Even for the most open-minded parent, the conversation about the birds and the bees is rarely an easy one. Children become aware of their body from early toddlerhood, and soon start to wonder where babies — and by consequence, themselves — come from. For families with children born via a sperm donor, the sex talk takes on another dimension.
When to Broach the Subject
As tempting as it might be to shy away from this complicated discussion, experts agree the best policy is to start earlier than you think is necessary — before the child comes to you with his or her questions.
“Start early, as early as you feel is possible,” Nina Barnsley from the Donor Conception Network tells Parentology. “The advantage of starting to talk to a baby or very young child is they won’t really understand what you’re saying and won’t ask questions immediately. This gives you time to practice and build confidence.”
In her foreword to Zak’s Safari, a children book regarding a little boy conceived via
Ruby emphasizes, “early disclosure ensures that children learn this important information from their parents—and not from others who may have less positive or less informed views on donor conception.”
Finding the Right Words
Prior to the conversation, Barnsley says, “It’s a good idea for parents to prepare and get as comfortable as possible before talking with their child as children will pick up a lot from the tone, language, and context of how they’re told.”
Ruby suggests trial run-throughs for feeling prepared and confident before talking to your child. “T
Many age-appropriate books provide support for children, as well as parents, to help maintain an open conversation, formulate thoughts and ask questions.
Keep the Conversation Flowing
Finally, parents need to understand big discussions about their family story aren’t a one-time event. Instead, it’s an ongoing subject, the focus of which will change as children grow older and come back with different questions.
“Your child may have different responses depending on how old they are,” Barnsley says. “Try to stay warm and neutral, open to their feelings, and allow them to express what they need to express in their own way.”
She continues, “They need to be able to trust that they can be honest with you as their parent and that this isn’t a taboo subject.”
Barnsley adds, “Questions, thoughts and feelings may change over the years as your child grows up and starts to work out how to fit this piece of information into their life.”
Families come in all shapes and sizes. Talking to your child about being conceived via a sperm bank should be a celebration of their unique family story.
For Ruby, what’s most important: “whatever complex emotions you may have about the conception journey, for your child the story of how they came to be is happy, magical, and full of love.”