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How do you tell an 11 year old that her mother has AIDS

Aug 26, 2012

I have been raising my granddaughter since she was 4 years old and she is now 11. She has no contact with her father and supervised visits with her mother (2 days a month for 2 hours, or 4 hours a month). I was just informed that her mother has AIDS and that the doctors say that she is not very long for this world. How do you tell an 11 year old child that her mother has AIDS since she has no idea about sexual relations? Apparently her mother is saying that she contracted the disease from the father of her two smaller children. I have asked for her CD4 and viral load counts to try to determine where she is at in this disease. I'm wary to tell my granddaughter anything at this point. What would you or anyone else suggest that has gone through this?

Response from Dr. Fawcett

I am so sorry to hear about your situation. I feel it's best to give a child truthful information, but it needs to be in manageable doses so that they can process and understand what it being conveyed. They need to understand the impact this will have on their life as best they can. Remember that a child's thinking can be very concrete (not really understanding abstract concepts), so you will have to be certain you communicate what this means in ways she can comprehend. I would emphasize that you will be there to support her emotionally and to provide continuity. Once she is aware of the situation, I think it would be important to discuss her feelings with her mother.

A counselor can help you with these difficult conversations with your granddaughter. They can also assess her needs and help you respond as this process unfolds.

I wish you and your entire family well.


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