Kids with diabetes are the ones getting blood tests and insulin
injections, but they can be a challenge for parents, too.
Your child's diabetes
health care team will help you both learn to manage the disease and minimize the
pain and anxiety surrounding injections and blood tests. The team also may tell you
about testing technologies and medicines that offer the most convenience and least
Together, you and the diabetes health care team can find the most comfortable solutions
Dealing With Feelings
When kids are very young, blood tests and injections can be especially difficult.
A parent needs to enforce diabetes management, which can include regular testing and
giving shots to a child who cries, resists, and gets angry.
Learning how to manage diabetes is a process. Even if your child has been cooperating
with blood tests and injections for a while, a new fear or emotional issue may crop
up that could make a test or shot difficult.
To help manage feelings about diabetes, including anger, frustration, and fear
about testing and injections, let your child know that it's OK to be worried about
or dislike the shot or test. Talk openly about these fears. Kids need to be able to
express their frustration and know that it's OK to be upset.
It also can help to describe the need for injections and blood testing in kid terms.
For example, you might explain that the shots and blood tests help keep your child feeling
good throughout the day — and that not getting them could mean having to stay
home from school or miss fun activities because of diabetes problems.
Treating tests and shots in the same matter-of-fact way that you would treat any
other part of the daily routine also might help. And many kids like to have a sense
of ownership and control of diabetes. Instead of feeling like victims of the tests
and injections, they'll feel more in charge of their own health.
Young kids might select a needle, read the glucose
meter test result aloud, choose the spot or finger for testing, or press the plunger
on the syringe. Encourage your child to take more control gradually as age allows
— eventually, kids are ready to handle testing and injections on their own (although
parents should continue to supervise).
If your child argues or cries, you might be tempted to skip an injection or test
just this once. But you shouldn't negotiate blood tests or shots. They're necessary
and not optional. The first time you're talked out of one, you'll set a precedent
that your child won't forget.
Sometimes, you'll need to just do the injection or test, even if your child is
upset and uncooperative. Afterward, you might reward yourselves with something fun
like playing a game or reading, and then talk to your child about why he or she was
If your child is especially fearful of injections and every test or shot is a battle,
your doctor or a counselor or mental health professional can help you address this.
Having both parents (or one parent plus another caregiver) involved in the diabetes
management process will help keep treatment consistent and also provide support
as you deal with struggles over shots and blood tests.
Making Injections and Blood Tests Easier
These general tips can help make testing and injections easier:
Get ready. Prepare the insulin and testing materials beforehand
— out of your child's sight, if possible — to minimize the time you need
to spend on the procedure.
Keep it short. Try to keep the time that you spend on injections
as short, relaxed, and calm as possible.
Vary testing and injection sites. Don't use the same one for
consecutive tests or shots.
Make the most of mealtime. For babies, giving the injection or
blood test during breastfeeding or bottle-feeding may help to reduce discomfort.
Use insulin at room temperature and wait until the alcohol from
the swab dries before you give the injection to minimize discomfort.
Try ice. Rub the injection site with an ice cube wrapped in a
plastic bag or washcloth to numb the skin before giving the injection. This isn't
necessary for the shot to work, but can help your child feel better.
Find a distraction. Kids may feel less discomfort and stress
if they blow into a whistle or party blower, count, sing, hug a toy, or think of something
good when getting an injection. An older child might prefer to wear headphones or
watch a video during shots.
Keep teddy handy. Your child might relax with a special doll
or stuffed animal to hold during the injection or blood test.
Offer rewards. You might use stickers or other small prizes to
encourage cooperation. Your child could add a sticker to a chart after every injection
or blood test to mark the achievement. Don't use food or beverages as rewards, though.
Give praise if your child is cooperative. But don't make your
child feel bad about being uncooperative.
Give hugs afterward. You might also play a game or read a book
of your child's choosing after blood tests or injections.
Enlist backup. If your teen is reluctant to have tests and injections,
it might help to get a counselor or support group involved. Hearing about the importance
of shots and blood tests from another adult or health professional may help you to
avoid nagging, which could only increase your teen's reluctance.
Get support. Talk to other parents of kids with diabetes —
whether in support groups, in person, or on the Internet — about what methods
work best for them. You might also find others to talk to about the stress that
you deal with in managing your child's diabetes.