Providing Support for Family and Friends with Diabetes: DOs and DON'Ts - Nemours Blog


Providing Support for Family and Friends with Diabetes: DOs and DON’Ts

Providing Support for Family and Friends with Diabetes: DOs and DON'Ts. Promise, Powered by Nemours Children’s Health System

People who live with diabetes need a lot of “extras” to live healthy, balanced lives. Most of those extras – testing supplies, insulin, and medical attention – can be costly. But there’s one thing that friends and family members of people with diabetes can help provide for free: understanding and emotional support. Here are some Dos and Don’ts for helping people with diabetes thrive with the condition.


  1. Get informed. Diabetes can be a confusing condition, even for those who live with it every day. Take the time to learn the myths and facts about type 1 and type 2 diabetes by talking to your friend or relative with diabetes, your doctor, or relatives you know who have diabetes and by finding credible sources of information online.
  2. React calmly. For people with diabetes, high and low blood sugars can be common, even on a daily basis. Unless it’s an emergency, try to stay calm. For example, when your relative or friend has a high blood glucose reading or forgets to administer insulin for a meal, try to focus on finding a solution and moving on.
  3. Set realistic expectations. Mistakes will happen and perfection is impossible in managing diabetes.When you set unrealistic goals, the person with diabetes may hide things from you. For example, expecting perfect blood glucose levels is not realistic. Blood glucose levels aren’t always controllable but the goal is to keep them as close to the target range while adjusting for life as it happens.
  4. Empathize. Diabetes can be stressful at times! Put yourself in the shoes of the person with diabetes. Try to imagine how they are feeling. These feelings may range from fear, sadness, and anger to denial, burnout and even guilt for causing you to worry.
  5. Beware of negative facial expressions. Try not to look disappointed or frightened when you watch your friend do an injection or see a blood glucose reading outside of the target range. Your friend or relative can read your facial expressions, and he may feel that you are uncomfortable or disappointed in him or fearful when a blood glucose reading is too low or high.


  1. Nag. Think about the words you use when asking someone about their diabetes or reminding them to do something related to their diabetes. Instead of pushing them to do something you think is right, ask your friend or relative what you can do to help. For example, ask your friend if she would like reminders to check her blood sugar.
  2. Assume they did something wrong if their blood sugars are out of range. People with diabetes can “do everything right” and still have blood glucose levels that are too high or too low.  Instead of blaming the person with diabetes, help them figure out what to do to improve their level.
  3. Make diabetes-related jokes. Please avoid any and all jokes about getting diabetes because of eating too much sugar. Many people say things like “I ate so much dessert, I’m probably going to get diabetes too!” Not only are these jokes not funny to most people with diabetes, they also are not true.
  4. Assume you know what people with diabetes can and cannot eat. With the right amount of planning and medication, people with diabetes can enjoy all the same foods that people without diabetes can. People with diabetes also generally have a good understanding of how certain foods impact their blood sugar.
  5. Tell everyone you know about the person’s diabetes. Talk to the person with diabetes about who must know, who should know, and who doesn’t need to know about their diabetes. Give the person with diabetes a chance to tell people about their diabetes when they are ready to do so. Ask them how you can help relay this information.

Learn More

Talking to Your Child About Diabetes (Nemours’ KidsHealth)

Type 1 Diabetes Resources and Support (JDRF)

My Friend Has Diabetes. How Can I Help? (Nemours’ KidsHealth)

Jessica Pierce, PhD.

Jessica Pierce is a pediatric psychologist at Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando. She's dedicated to helping children, teens and families thrive with acute and chronic medical conditions.