How to talk about infertility with your older children
When you are trying to get pregnant, it can be all you think about.
You would be forgiven for forgetting to focus on other things or notice how it is affecting people around you.
If having a baby is incredibly important to you and something you dream of, it is only natural to not be able to see anything else.
If you have older children from the current or any previous relationship, you might need to consider what is going through their heads right now.
Younger children may not understand why you are preoccupied or if you are sad or distressed.
They may also ask for a sibling, which can add to your own stress.
Older children may resent the attention that trying for a new baby detracts from them, or might be upset about not having much-wanted siblings.
Your children could be having all sorts of reactions to your current situation, but you can be sure of one thing; if something affects you emotionally, they will be affected too.
Children are ridiculously perceptive and the worst thing young can do is underestimate them or try and keep things secret.
As members of the family unit and people who can sense something is going on, you probably owe it to them to talk about this.
Discuss with them what you are trying to do, how it is affecting you, and then talk about how it might be affecting them.
At what age do they need to know the details?
If your children are younger than school-age then they don’t need all the gory details.
They don’t know how babies are made, and you don’t need to give them specifics on why your system isn’t working or any alternative methods you are trying.
From school age up, children will understand more.
Once your child is eight or above he/she can comprehend how babies are made and will be more receptive to information, especially scientific facts.
Again your purpose is to tell them what you are doing, what you are feeling, and then find out how they are feeling about this too.
But be ready for a birds and bees conversation that might happen too!
How can you help children to understand infertility?
Talk to younger children about your infertility in terms they can understand.
Discuss that you are trying to have another baby, but that it may not happen.
Be open about the fact that you are angry or sad sometimes because of this.
Give them simple ways to help you such as giving extra big hugs or singing and dancing or reading a special book together, but try not to lean on them too much or add to their own stress.
Keep older children in the loop about upcoming appointments or difficult dates for you.
Ask them for their help and support around the house.
Be careful asking your child to keep your infertility a secret from someone else, like their grandmother.
It’s probably best to not tell say anything about keeping it secret, and just deal with this eventuality when it happens.
It is likely that it won’t!
And if they do tell someone else accidentally, then this can be an opportunity for you to open up to someone and seek their support.
Explain to your child that you are not sick or in any danger.
If they see injections and an increase in doctors’ appointments they might worry that something is wrong with you.
Explain that you are not sick, but this is medicine to help you have a baby.
Don’t get their hopes up about a coming sibling or make promises that you may not be able to keep.
Tell them it might take a long time, and it may never happen, but all you can do is try.
Talk to your child about third-party donors in the process if you feel comfortable.
There are some great resources to help you decide if and when to do this, such as the great children’s book What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg.
Remind them that it doesn’t change your love for them
No matter how old they are, your children will want to know that your love for them is not affected by what you are doing.
If an older child has never had to share you, this idea might be difficult for them.
They may not be very good at expressing this.
If you find that you are focussing less on them try to reign this in wherever possible.
Offer to spend special time with them
Schedule specific time to have a regular date with your child.
Take them out for ice cream or pancakes, or whatever their favourite food is.
Go for a walk with them; it is surprising what information comes out just while you are walking with a child.
Try for non screen time when you are doing this; it is better if you are connecting on some level.
Talk about the potential baby if they want to, but offer them the opportunity to not talk about this as well.
They may just want you all to themselves without any talk of future siblings, especially if they feel this is all you can think about.
Ways to help them deal with their own pain and loss
Children of every age have trouble making sense of their own feelings.
Whether your child is four, ten or fourteen, he may not be able to articulate what is going on emotionally.
It can come out as tantrums, whining, fighting with other kids or with you, or silence.
This will help them to understand themselves better and open up a dialogue with you about what they are going through.
You can get charts which list different emotions with pictures that are helpful, affirmation cards to start a discussion or try mindfulness for kids which teaches them to connect their physical feelings with their thoughts.
You might need to get the help of a third party if needed, such as a family member they will open up to, a teacher, or a counsellor for your child.
Check in with them regularly
Make checking in with them a regular occurrence.
Don’t just have a serious talk once and then never mention the topic again; keep alert to if your own emotional state may be affecting them, or if they seem affected by something but can’t express what.
If it helps set a reminder on your phone to check in once every day because as every parent knows, life has a way of getting in the way.
For a list of wonderful books for you and your children to help with this, check out this link.