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July 27, 2021

Behavior, Diagnosis and Symptoms

Question from Rochester, NY:

My 23-month-old son was diagnosed with type one diabetes two weeks ago. Lately, he has been showing a drastic change in behavior and defiance, especially at night. Can his recent hospitalization and abrupt lifestyle change already having a traumatic impact on him?


From: Laura Smith, PhD, CDE

Toddlers demonstrate that they are struggling emotionally through behavior, for instance, with tantrums and defiance. They also often struggle with changes in their routine. Learning that your child has diabetes is undoubtably an emotional event for both parents and child. And, on top of that, diabetes tasks require many new routines. It’s quite likely that given these two factors, your son’s new behaviors are related to him being upset about the new diabetes tasks and routine. After a stressful event, like a diabetes diagnosis, we most commonly see adjustment difficulties early on.

The good news is that for most children (and families), these initial struggles do get better over time, usually within several months, but sometimes even sooner. So, as your toddler gets used to their “new normal,” these challenging behaviors will likely decrease. If that decrease does not occur, reach out to your diabetes team for guidance and maybe a referral for a psychologist or other mental health provider who can give you more specific tips on how to help you and your son cope with the new challenges that diabetes brings.

We will be hosting a conference in White Plains, NY, October 10-11. Registration should be opening on August 1. Check our web site at CWD.is/community for updates on our events. You may find it helpful to meet other families who have children living with type 1 diabetes.