Talking With Your Children About Your HIV Status or Your Children's Status
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When thinking about talking to your children about your HIV status or your children's status, you may feel many different emotions. It is normal to feel frightened, anxious, guilty, or overwhelmed. It may help to discuss your feelings with someone you trust, such as a health care provider, counselor, family member, or friend. You may want to talk with that person about how and what you will say. You may also want to share your disclosure (telling someone) plans with those who already know your HIV status, so they will be prepared to give accurate, reassuring, calm responses if the children bring it up with them.
Remember what you already know about your family: how your children learn new information, what your children may already know about HIV, and what feels most supportive to your family. Use this knowledge to decide how to disclose about HIV to your family. While there may not be an exact best way to disclose, there are some steps you can take to prepare.
Telling your children that you are HIV+ can be really hard. It can be helpful to prepare yourself by thinking about how your children will react and what they will want to know based on their age and maturity. You may also find it helpful to talk with other parents who have told their children about their HIV status.
Your children will probably ask about your health. However, their main concern may be what will happen if you get sick. They will most likely need reassurance that they will be taken care of if something happens to you. They may also find it reassuring to know how you will be cared for if you get sick. For more information, see our info sheet on Making Plans for the Future Care of Your Children.
Children may also want to know how you got HIV and if they might get it too. Depending on their ages, they will have different questions. They may not have any questions at all, or ask questions later as they arise. Regardless of when they begin asking questions, it is best not to lie. Lying can damage your relationship with your children and lower their trust in you.
Your children may already suspect something. Older children or teenagers often learn about HIV in school. They may see you taking medications or going to your health care provider more often than some of their friends' moms. If your children already suspect something, they may feel angry that you have kept this from them. Moreover, they will probably benefit from being able to talk about HIV openly. If your children have already learned something about HIV at school or through the media, you can use that as a chance to build on what they already know.
Let your children know whom they can talk to about your status. Tell them who else you have already told. Be prepared that they might feel disappointed or angry if a lot of people knew before they did. Your local AIDS service organization may have a kids group where they can talk with others in similar situations. Your health care provider may also have a counselor who can talk with your children.
This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with TheBody.com to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from TheBody.com or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
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