Parenting Donor Conceived Children

For parents who are comfortable about the decisions they have made, parenting donor conceived children is almost exactly the same as parenting any other child.  The same mixture of joy, frustration, fun and drudgery that makes up family life for most people.  The only difference is the on-going responsibility to share information with children in ways that fit with their age and stage of development.  Most of the time donor conception issues will not be part of daily life at all but it can be helpful for parents to look out for 'hooks' that they can hang additional information on or use to reinforce information already given.  Examples might be a television programme featuring babies, a story book about a baby animal or a bus ride past the clinic where they were conceived.  Some families use an annual visit to a DCN national meeting as a way of bringing up the topic and seeing where their child has reached in their understanding.

It is helpful for all parents to know something about the range of feelings expressed by donor conceived, children, teenagers and adults.  Despite our best efforts at good enough parenting, none of us can know how our children are likely to think and feel as they grow up.

What do donor conceived children and adults think and feel about their origins?

Over the years it has become clear that, apart from personal characteristics like personality and temperament, two things in particular influence donor conceived people’s attitudes to their origins.  The first is the comfort and confidence that their parents had or have in the decision they made to create a family with the help of a donor and second is having information about their beginnings shared with them from an early age.  The second factor is usually linked to the first, in that parents who choose to be open with their children are usually confident about the choices they have made and are happy to share the information with those closest to them, including their children.   The decision not to be open with children and close family is usually based on fears of stigma and rejection by the child and others and it is difficult to have confidence in a form of family creation that leads to such feelings.

In both research, such as it is (see section on Research and Researchers) and individual accounts of donor conceived people, it is those people who have been told or found out late about their origins, who have struggled with the information. Not just the fact of having been donor conceived but, more damaging for some, the impact of having been deceived by their parents for many years.  It can be hard to re-build family trust under these circumstances.

What can help in understanding how donor conceived people feel?

  • Read accounts from donor conceived young people in the Personal Stories section.
  • Read books that are available from the DCN library and elsewhere that contain stories and quotes from donor conceived people.  The following are a selection of the titles –
    • All the Telling and Talking booklets
    • Building a Family with the Help of Donor Insemination by Ken Daniels
    • Experiences of Donor Conception: Parents, offspring and donors throughout the years by Caroline Lorbach
    • Let the Offspring Speak: Discussions on Donor Conception by the Donor Conception Support Group of Australia (only available via DCN library)
  • View DCN’s two professionally made films –
    • A Different Story featuring 7 donor conceived children and young people
    • Telling and Talking featuring heterosexual and lesbian couples and single women and their children talking about telling.
  • Also borrow from DCN library film ‘Offspring’: a donor conceived adult searches for his donor and finds half-siblings.

I’m worried that my child is unhappy/not doing well at school/is being bullied. Could this be because s/he is donor conceived?

Every child is likely to have a time during their life when things are not going as well as they or you, their parents, would like.  It is important to remember that most of the challenges that may come up in their lives are likely to have nothing whatsoever to do with donor conception.  It is easy to jump to the conclusion that it may be the underlying reason for things like emotional problems, developmental delays or difficulties at school.  It is of course possible that you or your child’s response or attitude to DC may be a contributory factor, but the experience of DC Network families is that most times there are other explanations…or no explanation at all, and the problem resolves with time or an appropriate intervention.

What you can do to help if your child seems to be troubled is offer opportunities to talk about what is going on in their life.  Just having someone they love listen to them and acknowledge their feelings can be sufficient to give a generally resilient child the means to deal with what is troubling them.  Use resources in the Links section of this site if supportive listening is not enough.

Information that can help in talking with a child as s/he gets older?

  • The Telling and Talking booklets were written to help parents start and continue talking with children about their origins at any age.  You can buy or download them from this site or borrow a copy from the library if you are a member.