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Talking with your child about AIDS

No matter whether it is difficult to you to speak with your child about HIV and AIDS, you must do this. The overwhelming majority of 7-10 year children have already heard of this problem. Though children learn about AIDS existence quite early, their ideas related to this disease are more similar to horror movies than to reality. You really can give your child exact information about this matter. Of course, first of all you must learn about HIV and AIDS for yourself. The conversation about AIDS will be the base for speaking about safe behavior, thus it will help you to protect your child against this disease when he is grows up.

It is really difficult to discuss such matters…
Our children will have to live in the world where AIDS does exist. It is not easy to speak about with your child this disease, as well as about sex, alcohol, drugs and violence. Many parents doubt whether they generally should discuss such matters with their children. May be you hold the same opinion. May be you think that talking about some undesirable phenomena is going to harm your child. However, a child does not live in vacuum. When watching TV, reading magazines, speaking to friends your child receives various and very often wrong information. If you do not begin speaking with your child about some important matters, than someone else will begin fulfilling this task.
Speaking about such problems is not an easy matter, but there are some common tips which will help you to make communication with your child easier. Never forget that any child is unique, and only you can choose the way to speak to your kid.

The earlier, the better
Children hear of some problems long before they can understand them. The results of many researches show that little children first of all apply to their parents for information they are interested in. Your daughter or son being a teen will certainly want to be independent and will prefer to apply to his or her friends or to special books. You have a unique chance to become the first to speak to your child about such problems. If you manage to do this while your child is a baby, than no one will mislead him by giving wrong information in future. Do not miss the right moment for speaking with your child about HIV and AIDS (as well as about sex, violence, drugs and alcohol) and spend on such conversations as much time as necessary.

Do not expect your child to be the first to begin conversation
You cannot wait for your child to apply to you for getting answers to his or her questions thus giving you the chance to begin speaking on this topic. First of all, this is very unlikely to happen. Secondly, there is nothing wrong about beginning this conversation with the child without his or her questions. TV and movies are permanently giving us good reasons for such discussions. Let us suppose, that your 12 year daughter saw a serial where a young heroine got pregnant. You can ask her what she thinks about unwanted pregnancy. This question can lead to a very important conversation which may influence the future of the girl.
Of course, when speaking with a child you must use only the words he or she can understand. This means you should not use such words as “lymphocyte” or “transmission of disease”. Find some other words to make everything clear for your kid.

Shall we talk about sex?
Do you feel uncomfortable about discussing sex and sexuality with your child? Actually, you are not alone. The vast majority of parents find such conversation difficult, shameful and even frightening. However, those who really care about their children’s safety must overcome this nervousness and inform their children about things which will help them protect themselves against many troubles in future. Anyway, sooner or later the kid will certainly hear of things you do not want to speak about. Do not let others mislead your child!

Be sincere
Children want their parents do discuss difficult questions with them. However, keep in mind that a child will ask you a question only provided he feels he can do it. Therefore you must create the necessary atmosphere of openness in your family. How can you create such an atmosphere? Try to always support and encourage your child. For example, if your child asked you “How many people have AIDS?”, than do not answer something like this “I do not know, do not disturb me”. Even when being very busy you can say “This is an interesting question, but I do not know the answer. Let us try to find out together.” Do not worry your child will stop respecting you if he realizes you do not know everything. That is not so. Such answers are much better than excuses parents prefer to give instead of real answers.

Discuss this matter again…And once again….
Most children and teens can learn only a part of information you discussed. That is why you wait for some time and than ask your child whether he remembers your conversation. This will help you correct your mistakes and remind your child of things he or she forgot about.

Only facts
Give your child the information suitable for his or her age. For example, you can explain to an eight year kid “ AIDS is a very severe disease. It occurs because of HIV. HIV is a virus. It is a very small cell you cannot see with your eyes.” Later the child will be ready for more detailed information.

A child who has not reached teen age yet may not understand how the condom can protect someone against AIDS. If you have already explained to your child how people make love, than you can add “During intercourse sperm gets in female body and sperm might contain HIV. If you realize that your child is adult enough and knows much about sex and varieties of sex activities than you can speak to him or her about such ways of AIDS transmission as oral sex, anal sex or co-use of sex toys. By the way, believe it or not your daughter or son might turn out to be a homosexual. In this way talking about non-traditional sex activities is especially important. No matter whether you want to speak about such things or not you must explain to your child that any sex activity implies use of condom, even sex toys must be sheathed with a condom. Let your child be aware of all possible ways of AIDS transmission, including co-use of syringes, no matter whether he or she is a drug addict or not.

And keep in mind the following. If you haven’t spoken to your child about sex yet, than do not begin this conversation with talking about AIDS. Your child must not associate sex with infections and diseases!

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