Talking to Your Children About HIV and AIDS
Setting the Stage for Empowering Communication
Young children learn from how you react as well as what you say. Remember that your responses to questions or lack of response -- anger, irritation, or discomfort, for example -- all speak volumes about your views. Here are some things you can do to set the stage for empowering communication.
- Start early with discussions about body parts. Then move to more sensitive topics.
- Model how to say "no" respectfully. Teach children that it's OK to say "no," even when it's not a popular response. Fostering self-esteem will also help your child to withstand peer pressure.
- Encourage appreciation for a healthy body. This helps set the stage for HIV prevention.
Tips for Talking With Children About Sex and AIDS
Don't wait for your child to bring up these topics and don't think of this as a single conversation. That's too scary. Plus, children need to absorb this kind of information in small bits. Each time you talk, you can ask questions to see what your child learned from previous conversations. Here are some other tips to help guide you:
- If you're uncomfortable talking, be honest with your child about that.
- Take advantage of "teachable moments." Movies, television shows, public service announcements, or even the birth of a baby or pet can be great conversation starters.
- If you have more than one child, speak with them separately to allow for more open, age-appropriate discussion. Use simpler words with a younger child.
- When you talk, give your child your undivided attention, asking questions to find out the level of understanding. Look for cues that show your child can't absorb any more information right now.
- Don't put off questions. If you don't have the answer, find out. Or, if it's not a good time to talk, set another time to address it.
- Correct wrong ideas about HIV and AIDS as soon as possible. Your child may pick up plenty of mistaken ideas on the playground.
- Don't talk about AIDS in your first discussion about sex. Connecting the two from the beginning may leave the wrong impression.
- Once you start talking about AIDS, though, be prepared to discuss death.