Abortion: getting ahead of school to talk to children about it

Abortion: get ahead school to talk to the children about it

Opening up a dialogue on abortion allows, in the long term, to build a relationship of trust with your child.

Abortion, you say? The word is on everyone's lips and it surely sometimes falls into the ears of our children. So, should we explain to them? And in what terms? Here are a few tips.

From what age?  

The subject is so talked about that as an adult, you could almost forget that, for the youngest, “abortion” is often a word in the shape of a question mark. But what is the appropriate age to start explaining to them what it is?

According to sexologist Véronique Jodoin, it’s not so much a question of age as a question of maturity.  

“When it comes to sexuality, we don't want to go faster than where the child is,” she explains. If the child asks questions, it is important to answer them and if he does not broach the subject, we can test the waters with open questions by asking for example if he has heard of it, if he wants to talk about it and if he has any questions.” 

“The goal is not to arrive saying 'today I'm going to give you a lesson on abortion”, adds psychologist Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier. Sexuality education is done little by little, at the child's pace, she recalls. So no need to explain everything, we will then have years to come back to the subject, answer other questions and add more complex information.  

Finding the right words  

While there is not really an age to broach the subject, we still ensure that our language is age-appropriate of the child. For example, with an eight-year-old child, one does not launch into detailed explanations of the anatomical development of the fetus or the cancellation of Roe v. Wade. That wouldn't be very enlightening, let's say…  

Obviously, we do not embark on a colorful description of the process either and we avoid saying that abortion amounts to “killing a baby”. Moreover, rather than talking about a baby, we prefer to use the terms “embryo” or “fetus”. “We only talk about babies after birth,” says Paskale Hamel, director of SOS Grossesse Estrie.  

Rather than resorting to metaphors that could confuse the child, we do not hesitate to name things clearly, adds Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier. “The best thing is to simply explain that sometimes when a person is pregnant, they don't want that pregnancy to continue. She will therefore go to see a doctor who will help her terminate her pregnancy safely; this is called abortion,” she summarizes.  

And for pre-teens who have more questions, we can provide more information, explaining in particular that the abortion can be done by drugs or by a medical operation which lasts 10 to 15 minutes.  

A matter of choice 

“It may be that this subject comes to seek them out in their values, notes Paskale Hamel. Especially among older children, pre-teens, who may have heard about it on social networks or from their friends.” 

All the more reason to insist on the importance of the notion of choice! Everyone has the right to have an opinion, but in the end, it is up to the pregnant person to decide whether or not they want to continue the pregnancy.  

“What we can explain is that each person has the right to decide what they do with their body. We can give very simple examples: if a person is not ready or does not want to have a child, she has the right to have an abortion and we are not there to judge her reasons”, underlines the psychologist Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier.  

Anticipate questions 

Before we approach the subject, the psychologist recommends to prepare a little. It is because with a subject like this, difficult questions can arise.  

“The child could, for example, ask if an abortion has already been resorted to or if we considered aborting him, she explains. It is better to have thought about it to answer without transmitting an emotional charge which should not rest on the child. 

However, she does not advise hiding the truth. We could for example answer: “Yes, before you, I got pregnant and I made the choice to have an abortion. I wasn't ready for such and such a reason”, or “When I got pregnant with you, I had some questions, but finally the desire was really there and we chose to have you.” 

Breaking the taboo 

But explaining all this to children who are not even old enough to be concerned with the subject, one might wonder if it is really that important… Well, yes, according to our experts! It would even be a good way to overcome the taboo surrounding this subject. 

“Answering questions about abortion by being open and without judgment is also sending the message to our child. that it is not a shameful subject and that we have the right to talk about it. It makes teens better informed and therefore more responsible,” says sexologist Véronique Jodoin. 

And it's also a way to build a good relationship of trust!  

Where to find out?  

Because we don't have all the science, we gives some resources where to find reliable information on abortion:  

  • The Quebec Federation for Planned Births – website
  • SOS Pregnancy Quebec: 418 682-6222 – website
  • Pregnancy-Secours: 514 271-0554 – website
  • SOS Pregnancy Estrie: 819 822-1181 – website
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