How to tell

''I have been making a book for him since before he was born so we've got everything from the donor profile, the photos of our first appointment, his birth, his naming day ceremony and his first birthday. He always wants to look at it and if I go too quickly he wants to turn back''. Pia

Knowing what to say can be daunting. Unfortunately, this may mean you put off talking to your child and you never quite get around to it - just as many parents avoid talking about unassisted reproduction. However, it is much less difficult than you might think and is actually easier to discuss when your child is younger. There are now many resources available to support families through this process.

Talking to your child about donor-conception is similar to the way that any child is taught about their conception. If stuck for words, check out the examples of what to say to help you get started. You may also consider making a family storybook - see tip below.

  • There is no 'right or wrong' way or words to use. It is not what you say but how you say it that reflects your love and pride in the way you became a family. Hearing this will ensure your child understands they are much-wanted.
  • Be confident and proud. If your child senses that you are embarrassed or ashamed that you used assisted reproduction this may affect the way they feel about themselves. As a result, they may be less likely to want to ask questions or talk to you about it in the future.
  • Don't make it too much of a big deal. Your child’s donor-conception or surrogacy story is only one facet of who they are. All children want to feel special but that does not mean they want to feel different from their peers. Try not to refer to your donor or surrogate as if they are a super hero - they are ordinary people who did something extraordinary to help. At the same time, it is important that you convey a high regard for the person that helped you become parents.
  • Remember the first conversation is just that - a beginning. Your child will have their own particular thoughts and questions and they need to feel able to talk to you about them. Keep the conversations going - they may need to hear some information more than once. It might also be helpful for them to talk with someone other than you - just as you may benefit from having a supportive friend, family member or counsellor to talk things over with.

Most parents find that talking to their child is easier than they expected and a relief once they have begun. Generally, younger children process this information more easily than older ones. However, it is extremely rare for a child to reject their parent once they have been told the truth. In many cases, the relationship has in fact been strengthened.

While you cannot anticipate your child's reaction as every person is different, you know your child best and you are the best person to tell them.

Family perspectives - talking to children about how you became a family

How we become a family using donated sperm: Angie & Greg's story

Experiences of donor conception: Chantelle's story

Talking to your children about using an egg donor to become a family: Kim's story

Sometimes it takes three to make a baby

Tip

Some parents make a family storybook, diary or film about how their child came into the world. This may be a scrapbook project, a photo slideshow with a story, or a 'memory box' of mementos. You and your child can add to it over the years and can include any cards, photos or letters from the donor or surrogate. See Sometimes it takes three to make a baby for a template to help you write your family story. You may also be interested to attend the Family storybook workshop.