DEAR ASK A THERAPIST: We are a two-mom family and have shared with our two kids, ages 8 and 4, that they were conceived with a sperm donor. We’ve done things like read Zak’s Safari, met up a few times with one of their donor siblings, and have a book with pictures of some of their donor siblings (we already know of over 30). I’ve even mentioned to my older child that we have a willing-to-be-known donor that they could try contacting at age 18. The thing is, they just don’t seem that interested in any of it.
We have a packet from California Cryobank that has childhood pictures, essays, and voice recordings from the donor. I was thinking we could show it to our kids when the oldest gets to middle school and might become more curious about their origins. It seems like that is the age when kids start to have more interest in donor siblings without parents playing a heavy facilitation role. Is that too late? I really want our kids to look back someday and feel like we handled this situation as best we could. – RECIPIENT PARENT
DEAR RECIPIENT PARENT: First, I would like to commend the two of you on creating a foundation of open communication with your children. With your children being ages 8 and 4, they may have some questions as they start to connect and compare their stories with those of other families and classmates/friends. They might not show a lot of interest until that happens, and that is normal. Focus on providing information and moments for emotional exploration and connection, as well as communicating you are there for support and as a resource at any point. Keep modeling for them how to assert themselves in those conversations and tell you what they need.
Children often ask questions as they come to mind, and you can address each specific issue as it arises. You can also periodically check in on them with simple, open-ended questions/statements regarding their thoughts about being donor conceived and how they are processing it. This could sound like, “I wonder how it feels for you when we read about/watch insert book/TV character. They seem to have a family like ours.” Depending on their response, you can share what you found to be interesting or a positive aspect related to your family’s origin and how that relates to the book or show.
The goal is to keep communication open and remind your kids that they can always come to you with their thoughts and feelings, whatever they are. As your children enter preadolescence and adolescence, you can also decide what age-appropriate information to provide regarding common concerns among those in the donor conceived community.
Because it sounds as if you have already begun cultivating an environment of open communication, trust in your choices, check in with other parents of donor conceived individuals, utilize professionals in the community, and follow your child(ren)’s lead. The most important thing is that they know and trust you are there as figures of support and will help them get whatever guidance they need as they develop their own identities individually and as part of the donor conceived community.
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