I have two children – both in their thirties. My son is married and my daughter is in a long-term relationship. They have said they want children someday but I’m worried that if they wait too long, they won’t be able to. How do I talk to them about the ‘kids issue’ without sounding like a wanna-be grandparent (which I am)?

This month’s Ask an Expert question has been answered by our site creator, Dr. Judith Daniluk, a leading researcher and counsellor in the field of women’s sexuality and reproductive health. Learn more about Dr. Daniluk here

The situation you find yourself in is one many parents of adult children are facing these days, as the trend to delay childbearing continues, with the average age at first birth in Canada, the UK and many other developed countries now being pushed into the early thirties for women. This trend is happening for a lot of different reasons – the most common being longer periods of post-secondary education, recent instabilities in the job market, and the desire to be more financially secure before taking on the considerable financial expenses and personal and career costs of having and raising children. Another common reason people delay having children is finding the right partner – and wanting to be settled in their relationships before taking the step of having children. Some women wait until they are established in their careers because they’ve watched their own mothers’ sacrifices and struggles to re-enter the workforce after raising children.

While we might be inclined to say that the timing of having kids is a personal choice, the situation is clearly more complex than that. That’s a really important point to remember when you think about your own kids and their parenthood decision-making. There are a lot of reasons why they might be waiting to start their families. Most women are only too aware of the ticking of their biological clocks – so reminding them that they are running out of time is not likely to make them suddenly throw their birth control pills down the toilet. Quite the contrary, the decision about whether or not to have kids is a private matter. Your questions or reminders that they are running out of time will likely be seen as unwelcomed interference – and result in your daughter or son making this topic off limits to you entirely.

So, as a concerned parent and “wanna-be” grandparent, what can you do? First and foremost, you need to put your own needs and desires aside and accept the fact that this is their decision. Whether or not they end up having children is a decision that will affect them for the rest of their lives – and it is their lives that are important here. That said, you need to make it explicitly clear to your adult children that you will accept and respect whatever decision they make about having children. Then you need to let them know what role you would be willing to play in their lives and the lives of your grandchildren, should they decide to have kids. For example, maybe you are willing to help with childcare, or provide financial assistance with setting up the nursery or with contributing to an educational savings plan. Perhaps you would be willing to help with the financial costs of fertility preservation if your adult children aren’t ready to have kids now but want to do what they can to preserve their fertility so they have a better chance of getting pregnant when they are ready. Or perhaps you are willing to help them pay for fertility treatments, should these be necessary. If you are concerned that they may not have the information they need, you can suggest that they visit this web site – but once you’ve made that suggestion, back off and leave the issue alone.

Much like the other stages of parenting, your most important role at this time is to be a source of love and support – whether or not your son and daughter decide to have kids, and whether or not you become a grandparent.

Read more about how to talk to your adult children about the ‘kids issue’ here.

Read more about how to help your children keep their fertility options open here.

Read more about delayed childbearing here.

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