Supporting my child taking their medication
The first thing you can do to encourage your child to take their medication, if you also have HIV, is to lead by example and take yours in an open way with your child. We know that when parents have a problem taking their own medication their child often will too. When your child is small, make taking medication part of the daily routine – you shower, get dressed, brush your teeth, take your medication. This helps to normalise HIV, and get into a good routine for continuing with throughout life.
As your child gets older, it is important not to ‘nag’ them, but to support them in taking responsibility for their medication (whilst keeping an eye on it in the background). This can be a difficult time and you may sometimes feel powerless. Doctors and nurses have told us that most children that take their medicine well when they are young, even though they may have a short time in adolescence where they struggle to take it, but are likely to work through this and take it again effectively as young adults.
Tips on how to support your child
- If you also take daily medication, lead by example and take your medication punctually and regularly.
- Link taking medication with nice things. When children are younger you could let them have a favourite snack with their medication, spend some nice time together after or if it’s nighttime, read them a bedtime story. Try to give them the message that something nice will follow taking their medication.
- Talk about it. Don’t let HIV be a topic that is not brought up at home. Young children are often told this “medication helps keep you well”, even if they have not had HIV named to them. As children get older and HIV is then named they will gradually need more information about how the medication works, otherwise it can be difficult for children to understand the need to take medication when they are feeling well.
- Try to make sure you have a good understanding of how HIV medication works so you can answer any questions your child may have. Both i-Base and NAM have lots of information to help people understand HIV and their medication.
Your child’s nurse will have leaflets that you can look at with your child and talk about the HIV treatment. There is a short informative film here, a short document we produced here, and more information on the secure website for HIV positive children.
One of the most important things to remember about your child living with HIV is they will need to know it is not just them, so if possible, get your child to meet other HIV positive children. This can happen at HIV support groups, by attending a support camp or through meeting other children at their clinic, and they have the chance to see other children also taking medication. It is important to be aware of side effects and make sure your child is aware of these too, so they know that if they feel a certain way, it may be a side effect from the medicine. This should then be discussed with the health team.