn’t have a routine

We ate a lot of convenience foods, didn’t exercise much, and experienced a lot of stress. Therefore, getting the family on the same page about my diabetes diagnosis and what that meant for the future was difficult.

I had to adjust to this diagnosis physically, mentally, and emotionally. My husband was very supportive of that. However, our kids could not grasp why I stopped eating certain foods or why I attended so many medical appointments. These sudden changes negatively affected my family. 

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4 tips for raising a diabetes-friendly family

Almost 5 years later, our family is now in a different headspace. Our children have transitioned from public school to homeschooling. As a result, we’ve implemented ways to learn about our health and care for our bodies.

Each day, we devote time to walking or playing outdoors. My husband and I teach our kids about nutrition. We cook almost all our meals at home.

I can truly say that our family is at a point where we’re more conscious of my diagnosis and the choices we’re making. Here’s what I’ve done to help our family stay healthy and diabetes-aware.

1. Meal plan

In terms of our diet, our biggest change was eating more home-cooked meals and eating a variety of healthful foods each day. Meal planning has been a game changer for our busy family.

Until recently, I was inconsistent with planning meals. I would try different meal planning methods, and it would work for a while. But then life would happen, and I’d operate in survival mode. Meal planning would no longer be a priority, and our family would eat quick, convenient foods or takeout.  

Currently, I plan meals a month in advance. I use a monthly meal planning system in which I select a number of seasonal and family-favorite meals and rotate them every 3 months.

In addition to seasonal meals and family favorites, we plan family-themed dinners like soup night and homemade pizza night. This allows me to introduce delicious and healthful foods and ingredients to my family.

This meal-planning system takes the guesswork and frustration out of deciding what to eat at the last minute because I already know in advance. The system is also flexible for unexpected last-minute situations.

When unexpected situations happen, and I’m unable to prepare our scheduled meal, we replace it with another meal idea from that week of the plan and stay consistent.  

2. Talk about your diagnosis with your loved ones

Additionally, I’ve found that open communication, education, and getting family involved are essential to raising a diabetes-friendly family.  

As people with diabetes, we have the power to change the narrative of how we manage our conditions, as well as to educate and show our loved ones that it’s possible to live a fulfilling life with diabetes. You don’t have to navigate this diabetes journey alone.

By being transparent with your family about your diabetes diagnosis, you can educate them about how the disease affects your life. This can help them understand and support your needs, making it easier to manage your diabetes.

Talking openly about your diabetes can reduce the shame or stigma associated with the disease, creating a more positive and supportive family dynamic.

3. Get your family involved in your care

Making your family part of your diabetes management can create an atmosphere of understanding and support. They can keep you accountable and motivated to make good choices. In addition, they can learn about healthy lifestyle habits and apply changes to their own habits, fostering a diabetes-friendly environment at home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Diabetes Association suggest that this can reduce stress and promote a healthy lifestyle for everyone in the household.

For example, my family often accompanies me to endocrinologist appointments. My husband cooks breakfast each morning while I homeschool our children. I’ve given him access to my Dexcom Clarity app so he can keep track of my numbers throughout the day. My children also know the signs to look for to tell whether I’m experiencing extremely high or low blood sugar levels.  

4. Be healthier together as a family

Practicing healthy habits as a family promotes a supportive and positive environment. According to some research from 2015, people with diabetes can benefit from this because it provides them with a consistent and encouraging environment for managing their disease.

Our family often exercises indoors and outdoors during our homeschool days and weekends. We also go grocery shopping together.

By teaching our children to read labels and letting them participate in food challenges, we help them better understand food. One of our favorite activities is cooking together in the kitchen and enjoying a meal together. As we live healthfully together, we’re setting our kids up for success as good stewards of their bodies.

From one parent with diabetes to another

My family has a long history of diabetes and heart issues. I’ve seen several of my family members’ health decline, from independence to dialysis and amputations.

These painful memories are etched in my mind and serve as reminders of just how important it is that I take care of myself and show my children that this diagnosis does not mean the end of the world. This is what drives me to be an example and to teach them.

As people with diabetes, we have the power to change the narrative of how we manage our conditions, as well as to educate and show our loved ones that it’s possible to live a fulfilling life with diabetes. You don’t have to navigate this diabetes journey alone.

When you have the support of your family, this experience can be an opportunity for everyone to learn together and become their best selves. As a family, you can encourage and motivate each other to choose healthy lifestyles and fight this disease together.

Medically reviewed on January 17, 2024

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About the author

CJ Walker

CJ Walker, a mom of three and wife from Virginia, has been living with type 2 diabetes since 2019. She’s a fervent advocate for chronic illness, especially diabetes. Diabetes stigma, awareness, and prevention are at the forefront of her advocacy efforts, as well as chronic illness discrimination in the workplace, healthcare, and education. In addition to her work with The Genetic Diabetic Blog, she’s been published on Type2Diabetes.com, The Mighty, and Medium.

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