How to talk to your child about HIV The kind of discussion you will have with your child should be determined by their age and emotional maturity. Here's a basic guideline: Make sure you're alone and won't be interrupted. Don't be in a hurry and plan carefully what you're going to say. Living with HIV is like a journey and advises parents to tell their children their status in stages, depending on their age. Give them little bits of information at a time and only enough for them to be able to understand Every family and child will cope differently, but it's important to reassure your child that you love them and they have done nothing wrong. HIV is a manageable condition. Reassure your child that if they follow their treatment they will be able to live a normal life. When to break the news Pre-school children: 3-5 Years * At this age, children don't understand time, illness or death but need to know they are safe and will beneﬁt from a daily routine that includes taking their medicine and going to the hospital or clinic. * Children may have fears but don't know how to talk about them. Parents can ﬁnd out what's worrying them by playing games or drawing pictures. * Try to minimise their anxiety over the situation. Signs they are not coping include nightmares and reverting to baby-like ways such as bed-wetting or thumb-sucking. * Let your child ask questions and educate yourself so that you can give them an appropriate answer. * If they are seriously ill, get professional advice on how best to break this news to them. Be prepared for them to ask awkward questions such as, "Does a dead person wake up?” You could reply, "People do not wake up after they die, but we never forget them and they always remain special to us." School going children: 5-12 Years * Children at this age are beginning to understand situations, know what the past and the future means and how to talk about their feelings. * They also have their own opinions and can ask questions. Difficult as it is, parents need to answer their questions and talk to them about how they are feeling and coping. * Older children may be concerned about their safety and future. Parents need to reassure them they will be taken care of and tell them the name of the adult assigned to look after them should the parents no longer be able to do it themselves. * Routine helps children to cope and live a normal life, playing with their friends and taking part in school activities. Teenagers: 12-17 Years * Teenagers are learning who they are and how to cope with life. Although they need adult guidance, they are becoming independent and ﬁnding solutions to problems. They need advice on how to boost their conﬁdence and on how they should respond to difﬁcult situations. Sometimes they may get angry or even want to get even. Other times they may be sad and worried. * Parents can use friends, TV programmes and teachers to help their teenagers understand the situation. Discuss messages they get from TV or things their friends tell them. * Teenagers can beneﬁt from helping others in a similar situation and by doing so, learn to help themselves. * A teenager's opinion may be very different to that of an adult. Show an interest and listen to their opinions and they will be far more open and willing to listen to yours. * Teenagers watch how their parents cope. Reassure them they are loved. * Angry teenagers may become reckless and take risks. Guide them patiently, no matterhow difﬁcult it is.