It can be a struggle to know when to have these conversations, and how to approach the subject when you decide the time is right. You might even be wondering why to raise the subject, and are concerned about affecting your child’s mental wellbeing. These are all good questions and valid concerns, and you certainly aren’t alone in asking them. Below you’ll find some simple advice to address these questions and help you make informed choices about explaining egg donor or sperm donor conception to your child.
Why tell mychild they were conceived through egg or sperm donation?
While it is completely understandable that you may be nervous or anxious about telling your child that they were conceived through an egg donor or a sperm donor, the benefits and reasons why you should do so are numerous. For starters, being open and honest with your child is highly beneficial to your relationship – this is true for so much more than just this particular subject too. Embedding honesty into your family relationships is important, and it’s key to remember that secrets are hard to keep, can easily come out in less than ideal ways, and will undermine trust and stability in your family.
Besides the honesty aspect, knowing your origins has a large impact on understanding who you are and where you came from – keeping this information from your child could be damaging to them in the future, and is disrespectful to them as an individual. Knowing their origins will mean that your child can make their own informed choices about their lives, learn about themselves, and (where possible) have access to their accurate medical history. In fact, in the 2020 We Are Donor Conceived Survey, 88% of respondents believe it is a basic human right to know the identity of both biological parents. This may come later, but certainly the first step is that they know that others were involved in their creation.
You may have fears that finding this out may affect your relationship with your child, or their mental health. These fears can be quelled by approaching the subject at the appropriate times and in ways suggested by professionals.
When’s the right time to have the initial conversation?
It’s easy to put something like this off, due to anxiety or maybe a lack of confidence. Remember, it’s never too early or too late to explain egg donor or sperm donor conception, and being comfortable will help the process go more smoothly. However, research does show that the earlier you introduce the idea and story of your child’s conception, the better. In the 2020 We Are Donor Conceived Survey, “Respondents who learned they are donor conceived before age three were significantly more likely to categorize their overall experience of being donor conceived as positive and less likely to say the method of their conception sometimes makes them feel distressed, angry, or sad than late discovery respondents.”
Introducing the subject at a younger age makes it less stressful for everyone involved, at the first instance and throughout the on-going conversations you’ll be having across your child’s life. Of course, your child’s reaction cannot be predicted, but generally younger children process the information more easily than older children, and means that they will grow up with a clear idea of their origins.
How do I approach the subject of non-traditional conception?
How to tell your child about egg donor or sperm donor conception is a big question, and there is no “one size fits all” answer. But, lots of research has been done and there is some great advice and numerous resources around to help you approach the subject in a way that feels right for your family.
It’s important to do research yourself to ensure you are comfortable with and well informed about what you want to say, and how you want to say it. However here’s a few tips that apply in all situations:
Remember that there is no “wrong” or “right” way to do this.
It’s about how you say it just as much as what you say – reflect your love and pride and your child will understand how much they are wanted and loved.
Confidence can go a long way.
Giving off a confident, positive, proud vibe when discussing your child’s conception will really help them see that you are happy, not ashamed or embarrassed, about where they came from, and that they should feel that way too. It will also make them more comfortable asking questions and talking about it in the future.
Use resources and tools to aid the conversation.
As well as researching advice for yourself, for slightly older children you can keep note of useful resources that are aimed at them, and encourage your child to use them to gain further understanding. For younger children we recommend using a story book to help them engage. Our book The Magic Of You is designed to help every kind of family, including gay mums and dads, single mothers, and straight couples explain donor conception to toddlers and pre-schoolers. The colourful, customisable pages will engage your child and help you explain everything to them with ease.
“Our daughter, Eva Rose is now 2.5 years. We felt it was time to explain to her all about how she came to be. We wanted to be sure that she had the answers if any child asked her about her Daddy. We found The Magic of You made the telling really easy. Thanks to her book Eva Rose can explain quite simply that she has two mums that love her and a donor, Daddy Simon Lee. The book includes wonderfully simple explanations about the process, with lovely illustrations. In short, our book is absolutely amazing, my daughter can’t get enough of it.” Pride Angel
“We are so happy with the books and the girls loved it and owned it. The books really helped me find ways to create the narrative of my children's conception. The process of doing the book and collating the pictures was fun but also therapeutic.“ Mona
What happens next?
Once you’ve had the first conversation about donor conception with your child you’ll likely feel a range of emotions, including relief! Many parents find it easier than they expected, and you’ll generally feel closer as a family once the weight has been lifted. Of course, there’s more to come, and it’s important to continue to support your child as they grow up.
Make sure your child knows that they can talk to you and ask questions about their conception when they want to, and that they should feel comfortable and not embarrassed to do so. As your child grows up you should continue to talk about their conception, giving them opportunities to ask questions over the years as their general understanding expands.
Most importantly, be open and honest with your child and support their curiosity going forward.
Also, have a look at Cryosinternational's page on how to talk to your child about donor conception as they have some good content.