The most common misconception parents have about disclosure is that telling a child is a single event. Talking to a child about her conception is a process that unfolds naturally over time and extends well beyond the storybook stage. As a donor conceived child develops, her cognitive understanding of conception increases and different aspects of identity emerge, opening up new opportunities for communication and parental guidance.
The optimal time for parents to begin talking about donor conception is from infancy to the preschool stage. Children told at an early age, accept the information more effortlessly. Parents can tell children as soon as they begin talking to them with phrases like, “We were so blessed to get help to have you.” Even though psychologists do not fully understand the extent that infants absorb information, simple statements at this stage can help parents to become comfortable talking about their child’s conception story and also lays the groundwork for conceptual understanding. As children transition into the toddler years, simple story books help explain the conception story. Currently, there are over a dozen storybooks published for donor families of preschool aged children. Storybooks may be sufficient until children are able to comprehend more complex information, beginning around the middle school years.
Families with genetic differences have unique challenges, but with education, awareness, and specific psycho-social skills parents can successfully guide their donor-conceived children through various developmental stages. Counseling or consultation with a specialist in third-party family building can help a donor family work through disclosure and enjoy a healthy parent-child bond for a life time. For more information subscribe to Jana M. Rupnow’s fertility newsletter at janarupnow.com.