Top 10 Tips for Telling Children about Donor Egg, Sperm and Embryo

mother and father with child

1. Telling a process, not a one- or even two-time event.

You start laying the groundwork and add detail as your child ages.

2. Don’t over tell.

The temptation is to put it all out there, tell everything you know and be done with the darn thing. Start simple and build upon the story.

3. Don’t wait.

It is simply easier to start the process when your child is young and predisposed to believe everything about themselves is magical, and usually not inclined to ask detailed or tough questions.  As an added bonus, more resources are available to help parents of younger kids. Yes, it’s easier to cut your parental telling chops on the 6 and under set. But…

4. It’s never too late.

Even if your child is now sprouting facial hair and slamming doors, it is not too late. Watch this webinar about how to tell older children.

5. The basic ingredients of the story are simple.

  • We wanted you very much.
  • We had trouble getting pregnant.
  • We got help in a variety of ways.
  • We were so, so happy when you finally came.

6. Language matters.

It is important to use the word ‘donor’ or ‘genetic parent’ rather than ‘mother’ or ‘father’ to describe the person or people who donated gametes or embryos. This is the case even if you are a single mom or a same sex couple.

7. Leave the door open to further questions.

When the conversation is over, make sure that your child knows that they can always come back to you with more questions, and that you expect that they will have more questions.

8. It’s the child’s story.

Even if you do not want the world to know, there is a mighty fine line between privacy and secrecy. It is fine to encourage your child to only talk about their conception within the family, but if you go overboard in warning you risk making it a secret and secret implies there is something wrong or shameful about their conception. There is not.

9. All information belongs to the child.

Not immediately, but ultimately, any info that you have should be given to the child. Yes, that includes identifying information if you have it.

10. Don’t get thrown by the ‘Can we meet?’ question.

Many kids will ask at some point if they can meet the donor. This doesn’t mean they are looking to replace; it likely means they are curious. Answer the question honestly. If you have identifying information, the answer is likely yes, when all parties are ready, and together you will decide the best timing. If there is no identifying information, the answer is maybe, but complicated with lots of consideration, such as the donor’s wish for anonymity. Assure the child that if it is very important to them, you will help them in any way you can.