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11/18/2010

It’s Never Too Early to Tell Your Child “Who Made Them”

This week in the Huffington Post, Robert Klitzman discusses the thorny issue of when parents who conceive using assisted reproductive technologies should tell their children about their origins.

Extrapolated from adoption research, and now confirmed in children conceived through donor eggs and sperm, findings show that children fair much better the earlier they are told in their lives that they were conceived using assisted reproductive technologies. So, why do parents wait? Most often due to their own fears, most say.

Will my child love me less? Will they want to know who their donor mom or dad are? Will they ask me questions I am unprepared for? These are but a few questions that parents are likely to be concerned about when considering telling their child.

Yet, these fears are entirely parent focused and forget that it is the child’s best interests that must be put first. Children have a right to know about their genetic origins and if the data show that they fair better psychologically over the lifespan the earlier they know, then parents have an obligation to tell them “who made them” or “where they came from” whether or not the parents are prepared to do so.

Now that 1% of all births in the U.S. use some form of assisted reproductive technology we need to begin equipping parents with the language and new narratives for how to tell teens, tweens, and young children about what it means to be conceived of donor gametes, carried by a gestational surrogate and other novel reproductive technologies.

Without this language and new stories, these children are likely to be hit over the head one day, much too late, with information that will be harmful to them and to their families.
But it is the obligation of fertility clinics and physicians to begin educating parents about how to have these talks–and the sooner the better.

Summer McGee, PhD

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