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Disclosure: Telling Your Child about Donor Conception
Mental health experts advise that the younger your child is when you begin talking about donor conception, the easier it is for both parent(s) and child. While many parents begin this conversation with their toddlers, any time before age five is ideal. The key is to use simple, language, a calm, positive tone, and relaxed body language. “We made you with the help of another woman’s egg/man’s seed,” can be a good start for toddlers. Don’t feel obligated to clarify with questions like, “Do you know how babies are created?” If they don’t ask questions, that’s quite normal.
Ages 8 to 11
This “telling” conversation is a lifelong process that will deepen over the years. Between ages 8 to 11, children synthesize information you’ve given them earlier on, and begin asking more detailed questions. Be ready to respond with some straight talk about natural and donor-assisted conception. Some children express a sadness or confusion over not being genetically related to one or both parents. Listen to your child, empathize, and be open to discussion whenever and however they initiate it. Some parents have found that revealing this for the first time to kids between ages 8 to 11 works well because they can better understand the biological aspects.
Continuing your donor-conception discussion with your adolescent may involve tougher “why” questions. “Who am I” is the part of adolescents’ ‘emotional work’ as they prepare for independence and adulthood. Explaining why you choose donor assistance in an open, gentle and positive way can help them process this information.
Revealing this for the first time to your adolescent requires consideration of her/her emotional development. While most 13- to 17-year-olds can understand the biology of donor conception, their ability to process their emotions may lag behind. All adolescents need to feel security and love, which is what you can provide in this discussion. Again, listening without judgment and answering questions honestly will help children of all ages process this information.
Remember, there’s no one right way. You’ll develop your unique style of starting and continuing this conversation. Your ultimate goal: to instill a sense of pride in your child.