Raising a donor-conceived child: What we’ve learned from the donor conceived community

June 29, 2023

When raising a donor-conceived child, starting donor conception conversations from a very early age can be beneficial for the child’s emotional well-being and understanding of their identity, and make it easier on parents to tell before it becomes an awkward conversation. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Trust your children’s ability to grasp the concept from birth: Children consider their “parents” to be those who raised them, and are capable of grasping the idea that their genetic source may be different.
  2. Emphasize openness and honesty: Creating an environment of openness and honesty from the start establishes a foundation of trust and understanding with your child. This helps normalize the idea, ensure that the story is told from a place of love, and ensures that they grow up with an accurate understanding of their origins. Telling a child after they perceive their origin story can be detrimental to their self-understanding, confidence in their own story, and trust in you.
  3. Age-appropriate discussions: Tailor your conversations to suit your child’s age and comprehension level. Begin with simple explanations that they can understand, using language and concepts appropriate for their developmental stage.  For example, parents can start by framing their genetic components as pieces of a puzzle that were needed or seeds, and donors as “helpers” who gave a gift. As they grow older, you can provide more detailed information, gradually building their knowledge about their donor conception.
  4. Use age-appropriate resources: Utilize age-appropriate books, stories, or other resources that explain the concept of donor conception in a child-friendly manner.  There are many books written for toddler age and younger! These resources can help your child grasp the idea in a relatable and accessible way.
  5. Encourage questions and open dialogue: Create a safe space where your child feels comfortable asking questions about their donor conception at any age. Encourage curiosity and be prepared to address their inquiries honestly and openly. By fostering open dialogue, you demonstrate that their feelings and questions are valid and valued.
  6. Normalize their experience: Help your child understand that being donor-conceived is a normal and positive aspect of their identity. Emphasize that families are created in various ways and that their unique story is a special part of who they are.
  7. Seek professional guidance: If you have concerns or need additional support in navigating these conversations, consider seeking guidance from professionals experienced in reproductive issues or donor conception. They can provide personalized advice and help address any specific challenges you may encounter.
  8. It’s okay not to foster a relationship with genetic connections from the start: Knowing that one is donor conceived and having information about a donor is a great foundation, and for some, may be enough – not all donor conceived people want to know their genetic contributors or siblings.  You can simply give them the opportunity to connect if/when they are interested. Some families do want to foster a relationship from a young age so that the children can bond.

Remember, the goal is to create an environment of openness and understanding right from the start. By discussing their donor conception when they are very young, you set the stage for a healthy and informed understanding of their identity as they grow older.