The idea of introducing your kids to surrogacy can seem like an overwhelming thought. It seems only logical that telling your children that there will be a new baby, one that won’t be coming home to them, would be emotionally challenging for children. This fear can be crippling to surrogates since the love and protection of their own children is often a motivating factor for choosing surrogacy in the first place. The good news is that, by and large, these fears are larger in your head than they will ever be in practice.
Research has shown us that children are resilient. They often mirror our own emotions, so approaching your new choice as one of excitement is crucial. The key to a successful reveal to your children is rooted in age-appropriate information and open, honest communication. So, what do we mean by that?
Tell Them Early
Psychologists tell us that when children feel like they are a part of the decision making process, or at least as though their thoughts and feelings are taken into consideration, they manage well with “big” news. Surrogacy is certainly big news! We encourage you to tell your children about surrogacy early, especially if they’re old enough to understand pregnancy. You don’t want them to feel as though you kept a secret from them. When you tell them about your choice early and frame it as a family choice, you give validity to their questions and concerns.
Encourage Their Questions
Allow your children to ask questions and respond with respect and patience. The answer should never be, “Because we decided that we were doing this.” Focus on the good that comes from this. The good that comes to your family, the intended parent’s family, and the world as a whole. Be kind, patient, and empathetic to their concerns. Know that as the belly grows, so too will the questions. Let your children know that you’ll respond to new questions as they arise and that no questions are off limits.
Build a Relationship
If your intended parents and your spouse are comfortable with the idea, consider an introduction. When your children can put faces to the names of the parents, they become real. Consider framing a photo of the parents and keeping it in plain view during your pregnancy. This gives them a firm foundation in the reality that the baby growing inside your belly has a home as well as parents that already love the child and are eagerly awaiting his or her arrival.
Be Age Appropriate
Don’t expect to share this news with your 15-year-old and your 5-year-old at the same time. Their reactions will be quite different, and so will their questions. You’ll want to share information about the process that is appropriate for the age, and use language that suits your child’s maturity level as well. Younger children don’t need to know about the intricacies of IVF in the same way that a teenager, who understands how babies are made, may need to have explained to them. Additionally, expect older children and teens to meet you with more suspicion and disapproval at first. Give them age-appropriate space, but don’t minimize their reaction to your news.
Make it a Family Affair
Finally, consider making surrogacy a family affair. Family Inceptions Events and Communication Manager Mandy Storer (also a two-time surrogate!) tells us that her family adopted the motto, “We are not a family with a surrogate in it. We are a surrogate family.” Everyone in your family will play a role in this life-affirming journey. Allow your children to be a part of the experience, and encourage them to be excited about how they can help. You may find that they identify with this journey and begin to positively identify themselves as part of this community as well.
If you have additional questions or concerns about telling your children about surrogacy, or about any bumps in the road surrounding your children’s reaction to the news, please reach out to us. We’ve been through this reveal ourselves and understand the unique reactions that children can sometimes have. We’re here to help every member of your family feel empowered about this incredible journey that you’re all on together.