By: Jan Elman Stout, Psy.D.

Part 1 of 2

Deciding whether or not to share your children’s donor origins with them is a challenge to all parents who have taken alternative paths to family building.

Here are some questions to help guide your decision:

  • Do you believe children have the right to know their genetic history?
  • Does your right to privacy supersede their right to know?
  • Are you comfortable with the medical risks in leaving them to assume that your medical health and genetic history are their medical legacies?
  • Are you prepared to deal with the emotional fallout if you need to make an emergency disclosure because a medical problem arises?
  • Are you prepared to handle the emotional fallout of an accidental disclosure (e.g., the child overhears a private conversation between you and someone who knows about their origins or snoops around and finds out)?
  • Since knowing one’s genetic origins contributes to identity, are you comfortable letting your child formulate a sense of self based on false or missing information?
  • When your children ask questions about themselves, are you prepared to fib or lie in order to protect the secret?
  • If you share your children’s origins with them, will you provide them with information about your donor when asked?
  • How will you handle their questions if there isn’t appropriate information available?
  • Do you worry that they will become frustrated if their questions can’t be answered?
  • Do you worry that your children will feel less bonded to you or reject you if they know their genetic origins?
  • Do you worry that they will use the information against you when they are angry with you?
  • Do you worry that they will feel different and alienated from their peers if they know?
  • Do you think you will feel embarrassed if they share their origins publicly (e.g., on the playground or at school)?

It’s important to understand your philosophical perspectives and acknowledge your emotional vulnerabilities in making a decision about whether or not to disclose your children’s origins to them. Answering these questions can help you understand yourself better as you grapple with this important decision.

Part 2 will address the when, how and where in sharing your children’s origins with them.

Jan Elman Stout, Psy.D . is a clinical psychologist in private practice who works with ARR clientele and numerous prospective surrogates, egg donors and parents to assess their emotional readiness for alternative paths to family building.