Parenting HIV Positive Children Tips

HIV positive children in most ways are just like non positive children. Parents need to respect, love, teach, hear, question, affirm, and correct their children. With HIV positive children, some of these elements of parenting may need to be specifically focused on the HIV infection, but this must be interwoven rather than harped on until the child feels different in an unacceptable manner.

Infants born with HIV infection, must have proper nutrition. HIV wears down the immune system by lowering the number of T cells that protect us from many infections. It is essential to remember that although your baby is living with HIV, he/she is not breakable because of the virus. Your baby needs cuddling and nurturing, adequate sleep, proper administration of prescribed medications and a physician who specializes in infants/children and HIV.

Your infant’s sisters and brothers must be able to hold, play with, talk to and sometimes accompany you and the baby to the doctor. Knowing proper precautions against HIV infection from one person to another is essential for all of you for peace of mind, normalcy when interacting with the baby, and for responding to the inevitable questions from neighbors, church nurseries, and others.

As your child enters school, it is possible that he/she will need to have medication administered during the school day. As much as possible, allow your child to explain the medication to the teacher and whoever might be administering the medication. Kids will be kids both at home and in school. Expect that there will be an occasional accident with the presence of blood. Your child should know enough to have someone get the teacher, help stop the bleeding, and to have those present all wash their hands well. Your matter of fact and calm explanation and reaction will reduce panic and any feelings of fear to be in school because of the HIV.

They might well try to tell you that they don’t have homework, but HIV positive kids are like all of the others in their schools. Encourage them to think as much as possible for themselves but be there when they are simply not able to find an answer and guide them to the correct sources. School children can also be cruel. They often assimilate their parents fears, prejudices, phobias, reactions and the like. If your child has heard another student talking about them, they may well decide to keep those words and messages from you for fear you will confirm their truth. A need for increased homework help, or a reluctance to talk about school may alert you to unspoken difficulties. The sooner these are addressed, the better.

Adolescence is difficult enough without also living with HIV. Body changes, menstruation (more blood fear), self image, hanging out with friends, and much about which we do not know, only exacerbate many of the trial and tribulations of parent/adolescent interaction. The once meek and soft spoken son, suddenly announces what he will or not do rather than asking what you would like him to do. Your daughter who swims like a fish, suddenly becomes moody (yes, monthly) because she doesn’t want anyone on the swim team to know that she has her period. Your HIV positive adolescent decides that she/he can skip a dose or two of their retro-antiviral, “after all, how much can a couple of missed pills hurt?” Young folks this age also begin to be aware of sexual feelings and attractions. What happens when the girl your HIV positive son has been seeing often, takes his hand and says she wants to kiss him? He wants to run. Is it okay for us to kiss? What will happen if I “give” her HIV?

You, as parent(s) need to be the stabilizer(s). You don’t have to solve all of the problems and concerns that come up related to your child’s HIV infection, but your parenting my be rooted in support, truth telling, involvement, correction, and all of this, must be fed by love. Our children are precious and some need more attention than others for a multitude of different reasons. Roll with the punches, get enough sleep in order to cope and continue to love day after day. have someone to whom you can turn and share your concerns, pain, fears and anxieties.

Lastly, thank God every day for the gift of your children. Ask, if you desire, for some “heavenly” guidance. Say “thank You.”