Talking to Children About Their Donor Conception
Telling your child about their donor conception can be a sensitive issue to navigate without a plan.
How will they react to the truth? What questions will they have afterward? Will telling them the story change their perspective of you or themselves? This article offers guidance on approaching these conversations, including the importance of being open and transparent, preparing for questions, and seeking support.
Suppose you're a parent with concerns, wondering how to start the conversation or how much to share. In that case, we can help you through this potentially sensitive issue to promote healthy family relationships.
Tips for an Honest Conversation With Your Child About Their Donor Conception
When talking to your child about their donor conception, be honest.
Maintaining a policy of truthfulness and being open with your child about the facts and stages of donor conception will make the conversation more straightforward. Better yet, it will make it easier to handle any questions or concerns your child may have later on.
1. Prepare for Questions and Concerns
Before initiating this conversation, prepare for any questions or concerns your child may have.
These may include questions relating to...
- What donor conception means
- How does donor conception work?
- Was donor conception painful?
- Are you my real parents?
- Do you still love me?
As tricky as some of these questions may seem, any variation may arise. Children process information in their way. Be understanding, patient and open-minded in your reactions and responses. Sit with your partner or a close friend, run through different scenarios of questions, and come up with answers you agree with. As long as you feel confident in your approach and maintain a calm, loving presence, telling your child about their donor conception story can become an empowering moment rather than a fearful experience.
2. Seek Support and Resources
For additional support, consult a fertility expert who can help you roleplay scenarios and develop a strategy.
You can consult with our fertility counselors, or a new fertility specialist, or work alongside your current fertility doctor who helped you with the donor conception procedure. Explain to them your questions and concerns, and with their help, they can guide you on how to present information clearly and precisely. You can also request resources to explain things to your child, such as pamphlets, diagrams, reference photos, or any literature on the complete lifecycle of donor conception.
California Fertility Partners (CFP) offers many different web resources for parents to use for their education and assistance in understanding sensitive topics. Feel free to request information from a fertility specialist and work with them to alleviate your concerns or challenges surrounding your child's donor conception story.
More resources outside your fertility network include books and written material specifically designed for children to help them understand their donor conception story in a relatable way. For example, the Donor Connection Network offers a range of children's books that break down donor conception in a simple, friendly manner that parents can use as a tool.
3. Know WHEN to Share WHAT at the Right Time
According to a study in the UK, the best age to tell your child about their donor conception is seven years old or younger.
- The study documented more than 100 families over 20 years, and many participants had plans to tell their children about their donor history early on in their life. Still, as time passed, 50% of parents shared the news after age seven. By age 20, their child developed problems within their family relationship.
- This compares to 12.5% of participants who told their child before age seven, reporting that their family dynamic remained intact. Research also shows that participants who told their children their donor history before age four had even better results. Families reported how much happier and more accepting they were of their history.
There are no right or wrong ages to tell your child about their donor conception history. What matters is how you approach it and how much information you share upfront. Your child shouldn't have a clear memory of when you told them the truth. It can be an ongoing conversation with bits of information sprinkled casually. With this strategy, we normalize the idea of donor conception. It allows the child to develop feelings toward their history without feeling like you kept something from them.
4. What to do When They Want to Tell Others
Veerle Provoost, a bioethicist with a background in genetic and social parenthood, hosted a TED Talk explaining the role of parenting in the context of donor conception.
She emphasizes the importance of parents being proud of their family and its unique start. It's essential to communicate this concept to your child and use language that supports the bond you share. However, it's critical to remember that the donor conception story is not for the parents. Instead, it's about the child and their story to process and develop.
Once you decide to share the news with your child, it's important to allow them to enfold it into their life. This means granting them the freedom to share it with others, having open conversations about it at home or with friends and family, and giving them the space to not talk about it if that's what they choose. Keeping the context of their donor conception story within a space of love and understanding will help them feel secure in who they are and safe to express themselves.
5. What About Siblings with Mixed Beginnings?
The same rules apply to children born traditionally or those who are adopted.
How you perceive your family is how your children will perceive it. This means you should be proud of how your family was created and communicate that pride to your kids. Explain to them that everyone is unique and has their unique path. However, what makes a family so special is how everyone comes together to love and support each other.
If you have mixed children who are older, encourage them to make any younger siblings feel accepted and understood. If your eldest child has a donor conception story and your newborn has a traditional conception, then let your eldest know that your love for them is no different.
Your Family's Story is Special
There is no right or wrong way to create the family you desire.
Whether you're a new parent using donor conception or searching for ways to communicate donor conception to your child, trust that your family story is a special one. You can also find support from trusted professionals who can help you navigate any questions or complex situations.
Connect with us to start your journey to becoming a parent. We can also support you with Patient Advocacy, Education, and Support Organizations.