Lesson 6 of 7 - Learn  how to parent effectively

Worksheet: Should we
 Conceive, Foster, or
Adopt a Child?

Choose the right time,
 for the right reasons

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

  The Web address of this worksheet is https://sfhelp.org/parent/conceive.htm

Updated 4-18-2015

      Clicking underlined links here will open a new window. Other links will open  an informational popup, so please turn off your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't support Javascript, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting lost.

       This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 6 - learn what typical kids need as they grow, and how to fill their needs effectively over two decades without neglecting yourself.

       This worksheet assumes you're familiar with...

  • the intro to this nonprofit Website and the premises underlying it    

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 thru 5

  • this overview of the [wounds + unawareness] cycle

  • Q&A on healthy courtship;

  • developmental needs of typical minor kids.

  • perspective on effective parenting, and

  •  these Q&A items about effective parenting..

      This brief YouTube video offers perspective on effective parenting,

What's the Problem?

       Courting partners who are considering life-long commitment to each other must make three profoundly-impactful personal decisions:

  • is this the right partner and family to commit to?

  • Is this the right time to commit? and...

  • Are we each committing for the right reasons?  

       The unremarked American divorce epidemic implies that over half of average mates in recent generations have not made these wise decisions. It also implies that our society passively accepts the unquantifiable costs of widespread legal and psychological divorce to society and the next generations. Other countries and cultures differ on marital qualifications and on condoning separation and divorce.

       Most young committed couples choose to conceive at least one child and assume the multi-decade responsibility of preparing the child well for independent young adulthood. Mates who have not researched the three questions above thoroly risk making unwise decisions about commitment and child conception.

       Headlines about school shootings, dropouts, teen abortions, suicides, drug usage, gang violence, runaways, widespread obesity, depression, self mutilation, and juvenile crime suggest that millions of couples conceive, foster, or adopt children before they're prepared to nurture kids effectively. Such headlines raise the question...

"Can adults who weren't nurtured well or educated properly be effective parents?"

       My consistent experience as a professional family-systems therapist since 1981 suggests the answer is "Usually no." That's why this worksheet and related Lesson-6 articles and videos exist. They aim to help thoughtful couples make wise conception decisions.

  What is a "Wise Conception Decision"?

       Try thoughtfully answering that question out loud. Then compare your idea with this: A wise child-conception decision...

  • is based on stable self-awareness, thoughtful deliberation, and honest discussions between committed mates; and it.,,,

  • strengthens (vs. depletes) the mates' wholistic health, relationship, and family system for many decades, and it...;

  • results two decades later in a wholistically-healthy, stable, independent young woman or man who...

  • is able support themselves, and to make wise long-range courtship-commitment and child-conception decisions; and...

  • clearly enhances, rather than depletes, society and our planet's ecology.

      Note that this broad definition suggests the wisdom of a conception decision can't be fully evaluated for several decades. Reflect - does this definition describe you and your birth-parents? Your grandparents? Your mate and his/her birth-parents? You and any dependent children?

      What do typical mates need in order to choose wisely?

Requisites for Wise Conception, Foster, or Adoption Decisions

       Billions of words have been printed and spoken about how, when, and why couples should decide to conceive, foster, or adopt - kids. This worksheet is not meant as a definitive answer to these complex questions. It proposes some ideas that are seldom included in answering the question wisely. See how you and your partner feel about these ideas - A = I agree; D = I disagree, and ? = "I'm not sure," or "It depends on ___ (what?)"

__  We each must honestly respect and love ourselves and each other. (A  D  ?)

__  We each must be fully aware of the [wounds + unawareness] cycle and its toxic effects  (A  D  ?);

__  We must each be steadily motivated to study, discuss, and apply this course to raise our awareness and knowledge,  (A  D  ?)

__  We mates must each understand and accept normal personality subselves. (A  D  ?)

__  Ideally, we each _ must come from a high-nurturance family whose members want to support us as _ a couple and _ as parents (A  D  ?)

__  We each must _ have checked ourselves and each other  honestly for significant psychological wounds, and _ be motivated to help each other reduce any such wounds ("recover").   (A  D  ?) 

__  KEY - We each must be usually guided by our true Self, or be clearly progressing toward that. (A  D  ?)

__  We must agree that we each are clearly ready psychologically, logistically, financially, and physically to take on the responsibilities of raising a child.  (A  D  ?)

__  We both accept that unborn children are aware of their environment and are affected by it;  (A  D  ?)

__  We each must be well-educated on safe-sex practices, to help us avoid unplanned pregnancies.  (A  D  ?)

__  We must be well along on learning _ to identify what we mates each need, and _ how to assert our needs effectively and _ problem-solve any significant conflicts

(add your own wise conception-decision requisites)



       Have you ever seen criteria like these in one place before? How do you feel about them individually and collectively? How many average parents and grandparents do you think could articulate - and live by - a list of conception-decision requisites like this? Can you?

       Now see how you feel about two sets of criteria for deciding to conceive, foster, or adopt a child - the right time, and the right reasons.

  Are We Ready to Be Parents?

       Use these items as thought-provokers and discussion-starters. Edit them as needed to fit your personality and situation. Caution - if you're ruled by well-meaning false selves, you risk distorting your answers to these items. Do you know how to tell who's running your life?

  Is This a Wise Time to Conceive, Foster, or Adopt?

       Get undistracted, meditate, and see how many of these items you can check as being true now. If you're not sure, put "?" If an item is not true, leave it blank or put "X". To avoid biasing your answers, I suggest you mates fill this worksheet out separately, and then compare and discuss your results.

__  1)  We each made three wise commitment choices to each other.

__  2)  Each of us _ accepts the reality of personality subselves,and _ we are  proactively helping each other keep our true Selves in charge in calm and stressful times.

__  3)  People who know us well would agree that our primary relationship is _ stable and _ mutually satisfying

__  4)  We're each _ clear on our own and _  our partner's life priorities, and _ they are compatible enough (vs. conflictual).

__  5)  We have discussed and agreed that we can co-create and maintain a high-nurturance family environment for ourselves and any children.  

__  6)  Each of us genuinely enjoys infants, preteens, and teens, despite the responsibilities, frustrations, heartaches, and sacrifices we'll share if we conceive, foster, or adopt. 

__  7)  We each _ are reasonably wholistically healthy, and _ have many of these _  parenting traits and _  values, according to objective observers. 

__  8)  Each of us is free of harmful obsessions and compulsions like addictions, or we're clearly progressing toward stable, self-motivated sobriety

__  9)  We _ have been financially stable and self-supporting for several years, and _ see no reason that might change in the near future.

__  10)  Neither of us _ depends on a parent or other relative for emotional stability and  support now, or _ feels overly responsible for a disabled parent or relative;

__  11)  My partner and I are well along in studying and discussing _ the [wounds + unawareness] cycle and _ these online Lessons.

__  12)  We each want to break this cycle if our ancestors were  significantly affected by it.

__  13)  We're helping each other learn how to _ identify, _ assert, and _ fill our primary needs - i.e. we're learning how to problem-solve effectively. (Lesson 2) 

__  14)  We're _ consciously evolving and using a healthy family grieving policy, and we're _ proactively growing a pro-grief family (Lesson 3)

__  15)  We mates have each researched and discussed what significant lifestyle changes, gains, and losses to expect if we conceive, foster, or adopt and raise a child.

__  16)  We each want to research our family trees to see if we risk passing on any serious congenital diseases or conditions.

__  17)  We each are willing to ask knowledgeable others for parenting help, advice, and encouragement if and when we feel confused or anxious about childcare.

__  18)  If appropriate, we have read and discussed these suggestions for foster-parenting or adopting a child.

__  19) (Add your own criteria)

__  20) 

      Pause, breathe, and notice what you're thinking and feeling. What stands out for you about what you just read? Which of these criteria seem most important? The most difficult? Are you motivated to patiently learn and discuss the things that are new or specially relevant to you both?

      Even if you both have enough of the criteria above, you might choose to create, foster, or adopt a child for some unwise reasons. This is least likely if you mates are each solidly guided by your true Self.

  Do We Have the Right Reasons for Wanting a Child?

       Check each of these reasons that apply to you and/or your partner, and then discuss your answers together.

__  1)  One or both of us needs to prove something to someone

__  2)  We need to give an existing child a sibling

__  3)  We need to obey God's command to multiply

__  4)  We need to beat the conception clock

__  5)  We need to share the life experience of creating and/or raising a child

__  6)  We need to feel socially "normal"

__  7)  We need to give your and/or my parents a(nother) grandchild

__  8)  We need to carry on the family name and genes

__  9)  We need to do what's expected of us (by whom?)

__ 10)  One or both of us needs to carry on a family tradition

__  11)  We need to strengthen our relationship by having and/or raising a child

__  12)  One or both of us needs a life purpose (reason for being)

__  13)  We need to create an heir to someone's estate, and/or a tax deduction

__  14)  We want to give a neglected child a good home

__  15)  One or both of us is strongly against abortion and/or adopting out

__  16)  (Your reasons...)

__  17)

       Pause, breathe and notice your thoughts and feelings. Option - journal about filling out this work-sheet while your reactions are fresh.

      There are many points of view about the "right" reasons to conceive, foster, or adopt a child. The reasons with italic numbers above are unwise in my opinion (are apt to cause significant future personal and couple stress). They are often signs of inherited psychological wounds + unawareness.


     This worksheet exists because of widespread personal and social problems caused by unqualified child conceptions and ineffective parenting. These result from - and cause - the public's tolerance for the unseen [wounds + unawareness] cycle which stresses many families in global cultures.

      The worksheet and linked articles offer committed adult couples a way to assess whether they're well-prepared to raise a child together. The worksheet starts by defining the problem and a "wise child-conception or adoption decision." Then it proposes requisites couples must have to evaluate the short and long-term pros and cons of conception or adoption wisely, and closes with two checklists.

      Premises underlying this worksheet are that there is a wise time to conceive, foster, or adopt, and wise reasons to do so. Another premise is that for best odds of healthy conception and/or adoption decisions, couples need to have made three first, with their true Selves guiding them each. wise commitment decisions This Lesson 6 worksheet complements three others designed to help average couples make such decisions.

       Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

  This article was very helpful  somewhat helpful  not helpful   

For more perspective on child conception, see this.

  If you're in a stepfamily - or may be - read this.

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