The best time to tell a child they have FASD will be different for each child. A good time could be when your child starts asking questions about why things are different for them or when they notice they are different than other children. Begin as soon as you see your child questioning their challenges, so they do not develop a negative self-image. Talk to your child as long as they are interested and then talk about other subjects.

Things to keep in mind when discussing FASD with your child:

  • Keep the conversation light and simple. Remember your child’s developmental age can be half their chronological age
  • Use language that is easy for your child to understand
  • Explain that FASD is caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol
  • If you are not the biological parent: Reinforce that your child’s biological mother did not know she was pregnant, was unaware of the risks or was not well at the time. Avoid shame and blame so your child does not think their biological mother intentionally harmed them
  • If you are the biological parent: Remember that you didn’t intend to harm your child. Depending on your situation, explain “I did not know I was pregnant” or “I didn’t know about the risks of alcohol during pregnancy” or “I was not well at the time”. Tell your child you love them and will never intentionally hurt them
  • Explain that their brain works a bit differently. Highlight that your child has many strengths too and that FASD is just one part of them. Use storybooks, pictures, and other visuals to help you explain FASD
  • You may need to repeat the discussion many time and give more information as your child gets older
  • Explain FASD to your child’s siblings and possibly their friends. Explaining FASD to other children can help them accept your child and understand why they sometimes act differently
  • Reinforce that FASD is not their fault
  • Discuss how having other people who can guide them and care about them can help people living with FASD have a better life and make better decisions. This may help them listen to caregivers as they get older (FASD Waterloo Region, 2013a)