How do I tell my child about their HIV?
Telling your child that they are living with HIV infection can be a scary thought. Even parents who have already been through this process will tell you that it can be hard.
Some parents find that there are no “just right” times or ways to tell their child. Other parents have said it is helpful to:
1. Start talking with your child early. Bring up a little at a time, such as why they are visiting the doctor or taking medicine.
2. Think of it as a process. Telling your child is something that takes time and a number of talks. 3. Be open talk to your child any time and try to create a loving, caring and supportive atmosphere.
4. Always be honest
You may use the ideas from this handout to help you prepare. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider or another trusted adult for more information.
Why would I want to tell my child?
There are many good reasons to tell your child they are living with HIV infection. Some of the loving and caring reasons to tell your child include:
1. Building an open, warm and loving relationship with your child.
Often, children with HIV already know on some level that they are sick. When parents don’t talk to them about their illness, they may become even more scared, feel lonelier or feel that they have done something wrong. Talking to your child about their HIV shows that you respect your child’s feelings and ability to be involved in their own care. Also, many parents say that telling their child helped their family feel closer, stronger and more supportive of each other. Lots of parents have said that after the diagnosis was shared with their child, they felt a sense of relief, that a burden had been lifted. 2. Making sure the correct information is given.
Children may learn misinformation from friends, well-meaning adults and/or the media. You can make sure your child receives accurate information.
3. Trusting the research that has been done.
Studies have shown that children who have been told about their HIV infection feel less lonely, scared and worried, and feel more supported and respected. Other studies have found that children who know their diagnosis have higher self-esteem, lower rates of infection and do a better job of taking their medicines. 4. Helping to prevent the spread of HIV
Talking with your child about their HIV status helps your child have the information needed to not pass on the infection.
Why can telling my child be so hard?
Telling your child about their HIV infection may be hard for some or all of these reasons:
1. It is a painful and emotional issue for you.
2. If you are infected, you may feel responsible for your child's infection.
It is important to know that no one ever wanted to infect their child. You didn’t intend for it to happen. And, like almost all parents, you love your child and want what’s best for them. You have to be able to face your own illness to help your child face theirs.
3. If you are infected, you may be concerned that telling your child means you are also telling about your own status.
You may feel shame or guilt about past lifestyle choices. Keep in mind that you may choose which details of your past to tell your child and which ones to keep to yourself.
4. You may fear that your child will be angry with you or with someone else.
5. You may be filled with worry about how telling your child will impact them.
Will it rob my child of a “normal” childhood? Will it be a burden? Will telling my child force them to grow up too quickly? Will telling have a negative impact on my child’s mental health?
There's no right time to tell your children about their HIV status, but the sooner you do it the better. If you feel that you can't be able to tell them, you can find a social worker to assist you.
What's your say about telling your child about HIV status? Leave comments below.
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