Coping strategies and communication of three groups of 20 preschool children and their parents were compared. One group was composed of children infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) who displayed clinical symptoms of the disease; the second group was composed of children diagnosed with cancer; and the third group was composed of healthy children. Results indicated that the parents of children with life-threatening illnesses reported greater degrees of wishful thinking than did control subjects. Furthermore, parents of children with HIV reported more wishful thinking than did parents of children with cancer. Finally, significantly more children with cancer were aware of their diagnosis than were children with HIV. The findings in this study suggest coping and communication difficulties for parents and children with HIV.