Why Children with Type 1 Might Lie About Blood Sugar Readings
A certified diabetes educator provides suggestions for what to do about it.
Integrated Diabetes Services (IDS) provides detailed advice and coaching on diabetes management from certified diabetes educators and dieticians. Insulin Nation hosts a regular Q&A column from IDS that answers questions submitted from the Type 1 diabetes community.
Q – I’m concerned that my child with Type 1 diabetes might be lying about her blood sugar readings. Why would a child lie about this and what can I do about it?
First off, if you’re blaming yourself because your child is lying about readings, don’t. My parents did a great job supporting me in my diabetes management, but I lied anyway. In the end, I was the one who had to make the decision to be honest.
There are many reasons people lie about their blood sugar readings; you may want your doctor to like you; you may be afraid someone will scold you; you may be afraid of being judged for something that isn’t entirely under your control; you may feel like you try and nothing seems to work.
I remember well the little white lies (red lies?) I told my parents about my blood sugar levels. It was easy. When I was first diagnosed, my blood glucose monitor was not downloadable and had no memory; everything was done via a written log in a little book – what better way to adjust values to the desired target! A reading of 189 mg/dL magically became 149 mg/dL, for example.
I also made up numbers for times when test values were missing (ahem) based on past readings at that time of day, only better. I always added a few highs that weren’t too high and lows that weren’t too low, so that it didn’t look too perfect. A1C tests sometimes coincided with my logs, and sometimes didn’t.
The instinct to come down hard when you catch a lie can be almost irresistible, but it also may be counterproductive. Kids and teens lie about their blood sugar readings because they want to avoid the emotional turmoil of a “bad” reading. Adding more emotion could be adding fuel to the fire.
Instead, I would advocate that you take as much emotion out of the equation as possible. It can be helpful for your child if news of blood sugar readings, insulin doses, or what was eaten provoke no emotional response from you – it should always come down to what to do to account for them. This is extremely difficult, I know, but it may pay off in the long run.
The change may come in small steps. It may start just by asking your child to show you the meter after he or she looks at the number. Give no indication of what the number means to you. Simply advise or discuss any corrective measures that need to be taken. As kids grow, the number can become a discussion point, rather than a point of contention.
Another way to help children be honest with diabetes management is to give them a safe space to vent, be it either with a counselor, peers, or both. Parents of children with diabetes might benefit from counseling as well. It’s always good to have additional support as you support each other as a family.
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to achieving honesty in diabetes self-management – it can be a lifelong process. However, being open, supportive, and non-judgemental can go a long way toward making things better.
Integrated Diabetes Services provides one-on-one education and glucose regulation for people who use insulin. Diabetes “coaching” services are available in-person and remotely via phone and online for children and adults. Integrated Diabetes Services offers specialized services for insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor users, athletes, pregnancy & Type 1 diabetes, and those with Type 2 diabetes who require insulin. For more information, call 1-610-642-6055, go to integrateddiabetes.com or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
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