Providing a Catholic framework on the truth and meaning of sexuality, love, and family

Tough Questions to Address with Children – What about IVF?

(Family Honor Editor’s Note: This is the seventh installment in a series on how parents might consider addressing various challenging scenarios with their kids.  In addressing situations like the one presented below, the important thing is to respond in an honest, age-appropriate way that incorporates equal doses of Truth and compassion.  We as parents must be perceived as askable, credible, warm, and caring for our children to want to seek us out for answers to such questions.  For a much more comprehensive way of approaching these types of issues, please consider attending a full “Leading & Loving” program in your area.  See our program schedule here, or contact us about how to bring a program to your area.)

Parents!  How would you address IVF with your 8-year-old child?

You have become friends with a family who has 2 children that are your children’s ages and go to school together.  You hear them talking one day when they are at your house playing.  8-year-old Claire tells your 8-year-old daughter Katie that her parents say that she is very special because of the way she was born.  Claire tells Katie that her parents wanted to have a daughter so they did something called IVF where they could start her outside and make sure she was a girl before she went inside her mom to grow until she was born. 

(Note: Parents, you may indeed need to deal with this eventually whether it be for a specific situation like this or in general when children begin to hear news reports or are introduced to IVF in biology class and other venues.) 

First, try to see if Katie was even paying attention.  (Sometimes kids tend to gloss over things and not really hear them.  Perhaps that’s how God protects them.)  Try asking, “What did you and Claire talk about today?”  Katie might not have been paying attention, or might have passed off Claire’s comments as confused or silly, knowing that God puts babies in a mother’s womb.  If Katie does not seem phased, it might be a good idea to just let it go hoping that some more time passes before you must address such a delicate issue.

Another question you might try, “I thought I heard Claire tell you something today about how she was born that sounded kind of confusing.  Did you understand what she was talking about?”  This should give you a clear idea about whether or not you need to talk about IVF.  If Katie did hear and take in what Claire said, it might be better to address it with her, even though it’s delicate, so that she is not simply accepting incorrect information as true.  If you determine you need to talk about it, try something like this:

“Well dear, this is kind of complicated, and you won’t understand it all, but I’ll explain it the best I can.  You know that God makes teeny, tiny people, and puts them in a mommy’s womb.  And to do that, God uses a tiny little part of a mommy and a tiny little part of a daddy.  When these two parts come together, God has made a new person, and a baby is growing in the mommy’s womb.”  (Be sure to savor this moment if this is your first discussion with so many details.  This is a beautiful thing to share, and the beauty should not be missed because of the yucky stuff you are being forced to go into shortly.  Take the time to marvel at God’s creation.)  “Isn’t that amazing!”

“Well, something very sad has happened.  Scientists and doctors have figured out how to take the little part from the mommy and the little part from the daddy, and put them together in a little dish in a hospital.  Then a doctor takes the teeny tiny little person and puts it inside the mommy.  This is a very sad thing because this is not the way God intended for things to be.  Scientists and doctors should not be doing this.  But it’s very important to remember that God made Claire.  Even though she came into the world differently than most people, God still made her and He loves her.  And we also need to remember that even though Claire’s mommy and daddy did something that was not part of God’s plan, they probably don’t know that it is wrong.  Lots of people in the world are very confused, or don’t know God’s laws.  We should remember to pray for Claire’s parents, and the doctors who do these things.  I know this might sound confusing and that’s okay.  Some things are hard to understand until you are older.  But, if you have any questions, you should always ask mommy and daddy about them.  Also, it would be best for you to not bring this up to Claire or her parents.”

For more information on what the Church teaches about In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), click on this link: and watch the video included there.  As mentioned above, we’d also strongly encourage you to consider attending a Family Honor “Leading & Loving” program to discover an objective, straight-forward way to address this and other challenging topics on sexual morality.

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