When to tell a child about their reproductive beginnings

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When to tell a child about their reproductive beginnings

If the plan is to tell your child about his reproductive beginnings, it's best to do it early. That way you are really normalizing their experience. What I encourage people to do is to integrate books into their library quite young, about three years old. Books about adoption, books about single parents, books about egg donation, surrogacy, divorce, ducks that live with chickens, elephants that live with giraffes. So they understand that there's not just one kind of family. By the time they are seven or eight years old, where they really do understand egg, sperm, uterus; they'll say, "Oh mom, that's just like the book we had, 'Mommy Got an Egg' or 'Daddy Wanted a Baby.'" What we don't want to do is shock the child. We don't want to make it a big deal. We just want it to be how this particular family came to be. It is not a good idea to lay on a child when they are an adolescent. Then you get into issues of trust and betrayal. We want to avoid that. The goal is, if I was to meet your child when they were 18 or 20, 30, 40; and I said, "When did your parents first tell you that you were a product of egg donation, sperm donation," or whatever. I want that child to look at me, look a little puzzled, and say, "I don't remember. I've always known." That's the goal.
PREGNANCY, Fertility

View Elaine Gordon, PhD's video on When to tell a child about their reproductive beginnings...


Expert Bio

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Elaine Gordon, PhD

Fertility Specialist

Elaine Gordon is a Clinical Psychologist with a specialty in infertility, child development, reproductive medicine, and third party family building.  Besides her role as a therapist and group facilitator working with patients struggling with infertility related issues, she lectures on various topics surrounding the psychological and ethical issues of contemporary family building. Dr. Gordon is the author of Mommy, Did I grow in your Tummy? Where Many Babies Come From a children’s book dedicated to explaining a child’s unique reproductive beginnings whether it be IVF, egg donation, sperm donation, surrogacy or adoption.

Her professional associations include The American Psychological Association, The American Society for Reproductive Medicine and The American Fertility Association. She has served, as the educational chair for the Psychological Special Interest Group of the ASRM, is a member of the educational committee of ASRM.  She has served on various committees regarding many aspects of reproductive medicine. Dr. Gordon’s clinical work involves individual therapy, group process for couples and individuals, staff training for programs involved in reproductive medicine and third party screening and evaluations for all participants.

Dr. Gordon is well versed in both the medical and psychological aspects of reproductive medicine utilizing third parties. Her involvement in egg donation and surrogacy programs has stimulated an interest in the issues surrounding secrecy and disclosure in third party parenting. Related to the disclosure/nondisclosure issue is the need to assess the advantages and disadvantages of open versus closed donation policies. She lectures on disclosure policies and how you talk to children about non-traditional family building with the focus being the best interest of the child. 

Throughout her career as a psychologist she has become increasingly concerned about the ethical and moral dilemmas inherent in growing field of reproductive medicine. She has co-authored a chapter entitled "Legal and Ethical Aspects of Infertility Counseling" in the textbook Infertility Counseling: A Comprehensive Handbook for Clinicians. Dr. Gordon is currently involved in several research projects investigating the psychological implication of using egg and or sperm donation as a means of building families. She continues to work with other professionals in establishing a ‘standard of care” policy for the infertility patient and third party participants.

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