This month, one of our expert dieticians, Louise Ferreira, gives us advice on how to manage diabetes and kids parties… One of the trickiest things for a diabetic child to figure out!
Diabetes + kids parties
It’s early in the afternoon; you’re waiting at the school gate and see your child running towards you with heightened excitement. He rushes to your window and shoves a piece of paper into your hand. Your eyes catch a glimpse of the words ‘you’re invited’ and your heart sinks. It’s another birthday party.
If you have a child living with diabetes, you might join the ranks of parents who dread birthday parties. Perhaps you feel compelled to avoid them altogether. Your child sees fun, games, colour and friends and all you see is an overwhelming amount of sugar on tap and a complete loss of the healthy eating you’ve been working so hard to maintain. You’re definitely not alone in this! Here are six top tips that you’ll need to get through a children’s birthday party.
1. Prepare yourself
It’s important to encourage your child’s social development while helping manage diabetes. This might mean that, on the party day, perfect blood glucose control will have to take the back seat. Accept that your child’s blood sugar will probably be unstable for most of the day and acknowledge that this is NOT a catastrophe and that you are NOT a bad parent. An overly anxious parent will trigger feelings of guilt or rebellion in your diabetic child.
2. Prepare your diabetic child
Find out about the food arrangements at the party and come up with a practical plan. Discuss this plan with your child before the party as they are more likely to accept your guidance if prepared in advance. Ask what they really, really want to eat, and make agreements that if they get a small slice of cake, for example, they have to resist the sweets. Work together to create a plan that will work.
3. Be more vigilant
While all the snacking raises blood sugar levels, the excitement and activity of a birthday party could cause them to drop. You will need to test your child’s blood sugar more often to avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). It is also important to be a bit more vigilant of your child’s blood sugar in the hours after the party and respond appropriately.
4. Kids on the pump vs. kids using injections
If your child wears an insulin pump, it’s a good idea to put all the food you expect him or her to eat at the party on a plate, count the carbohydrates and then extend the insulin bolus. You could give 50% of the bolus at the start of the meal/snack and then allow the other 50% to run over the next two hours. The benefit here is that you can stop the bolus if your child decides not to finish the food and they will be covered if they take longer to finish eating because of activities and other distractions.
If your child is on injections, encourage them to finish the plate of food in one sitting. If this is a challenge, then give at most two insulin injections for food during the party. Any more than this will cause insulin stacking (fast-acting insulin remains active in the system for up to 4 hours). In addition, your child’s higher blood glucose will be taken into account when the insulin dose is calculated, creating a risk for hypos.
5. Have a trick up your sleeve
If your child is adamant on putting something sweet in his or her mouth because that’s what all the other children are doing, then simply whip out some sugar-free jelly babies. You can make these at home. You’ll need 25g sugar-free jelly powder, 25g powdered gelatin and 250ml boiling water. Mix everything together and add the liquid to a silicon jelly baby mould. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes and you have soft, carb-free sweets. If you can’t get hold of a mould, simply use a square container and cut into blocks once set.
With a little bit of give and take, it is possible to meet your diabetic child’s medical needs without compromising social development at birthday parties. You are not walking an easy road… We salute you!