How to explain correctly about alternative family-building to kids?
Absolutely all parents must take the time to normalize alternative family-building methods for their children. And we are talking about all the parents. Since parents of surrogate, adopted or children born to a donor should not be solely responsible for teaching them various ways to create a family.
Psychologists at Feskov Human Reproductive Group are always ready to help future parents expecting a baby from a surrogate mother or as a result of donation programs.
The importance of teaching children about alternative ways to build a family
All parents are required to talk to their children about surrogacy, IVF and egg donation because:
- when planning to expand the family in one of these ways, older children will need to understand how they will have brothers or sisters;
- children must have a positive and accurate understanding of the people involved in these modes - gestational carriers, egg donors or biological parents;
- proper education of the younger generation will prevent the spread of myths and misinformation to the next generation;
- children will sooner or later meet their peers who ended up in families with such “unconventional” methods, if this has not happened yet;
- normalizing these ways of building families ensures that they respond appropriately and well when they meet children born as a result of surrogacy, donation or adoption;
- providing them with the terms and tools they need to discuss these family building methods will help them accurately answer questions from curious peers;
- it will broaden their worldview and increase empathy for all types of families, not just families like their own.
While these conversations are especially important in the case of personal experiences of surrogacy or adoption, it is important for all children to understand how their friends or family members might have been born.
Resources to start a conversation
While one-on-one conversation with children is important, many people are confused about where to start and how to explain complex concepts. For starters - using child-centered resources is a good first step:
- Joint reading of books about surrogacy, adoption and other methods of creating a family. There are many books for all ages about families of all types.
- Watching films on this topic. However, it should be borne in mind that most paintings dramatize situations. Therefore, it is advisable to conduct research on the subject of films or TV shows that advance these very goals.
- Using the game to normalize different types of families. The child often plays “house” or “mothers and daughters” to understand the concept of family and child. During the next games, the toy can “adopt” another toy. Or, the toy could represent an imaginary pregnancy carrier. Play can be a powerful tool in helping a child comprehend a complex concept.
Things like IVF and donor conception are new and confusing concepts even for most adults. Therefore, before delivering them to the baby, it is advisable to understand them yourself. It is thanks to a clear and accessible explanation that everyone will be able to understand the basics, regardless of age.
What terms should be used for each family building path?
Examples that you can use when talking about surrogacy:
- babies live in mom's tummy until they are born. But mom's tummy doesn't work, it's broken. Therefore, the new baby will live in the tummy of another mother until it is ready for birth. Then he will return home and become part of the family forever;
- remember how I carried you in my tummy until you were ready to be born? Some mothers have broken tummies, and they cannot carry a baby this way. They need the help of a mom like me. Therefore, I'm going to help another mommy carry the baby. And when he is born, the baby will go home to his mother.
Examples when talking about adoption:
- most children live with the parents who gave birth to them, like you. But some cannot live with the parents who gave birth to them. These parents love their babies very much, but they cannot take care of them right now. They make the difficult decision that their babies should live with parents who can take care of them. Therefore, the family has been waiting and adopts them, and they will forever remain together as a new family;
- there is a woman we know and she will soon give birth. But she is not ready to take care of this child. Thus, she is looking for someone who is willing and ready to take care of him. Mom and I are ready to take care of the baby. When the baby is born, he or she will join our family forever. And it will become your little brother or sister.
Examples of when you have to explain about egg donation:
- your aunt wanted to have a baby, but she didn’t have the essential ingredient for independent conception. Therefore, the doctor gave her the missing ingredient, and now your aunt will have a baby! Not all babies have both parents - some babies have one special parent, like your aunt;
- some male and female bodies do not do what it takes to have a baby. These people may ask for help from someone who is called a “donor”. The donor's body does what some people's bodies lack. The donor then donates this special missing ingredient to help other people become parents.
Such topics of conversation should become permanent, not a one-time act. At the same time, one should talk about different methods of creating a family in a positive way. So that the child understands that “unconventional” does not mean bad or worse. And most importantly, no matter how it was created, all its members love each other equally.
In fact, children understand much more than many adults can imagine. Over time, each child will adopt concepts that seem too complicated to adults. And the leadership of Feskov Human Reproductive Group provides a launching pad for this.
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