Many thanks to the Elliot Institute for the following information.
Abortion is often a deeply guarded secret, surrounded by silence and shame. Even parents who may feel comfortable sharing their story with other adults may hesitate when it comes to telling their children. They may worry about fracturing their relationship with their children; especially young children who tend to see Mom and Dad in nurturing and protecting roles. Many parents fear that even their adult children will react to news of a past abortion with condemnation and disgust.
The parents' questions and concerns are many: "What if my children hate me? What if they don't forgive me? Will my children still believe I love them and would never hurt them? When is the right time to tell them, and how much do I share with them? Should I even be telling them about this part of my life at all?"
Parents who have told their children cite a number of reasons for choosing to talk about a past abortion. These include:
- If the abortion is publicly known because the mother and/or father have shared their testimony in public settings, or feel called to begin speaking out about their experience; or if there is another reason to believe that the child may find out about the abortion from another source.
- If the parents suspect that their children are aware or have guessed that an abortion took place in the family (for example, if the children were born before the abortion and may have guessed that the mother was pregnant.)
- If the abortion has resulted in serious consequences for the parents such as severe depression, substance abuse, divorce, or violence in the home that have impacted the children and the parents' relationship with them, and the parents feel that telling the children will be a step toward healing the wounds within the family.
Key Points to Remember:
- 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.
- Spend a great deal of time discerning whether to talk with your children about a past abortion. Seek the advice of a trusted counselor or maybe clergy.
- Think about your motives for telling your children. 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.
- 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 tell, 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.
- 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.
- Have outside support in place—a trusted counselor or pastor, 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.
- 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.
- 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 such news or ask questions at inappropriate moments.
- 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 for the family, visiting or placing a marker at a memorial for unborn children, planting a tree, etc.