Example

Telling Older Children and Teens that they were Donor Conceived

Research shows the earlier a child is told the story of how they were conceived, the more straightforward and stress-free this is for both the parents and the child. However, for different reasons, in many families a child or teen may not know that they were donor conceived. In this situation, it can really help if the parents have taken some time to prepare themselves well.

We also know that for many families, children and teens may already know about their donor conception but are now at a stage of development where new issues are arising.

We have some information and resources below, divided into sections for older children and for teens.

Telling Older Children that they were Donor Conceived

Children of mid to late primary school (around 8-11 years) are usually able to understand more detail about genetics and conception, but they tend to be quite literal - e.g. the parents who gave them their genetics are their 'real' parents. As they enter puberty they may start to think about issues of identity and resemblance. Telling children at this age means talking clearly and with simple language about the details of their conception. It also means being emotionally prepared for responses like 'you're not my real mum, you can't tell me what to do'. When we are well prepared we can put the emotional needs of our child first.
 
Things for parents to think about before telling:
  • Timing- make sure that there aren't other big things happening for the child, and allow enough time for talking and questions immediately after telling, and in the following weeks. Don't try to give them too much info all in one go.
  • Location - tell them at home if possible, so that they are in a familiar space
  • Language - keep it clear and simple, and speak warmly about how loved and wanted they are. Try not to overdo your description of the donor as being 'kind and generous' so that you leave space for the child to work out how they feel about this person for themselves, especially if they know the person already
We have reviewed a book that may help you:
 
'Telling and Talking (8-11 years)' by Olivia Montuschi, published in the UK by The Donor Conception Network:

From the Donor Conception Network in the UK, this excellent resource is for parents who have built or added to their family with the help of egg, sperm or embryo donation (with or without surrogacy) and who have 8-11 year old children; the children either don't know that they are donor conceived, or they were told at a younger age but parents are looking to continue the conversation in an age appropriate way. This book acknowledges how parents might have very mixed feelings about telling, and gives guidance for people navigating this complex situation with the best interests of the child at heart. It covers practical suggestions on telling for the first time, and helps parents to understand and anticipate what might happen in the discussion so that they can prepare for it, work through their own fears and bring the focus to the child's needs. This book also gives tips to help guide children through issues around known donors or anonymous donors, questions about family resemblance, siblings, the concept of 'real parents', and what to say to friends, family and school. There is also a comprehensive resource section at the end. 35 pages. 

Telling Teenagers that they were Donor Conceived

Teen years are a time for questioning 'who am I?' and for seeking independence from parents. Finding out about their donor conception for the first time will likely cause an intense reaction and so before telling it's important to think about:

  • what telling means for the parent/s, including how they feel about their infertility (or the situation that led them to donor conception) and their decisions to use donor conception

  • the developmental stage of the child and what's happening for them at the moment

Thinking about these things before parents tell allows them to be well prepared so that they can meet the needs of the child as they tell them about their donor conception, instead of being preoccupied with their own anxiety and fears.

Things for parents to think about before telling:

  •  work on a 'script' that you use to tell them, or write a letter that the child could read with you there. 
  • choose a time when the relationships within the family are reasonably good
  • prepare an explanation of why you've decided to tell them now and not before. It could be helpful to talk it through with a trusted friend or counsellor
  • make sure there is support available for yourself afterwards so you can debrief and manage any strong reactions of your own. If you think your child could use some outside support, maybe have some suggestions ready for that.
  • timing- try to avoid exams or other significant times in the child's life. Don't make a time to 'tell them something imporant' (they might stress out that you are sick or similar), but choose a natural time when you would be together, such as having a meal or going for a walk. Talking in the car is probably not the best idea for this first conversation.
  • use direct language and don't go into too much detail about the reasons why you couldn't conceive. Include language about how loved and wanted they were and are.
  • keep it simple so that they can take it in and save additional information for other conversations
  • acknowledge how hard this might be for them
  • follow up with them and let them know  you are ready and willing to have extra conversations at any time

We have reviewed a book that may help you:

'Telling and Talking (12-16 years)' by Olivia Montuschi, published in the UK by The Donor Conception Network:

From the Donor Conception Network in the UK, this excellent resource is for parents who have built or added to their family with the help of egg, sperm or embryo donation (with or without surrogacy) and who have 12-16 year old children who don't know that they are donor conceived. This book acknowledges how parents might have very mixed feelings about telling, and gives guidance for people navigating this complex situation. It covers practical suggestions on telling for the first time, and helps parents to understand and anticipate what might happen in the discussion so that they can prepare for it, work through their own fears and bring the focus to the child's needs. This book also gives tips to help guide children through issues like finding out they are not biologically related to sibling/s, and what to say to friends, family, school, and on social media. 27 pages.

 

 

This content includes content modified from 'Telling and Talking' resources by Olivia Montuschi, published by the Donor Conception Network in the UK. 

 

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