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March 25, 1997

Educating Your Kids About AIDS

by Paul H. Carlson, Ph.D., RN

It's tough! Especially if you consider alcohol and marijuana education on top of the subject of AIDS.

It's especially tough on parents. "New surveys show that kids and parents want to talk more about these issues but are having trouble actually doing it." (USA Today, Feb 20, 1997)

Third graders were recently interviewed as part of a University of Vermont study. In that study 93 percent of the children had heard of AIDS. In addition, many worried that their parents would die of AIDS. Lynne Dumas, a New York parenting writer, said, "I think a lot of little kids think everybody is going to die of AIDS." Her booklet, entitled, Talking with Kids About Tough Issues, is part of a campaign to get parents informed about the facts and statistics and to provide a framework for teaching your kids about AIDS, marijuana, and alcohol. This booklet may be obtained free by calling 800-344-5344. It will be distributed by the Boys and Girls Club of American in 20 cities hosting their events. Creating an open environment is Dumas' most important tip. "Making any topic taboo in your home is a big mistake," she said. Individualized education is recommended on these subjects. Your child's basic temperament and emotional and intellectual levels should be considered when dealing with these tough issues. Getting feedback from your child a few days after the conversation is a good way to determine if you've struck the right level of understanding.

Thomas W. Barkley, RN, DSN, of the University of South Alabama College of Nursing, has evaluated and assessed adolescents' sources of AIDS knowledge. He has experimentally studied different teaching approaches to determine which methods can be most effective in actually reducing adolescents' risk behaviors. Knowing how to properly use condoms, understanding that alcohol decreases inhabitations and can lead to risky behavior, and knowing the mechanisms for entry of HIV into the body are all basic elements in informing adolescents of the facts.


Paul H. Carlson, RN, is certified by the American Red Cross as a volunteer HIV/AIDS instructor.


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