Then, if you have decided to talk to your child and disclose a past abortion (or if your child already knows about this and needs to talk about it), here are some tips to help you through this process:
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.For more information on healing after abortion, or to find a counselor or support group, see our healing page and other articles.
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. Ask yourself:
- How will this benefit my children?
- How will this affect their development now and in the future?
- How will this contribute to or interfere with their own emotional maturation and development?
- How will this contribute to or interfere with their relationship with me and my role as a parent?
- (If you have teens or younger children) What is the benefit to telling them now rather than waiting until they are a young adult or adult and can more easily integrate the information into their adult minds and understand the issue and the parents’ experience?
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 adults may be able to handle details that would not be appropriate to share with younger 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.
Visit the following sites for more resources, information and support for those who have lost siblings to abortion:
Lumina (offers retreats for those who have lost siblings). See the drop down menu under “Siblings” for articles, personal stories, retreat information and more.
Surviving Sibling Blog (run by a woman who lost a sibling to abortion)
Abortion Recovery International (counseling resources for siblings and other family members)
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) Make sure younger children know this is a private issue, especially with 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.