In Stockholm both Ken Daniels and I were speaking about sharing information with teenagers and young adults. My brief was with the first group and Kens with the second, focusing on people who had only learned of their donor conceived origins as adults. I started by talking about the groups we run for 8 to 12 year olds at our national meetings where children can explore their feelings about how their families were made in a fun, games-led way. From 13 years on they can join our Donor Conceived Young Person’s Group, led by a DC adult who is also a psychologist but around this sort of age the challenges of puberty tend to be uppermost and many young people push donor conception issues into the background. Our experience is that many boys, in particular, don’t want to be different from their mates at this time, although they emerge from this stage later in adolescence. This is all direct work with older children and teenagers, but the real key to getting it right for young people is having parents who are confident and comfortable with the decisions that they have made and are willing to own their authority as parents. The answer to the (probably shouted) barbed assault dreaded by all DC parents of, “You’re not my real dad/mum anyway so I can do what I like” is (in a quietly authoritative tone) “I’m the only dad/mum you’re ever likely to have so you will… be coming in at 10.30/not wearing that dress to go out, etc.”. Parents who feel well supported and who understand that DC teenagers are just like any other in challenging parental authority from time to time, will find that their ability to withstand the dreaded onslaught without crumbling results in more secure relationships over time…as long as they are able to tune in and listen to the feelings of their child as well. DC Network provides the supportive community to enable parents to do this.
Ken Daniels presentation also focused on the family rather than simply the young adults themselves. Many years ago it was Ken’s insistence that donor conception was a family affair rather than how a particular child was conceived that shifted the way DCN approached supporting couples and individuals. He remains the king of this way of thinking and in his talk showed how parental preparation and support for ‘telling’, even when children have become adults, forges the way for a better long-term outcome for the whole family.
And this is why DCN’s national meeting in Leeds at the end of September has the title “Feeling comfortable, building confidence’. Parents who can feel this way about building or adding to their family using donor conception are likely to have children who will feel the same, thus giving them resilience to manage whatever their lives bring, including possibly times when their feelings about being donor conceived may not be as positive as we parents hope they will be. A good relationship with solid foundations in trust and honesty are likely to see you through.