How do I tell my kids about my HCV diagnosis/treatment?

How do I tell my kids about my HCV diagnosis/treatment?

When it comes to your personal medical health, you may or may not decide to discuss things with your children. Many doctors recommend discussing medical histories with adult children and with the doctors of young children in order to make sure that any experiences or symptoms relating to a medical condition are recognized and diagnosed as early as possible. However, since hepatitis C is a virus and is not necessarily connected to the children in any way, some people choose to keep this information to themselves. If Universal Precautions are taken, there is little to no chance of the child becoming exposed to the virus through the parent, so some people believe there is no reason to cause concern or alarm to their children, especially if the child is either very young or is old enough to live outside of the home.

When are kids old enough to understand?

Others choose to tell their children about their diagnosis, especially if the children are old enough to understand some basic medical information. This is often tied to the plans for medical treatment in order to rid the body from the hepatitis C virus. During that time, the parent may experience some side effects from the medication, so some choose to let their children know what is happening if they believe the child is old enough to provide assistance to the parent during treatment, when the need arises. The right age to tell a child about this is truly not based on a number, but rather on the individual child. If your child is very detail oriented, they may notice additional medications within the home or they may notice changes in your behavior, sleep patterns, and moods. If your child is old enough to understand basic medical information, has the language skills to ask questions and to understand answers, and if you think your child is able to comprehend the medical treatment process, you may choose to discuss your medical condition with your child, as well as to talk through the treatment plan and risks of side effects. If you choose to let your child know, you may want to pre-plan how to make the language understandable for your child’s level of comprehension, as well as to consider whether you feel that your child can keep this information to themselves if you do not wish for their friends, community members, or other family members to know.

If you decide to talk about your hepatitis C treatment with your child, it is important to consider how they may be able to feel helpful and safe within the process. For example, you may wish to explain Universal Precautions to them, which can help them to ensure safety and a lack of exposure within your home, as well as being information that can help them to remain safe and unexposed while they are out in the world in general. In addition to teaching them about the physical aspects of what to do and not do when they are interacting with blood, some parents make sure to explain to children how to treat others who are injured or whose blood may be infected with hepatitis C, HIV, AIDS, or other blood borne illnesses. This can be a vital component in the explaining process as it can create a situation by which the child learns both about how to stay safe and how to show respect for others without judging them or their situation.

Making choices that work for your family

Some parents decide to come up with lists and plans for the child during the time when the parent will be on the hepatitis C medication protocol. This may include being the person who refills the water bottle by the bed, which can help combat dehydration side effects, it may include making sure there is enough toilet paper in all of the bathrooms in the house which can aid in the constipation or diarrhea side effects, or it may be related to acting as a special helper or researcher about produce at the grocery store if the doctor is recommending a change in diet or eating habits in order to have the best possible physical health during the treatment process. Some parents even choose to include their children in work-out or exercise routines as they work to gain or maintain fitness. This time together can create a bonding opportunity and the regular chance for the parent to check in with their children and make sure they are processing the treatment methods well and that they have a safe place to ask any questions they may have about the treatment for hepatitis C.1-3

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