“Hey Mom/Dad, am I going to be diabetic, too?” How do you respond?

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2011-06-04 12:24:19 -0500
Started 2011-05-16 12:16:30 -0500

It seems like I often read posts from members here on Diabetic Connect that discuss the concerns that children have when one of their parents has been diagnosed with diabetes. Sometimes those questions are asked directly; other times parents assume that their children are concerned but the question doesn’t get asked.

Like any question that is on your child’s mind but doesn’t get discussed, the heredity question becomes an elephant in the room that everyone knows is there but tries to ignore.

This can be a difficult question to answer for a variety of reasons. In the first place, nobody can predict the future, and any question of heredity brings in a lot of medical and genetics questions that may or may not be answerable. Who likes to live with uncertainty?

And inevitably, lifestyle questions come up. Individuals diagnosed with diabetes can be made to feel defensive, as if they have to explain themselves and their past lifestyle choices, in the process feeling like they have to put themselves down as a way to reassure their children. One of my clients put it this way: “I feel like I needed to tell my daughter that if she took better care of herself than I did, then maybe she wouldn’t get diabetes. That made her feel better, but it made me feel worse.”

Of course, parents with diabetes can also be positive examples of self-care for their children, and this can be reassuring.

From my experience with clients, there are various ways to deal with this question. I talked about this in my discussion, “’Patient’ Education.”


Some clients have told me that they sat down with their children and brought up the issue with them, others waited until their asked the question. Unfortunately, I have also heard stories about how the heredity question was brought up not as a question but as an accusation, in a moment of frustration, fear, or anger, along with criticism about their parent’s weight or activity levels. As we often discuss here on Diabetic Connect, our loved ones aren’t always able to be as supportive as they could be.

I am interested in learning more about whether the heredity issue has come up for you. Any experience, positive or not so positive, that you want to share? If you addressed this question with your children, how did this come about? And how did you handle it?

If you are struggling with this right now, any way we can support you?

It would be great to hear from you!

11 replies

tabby9146 2011-05-18 11:25:08 -0500 Report

My 9 year old daughter has asked. She is overweight (only in tummy) she isn't fat but she is larger boned than most. so I am trying real hard to help with what she eats, especially cutting down on sugar, which is very very hard. She gets enough exercise, she has a swing set and slide, trampolene (I get on there and jump wtih her) kid's exercise tapes, and Wii games, so that she is not sitting down playing the games. But I have got more work to do on the sugar part. She doesn't seem scared about it, which is good, but I think at this age, we need to tell them that yes, they are at 'higher' risk, but they might not ever have it. They need to be taught the importance of nutrition at an early age. My daughter knows what fiber is, knows about total carbs, and many things I am sure most of her classmates know nothing about, so that is a good thing about my having this disease, is I am even more vigilant about what I eat, and setting an example for her, than I would be otherwise. however, before I was diagnosed, I was still concerned with what my kids ate, and have always cooked good meals. But, I was bad about the sugary juices. My birth mother does not have it and there is no history that she knows of on her side, but my birth father has it (he is in his 60s now) and both of his parents have it. I have no idea how long his parents have had it, and I don't think he has had it many years. So I have told my 20 year old son, and my daughter, that this does put them at a higher risk. My son is very skinny, so right now, I am not worried about him and he doesn't seem to care , at his age, about this kind of thing but hoping he will when he is older.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-06-04 12:24:19 -0500 Report


So sorry I didn't notice your reply.

It sounds to me like you are doing all the right things with your daughter, helping her to eat healthy but also to know why it is important to eat healthy, encouraging her to keep active, and even getting active with her. It's important to keep the readiness factor in mind. Kids understand information when they are ready to understand it, presenting it too early may confuse them or be too scary. So there is a lot to be said for making healthy eating and exercise as much fun as possible, and to set the example that you seem to be setting for her.

Some great information in your post. I hope a lot of members read it. Thank you!

Hope all is well!


Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2011-05-16 22:08:43 -0500 Report

My answer will be slightly off subject.
Neither of my parents have/had diabetes. I have no children. However my Dad had a gene mutation that contributed to him forming blood clots after all 4 of his children were adults and he had 6 grandchildren, 2 more came along several years later. Dad wrote identical letters to all four daughter's, his only brother, and one of his cousins. He handed his letter to two daughter's and mailed them to the other two. He did not talk about it with any of us, ever.
In our extended family the burning question was "Are you a mutant or not?" My sisters all decided to get tested for this gene and some of their children were also tested. I waited until last year when my vascular surgeon said get the test so we would not have a nasty surprise. He sent me to the hematologist who tested me for every known blood clotting gene mutation. Until the find any new ones I am not a mutant.
Each of my sisters decided whether to get tested to learn if they had the mutation. The two that do have the mutation decided to have their children tested. The mutants have taken measures to minimize the risk of possible blood clots when on long flights or car trips. Also informing Drs. before surgery about their increased risk.
I inherieted a different problem from dear old Dad - bad leg veins. It has not been linked to a gene, wish it had been then I would have been tested. Might have made me a little more prepared and caught the problem earlier. Those in the family who are not blood clotting mutants told me they had hoped the bad vein pumps went with the mutant blood clotting gene. Then they would have felt safe from that threat.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-05-16 22:30:01 -0500 Report


Thanks a lot for taking the time to write such an interesting reply. The potential to inherit a medical condition raises a lot of questions, he first one most likely being, do I even want to know? As you said so well, knowing can be better than not knowing. At least you can do everything possible to take good care of yourself and, potenially, do something preventative. Or at least prepare yourself emotionally.

Hope you are doing well!


roshy 2011-05-16 20:17:26 -0500 Report

when myself and my two brothers were younger we were never sat down and told about dads diabetes.. Looking at it through a childs perspective all we knew was dad needed sugar when he was acting funny and dad needed a needle before he ate dinner. as we got older we heard the fights it caused between my parents. My mam would get frustrated when he would get low, that was the main reason why they fought.
When i was diagnosed with type one when i was 16 i was able to look through the eyes of diabetic. I became aware of how hard life is with the condition and became very defensive over my father! I knew what it is like to have a condition which at times can be hard to control and have so much responsability in order to get through every day tasks.
Growing up we all had healthy lifestyles we ate and exercized however we were never tested for diabetes.
Another thing which i felt is relavent was we were never given a full explanation to why dad took needles or needed sugar!! we didnt have a clue with what he was living or dealing with. My dads diabetes was literalty HIS diabetes and i feel like we should have delt with the condition as a family.
My brothers still havent a clue about the ins and outs of diabetes and i find this odd the fact is their father and their sister has the condition!! my brother keeps mistaken my meter for an mp3!!

If or when i eventualy have children i will get them tested for the condition every couple of years. I will also make sure they have a good understanding of why their mammy keeps sweets in the car or beside the bed and takes needles before she eats. I think the more understanding the better!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-05-16 22:35:28 -0500 Report

Hi roshy,

This is fantastic. Thank a lot.

You really laid out some important issues here. A child who is diagnosed with the same condition as a parent certainly learns to understand what the parent is going through. You are obviously a very compassionate person. I have also heard storied where the diagnosed child becomes, at least temporaily, angry at the parent with the same conditon, and blames them for passing in to them.

And as you aid so well, information is critical. Kids need to know what's going on with their parent's illness so that they don't fill the gaps in their knowledge with misinformation, which may lead to unreasonable fears, not to mention insensitive comments.

When one member of the family is diagnosed, all members share that diagnosis in one way or the other. So everybody deserves the benefit of education.

Sounds like you have learned a lot of lessons that will benefit your own future children.

Thanks again and stay in touch!


roshy 2011-05-16 22:47:30 -0500 Report

hi dr gary. you mentioned an important point there!

I have to say i never felt any hate or feelings of blame towards my father. You can blame the parents for alot of things but he never asked for diabetes either! When i struggled with my diabetes 2 years after being diagnosed i did however feel pretty ashamed i couldnt cope or take control. I hid this from him because i honestly felt like it was my problem because it was my condition.
He tried a relentless amount of times to get me to open up but i still felt like 'no ill deal with it on my own!' I also felt like he couldnt relate to me because his suituation was different, he was a 7 year old boy when he was diagnosed and had it his whole life, where as i was a 16 year old teenage girl, facing school boys and trying to fit in with my peers, how could he ever relate!!
So i learned a very important lesson that sharing your illness with those arround you helps living with the condition and makes everything easier!

thanks for striking up a good topic!!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-05-17 16:37:34 -0500 Report

You are welcome. Thanks for follwoing up on my reply. It is always a pleasure to strinke up "virtual" conversations here. Teens are an interesting subset of humanity, aren't they? They can be so vulnerable and so hard to reach at the same time, their feelings hanging out there for everyone to observe, but totally unwilling to accept help. Somehow we get through those years, but once we are on the other side, we can always look back and wish we could have been more open to the support we needed.

You're so right. It's so important to have emotional support when you are dealing with a medical diagnosis.

Great to be in touch with you!

edvel54 2011-05-16 12:55:22 -0500 Report

My daughter (15) did ask what her chances are of getting diabetes are?
I told her 50% or higher. I had gestational diabetes with both my kids, with her I was on insulin & meds (she was trouble from the word go). Her grandparents on my side both had it. 4 of my brothers have it (of 8). Her Dad does not have it, so she may take after his side. But just in case she know the facts.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-05-16 16:39:54 -0500 Report

Thanks a lot for jumping in here! Information is the best antidote for fear. When you know the facts, you know what you are up against and what you can do. Knowledge is power. Have a great day!

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