An Overview

Growing Up With Diabetes

A Developmental Perspective

It’s certainly true that, as parents, we are not given an instruction manual. With or without the presence of the Diabetes Dragon, it is often overwhelming, confusing, and frustrating to know how best to parent our children — especially when it comes to their social and emotional health. And then just when we think we have learned a few things that we can use, our children grow and change, and we are faced with a new set of puzzles to figure out!

If you have ever thought “I wish I knew then what I know now” when it comes to your kids, perhaps this guide to typical psycho-social development will help you deal with the current challenges, as well as prepare you for the ones to come.

We have drawn on the knowledge of experts in the fields of psychology, social work, and medicine to provide this overview to the challenges of diabetes care at three different developmental stages: Early Childhood, School-Age, and Adolescence. In each section we have included suggested strategies for dealing with those challenges, as well as a brief description of typical patterns of behaviour for that age group (independent of the diagnosis of a chronic illness), so that you may have an idea of the social/emotional/cognitive growth your child is experiencing at a given stage.

As with any challenges, if your family is facing serious obstacles to good mental health and social functioning, please contact a professional who can help you sort it all out. Many pediatric diabetes teams include a psychologist and/or social worker, so contacting your child’s diabetes health care team is a good place to start. Also, you could arrange a consultation with a mental health professional that you seek out on your own – you could check the registry for licensed psychologists or social workers in your province, or reach out to a consulting diabetes expert who is also trained in your family’s area of need (teenagers, behaviour change, eating disorders, anxiety, etcetera).

You can equip yourself for success by learning more about the normal developmental patternsgoals for diabetes care, challenges to diabetes care, and suggested coping strategies for your child’s current developmental stage. (Click on the corresponding stage below for more information.)

Developmental Stages:

Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers


School-Age Children




The above information was reviewed for content accuracy by clinical staff of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic.

This material has been developed from sources that we believe are accurate, however, as the field of medicine (in particular as it applies to diabetes) is rapidly evolving, the information should not be relied upon, as it is designed for informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of medical advice, instruction and/or treatment. If you have specific questions, please consult your doctor or appropriate health care professional.