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How can you talk to children about abortion?  Here are some tips: NPR


Experts say there may not be a perfect time to have the conversation, but doing it the right way can help.

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How can you talk to children about abortion?  Here are some tips: NPR

Experts say there may not be a perfect time to have the conversation, but doing it the right way can help.

Matt Marton/AP

For many parents, media coverage of the overturning of the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade means dealing with some questions from their children. And that raised some questions of their own.

NPR’s audience sent in their questions, asking for guidance. We enlisted Reena B. Patel, parenting expert and licensed school psychologist in San Diego, California, and Dr. Elise Berlan, pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist in Columbus, Ohio, to help us start these conversations. .

Here are your questions and what the experts advise.

“The 9-year-old is just a little confused as to why people would want an abortion. And she doesn’t understand what happens once they get it. Where does the baby go? Who takes it It’s a lot of questions that I haven’t been able to answer.”

— Jacqueline Cuevas, Detroit, Michigan

BERLAN: I could think of talking about how some parents need to terminate the pregnancy and how it might be better, healthier, and safer for the parent to terminate the pregnancy. So I tend to use some sort of pregnancy terminology and not talk too much about the baby, even though that’s where the kids go.

I think it’s good for parents, after sharing what an abortion is – as long as they’re comfortable doing it – to let young people know that people have a variety of viewpoints on abortion. And also, I think it’s good that parents share their points of view because young people really look to parents to anchor themselves in values.

“I want it to be age appropriate. I don’t want to go into too much detail about what it actually is, but just to know that she can choose whether she wants to have a baby or not.”

—Meg Workman, Indiana

PATEL: It’s important to find out what your child already knows. But use this benchmark to ask your child one simple thing, even: “Do you know where babies come from?” But do it in a way that they really drive that conversation, and you’re almost scaffolding. You’re sort of filling in the pieces.

Parents know your child best. It shouldn’t be something you feel obligated to do. But understand that when your child is of school age, history is already being taught. They learn about the news, current events, so it’s so important to have these natural conversations.

“How do you invite your kids to wrestle with really complicated, painful, not black-and-white questions in a curious, compassionate way without just encouraging them to come to terms with what you think about the problem?”

—Meg Embry, Colorado

How can you talk to children about abortion?  Here are some tips: NPR

Meg Embry

Meg Embry


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Meg Embry

How can you talk to children about abortion?  Here are some tips: NPR

PATEL: What I would really recommend is to first really understand where you are in this whole process. What are your thoughts? What are your feelings ? So much has gone up in terms of high level emotion with the results and the reversal of Roe vs. Wade.

So check in with yourself first, then allow that openness, and check in, empathize, validate what your child is saying.

I think it’s important for parents to use the words “I feel, I see, I hear”. Because what does it do? It shares and shows that a respectful dialogue is happening and that you are letting your child know that you really mean what they are saying, even if you have an opposing point of view or opinion.

“We live in a very conservative area. All of my family that we live near are religious, and they definitely have opposite views to mine on the issue of abortion. And I want her to learn to be sensitive when ‘she talks about this stuff if it ever even happens.”

—James Memmott, Kaysville, Utah

PATEL: It’s a great life lesson to teach kids that it’s okay to have any opinion you have. There is no right or wrong. It is therefore important to allow them to create their own opinions, but respect others. And then where and when to have these conversations with individuals.

“One concern is to ensure that [my 14-year-old-son] understands how these measures affect people with a womb, him as a man, and his family planning choices and responsibility.”

—ShaMecha Simms, Topeka, Kansas

How can you talk to children about abortion?  Here are some tips: NPR

ShaMecha Simms and her teenage son.

Ernest Drake II


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Ernest Drake II

How can you talk to children about abortion?  Here are some tips: NPR

ShaMecha Simms and her teenage son.

Ernest Drake II

BERLAN: You know, we talked—in our family—about abortion with our sons. And there is no perfect moment or perfect conversation. It’s a journey. And I think if parents wait for the perfect moment or when they have all the information, the risk is that they don’t have the conversation. And someone else will. So I think as parents we kind of want to share our values ​​and share the information we have and our point of view with our children. So that they are prepared to have conversations and process this information in the safety of their families first.

PATEL: It can be very overwhelming. We need to give children, especially young children, just enough time to process and come back with questions. And we have families that have multiple children at different ages, so I think it’s also really important to think about what our little ones are hearing while the older ones are talking. And do you, as parents, want to have one-on-one dialogue just separated from older children so they can hear? Share things that are at their age level.

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Audio for this episode was produced by Karen Zamora and Erika Ryan, with technical support from Natasha Branch. We would love to hear from you! Email us at or send a voice note to LifeKit@npr.org.

This was adapted for the web by Lauren Hodges.

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