What do parents do?

Just returned from a wonderful five days walking in Northumberland, just south of the Scottish border.  There are big skies up there, wonderful broad sandy beaches and huge looming castles.  We were treading in the footsteps of the saints…and for those who know me, don’t worry,  this is not a sign of a sudden conversion, but because in this part of the world you cannot get away from the associations with early Christianity and of course bloody and brutal battles for dominance over land and faith with the Scots.  Religion and death.  Has anything changed?

Whilst I was away I was talking with the friends we travelled with about being a parent (we all have adult children and a grandchild each) and how we never stop worrying about our children, no matter how old they are or how irrelevant our concerns are to their well-being or happiness once they get past a certain stage.  It made me think again about some of the work I did as a partner in a consultancy some years ago when we worked with people whose work was directly or indirectly with parents…teachers, youth workers, social workers, youth justice teams, women’s refuge workers etc.  In each case what parents actually do was usually un-named and underestimated so we drew up a list or charter that seemed to help workers to appreciate the roles and responsibilities of parents.  A few years back I amended this for the context of donor conception.  Some people on our workshops seem to find it helpful so I thought I’d re-print it here.  See what you think.

What Parents Do

Parents are…

  • Providers – of appropriate physical and emotional environments in which their children can develop and grow into adults;
  • Protectors – shielding their children from physical and emotional danger but, as the same time, allowing them to experience in an age appropriate way the consequences of their choices and actions;
  • Guides and Teachers – setting expectations and boundaries for behaviour, providing guidelines and information which structure and inform children’s behaviour and giving them a basis for developing their own ideas and self-discipline as they grow older;
  • Problem Solvers and Mediators – modelling ways of handling conflict, challenge and change and the prioritisation of needs through listening, negotiation and compromise;
  • Managers – modelling the organisational skills necessary to meet the time demands of school, work and family life and carrying out the day-to-day organisation of the many facets of life with children;
  • Transmitters of culture and values – through everyday words and actions, as well as direct teaching, communicating the values, traditions, cultural heritage and beliefs that are passed on to children.
  • In the context of the added dimension of donor conception, these headings might additionally mean –

  • Providers of a warm and nurturing environment where parents are comfortable with the decisions they have made and are committed to conveying the donor conception story to children as an integral part of this.
    • Protectors – By starting the donor conception story early, shielding a child/young person from the shock and sense of betrayal typical of late disclosure
    • Guides and Teachers – providing origins information in a way that is appropriate to the child’s stage of development whilst understanding that as children grow older they will develop their own thoughts and feelings about their beginnings.
    • Problem Solvers and Mediators – modelling a matter of fact approach whilst remaining available to respond to questions, talk about difficult feelings and mediate potential differences in attitude to DC matters between siblings or in the wider family
    • Managers – management of age appropriate DC information on a day to day, year by year basis
    • Transmitters of culture and values – through everyday words and actions, as well as direct teaching, conveying pride about the way this family has been created.


About oliviasview

Co-founder and now Practice Consultant at Donor Conception Network. Mother to two donor conceived adults and a son conceived without help in my first marriage.
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