1) Make sure you have worked through the grief process first. Parents need to be far enough along in their own healing to be able to cope with their children’s emotional reactions.
2) Seek the advice of a trusted counselor, minister, priest, support group leader or other trusted source. If you are a religious person, pray and discern God’s leading before deciding whether to talk with your children about a past abortion.
3) Think about your motives for telling your children. Go through the list of questions suggested by Kevin Burke. Parents need to make sure they are acting in the best interests of their children rather than seeking to resolve issues in their own lives.
4) Think about your children’s level of maturity and ability to handle such information. Are they experiencing personal or family conflicts that might be worsened by learning about the abortion now? Are they emotionally mature enough to handle such information, or would it be better to wait until they are older before telling them?
If you choose to share your story:
5) Be age-appropriate in discussing past abortions with your children. Teens or young adults may be able to handle details that would not be appropriate to share with young children.
6) Reassure your children that you will always love and accept them no matter what, not only through words but through your willingness to listen and spend time with them. Make sure teens and older children know they can always come to you for help if they are experiencing a similar crisis.
7) Have outside support in place — a trusted counselor or pastor, support group leader, knowledgeable family friend, etc. — who can help the children process this information and serve as an additional means of support. Children may hesitate to share some things with their parents if they perceive the parents are still hurting from the abortion experience.
Respect your children’s right to grieve, and assure them that they are free to express their feelings and take the time to work through them. Parents should try not to place a burden of “needing to forgive” on their children or insist that they move on from the situation before they are ready.
9) Answer questions honestly and openly, giving your children as much information as they seem able to handle. Parents should never force children to hear information they don’t want to hear. Children will usually stop asking questions when they have received as much information as they can cope with at the moment. Parents also need to let the children know that they can come back to discuss information later, but be prepared to monitor your children’s reactions and address issues as they arise.
10) Stress that this is a “family issue” only, and not one to discuss with others outside the family–especially with young children who may be tempted to broadcast information you share with them or ask questions at inappropriate moments.
11) When the children are ready, find a way that you as a family can acknowledge and memorialize the child lost to abortion. This might include a healing service or Mass for the family, visiting or placing a marker at a memorial for unborn children, planting a tree, etc.
Originally published in The Post-Abortion Review 12(1) Jan-March 2004. Copyright 2004 Elliot Institute.
Mommy, what’s abortion? by Pam Koerbel.
This is short picture book authored by the director of Post Abortion Ministries. It is simple and compassionate and easy for young people to understand that (1) God designed babies to grow in a mother’s womb, (2) God’s plans are always good, but sometimes “people forget that God knows best,” (3) when people think they know better, and don’t want a baby, sometimes they have the baby taken out of the womb when it is still small, (4) this death makes God sad, the mother sad, and us (including little children) sad, (5) God still loves the baby and watches over it, (6) God still loves the mommy and will forgive her when she seeks forgiveness, (7) while God will not give back the aborted baby, He will give these mommies other babies, and (8) these babies will be very loved by their mommies, especially “because now she knows how special babies are — even when the baby is all grown up.”
This book is an excellent one for any parent seeking to explain abortion to a young child. Indeed, the outline of points underscoring a pro-healing message are exactly those which should also be conveyed to teenager and adults. As you can see, children whose parents have a history of abortion who integrate this message will be better prepared to eventually, at an appropriate time, hear about their mother or father’s past and to hear this news as a confession of a much regretted mistake that does not lessen the parent’s love for their living children.