Here are some things to think about when you start planning to tell your child. Remember that you actually know about this, as you are on the journey of someone living with HIV.
- Try to remember how you felt when you were told your diagnosis. What were the main feelings? What did you need from other people at that time?
- Your child may have similar feelings of fear, anger, and confusion. Try to think about how you can help them with these feelings in a similar way to how you would have liked to have been helped.
- Writing down some of the questions you think your child could come up with can help you prepare. Again thinking about your own experiences may help you here.
Questions such as, “Are you going to die?”, “Why didn’t you tell me before?” and “How did you get it?” may come up. If you plan how you will respond to these it may help.
- Choose a time and place for this first conversation carefully. You both want to be relaxed and comfortable, and not tired or under pressure with exams. Have some information which can help you to explain HIV to your child; this could be a leaflet, book or website.
- A big concern for parents is whether their child will keep the information about the family HIV diagnosis confidential. From our experience, children and young people do.
It is important that you explain this is family information, and so you do not share it with anyone outside of your family. Children and young people understand that.
- It is really important that your child feels they can come back and ask you further questions when they need to. Let them know that this should not be just a one-off conversation; your child may have many questions which come up later. Remember that you can always ask other professionals to talk to your child if some questions get too difficult for you.
- It may also be helpful for your child to be able to talk to other people. Find out where your nearest support group for young people is, or whether a local support service can work with your child. Make this link before you tell your child, so they can have this support very soon after. We know that talking and feeling supported really helps children to understand HIV and ease any worries about their parent(s) or other family member who is living with HIV.