How to Tell Your Family You Don't Want Kids

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If you are someone who’s made the decision not to have kids, you are far from alone. Studies have found that as many as one in five adults are voluntarily childless, and most choose this path early in life. Still, understanding your own feelings can be one thing, but sharing them with others—especially close family members—can be stressful. In fact, some people say that the hardest thing about not having kids is telling their family about this decision.

We’re here to help. We reached out to mental health professionals who offered advice about how to approach these conversations with family in an affirming, empowering way, as well as how to deal with any potential challenges that might arise.

How to Approach the Conversation

People who are childfree by choice usually have spent some time making peace with their reality. Studies have found that many childfree adults knew in their hearts that they didn’t want kids as early as their teen years. At the same time, sharing this reality with family members can be challenging.

“While people often have very clear reasons for why they don't want to have kids, the thought of having to explain these reasons or ‘make their case’ against the traditional mindset that ‘everyone wants to have kids’ can bring up anxiety,” says Kali Wolken, LMHC, LPC, CCC, licensed professional counselor at The Lookout Point. Wolken says that most adults who are planning to have this conversation go into it with the expectation that they will receive a lot of “why” questions. This can automatically raise a person’s defenses. 

Kali Wolken

While people often have very clear reasons for why they don't want to have kids, the thought of having to explain these reasons or ‘make their case’ against the traditional mindset that ‘everyone wants to have kids’ can bring up anxiety.

— Kali Wolken

This is why Melissa Wesner, LCPC, licensed clinical professional counselor and owner/founder of LifeSpring Counseling Services, recommends keeping in mind that you have already made your decision. This conversation with your family isn’t about trying to convince them that your decision is correct, but is a chance to share your truth.

“Approach the conversation honestly and directly,” Wesner recommends. “[Sharing] your decision is not an invitation for negotiation; it is simply an opportunity to communicate.”

Wolken suggests using language like “best decision” rather than “right decision” when you are describing your choice.

“When we use language like ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ we lock ourselves into black and white thinking which often gets confusing when gray areas arise,” she says. “Focusing on ‘best decision’ thinking accounts for some of those gray areas, while also acknowledging that they still don't tip the scales into you choosing to have children.”

How to Handle Difficult Family Members

The reality is that there is a stigma attached to the choice to not have children, and unfortunately, sometimes our family members will not have an open mind. Some family members may act judgmental, might express anger or disappointment, or may try to push us to change our minds.

Wesner—who shared that she is personally someone who has chosen not to have kids—said that you should try to remember that while it’s okay for family member to have their own feelings and opinions about what you’ve shared, it’s not okay for them to be cruel or pressure you to change your mind. She recommends setting clear boundaries with anyone who tries to negotiate, pressure, or persuade you to change your decision.

Not only is that behavior inappropriate and unhelpful, but it simply won’t work! “One of the lines that I was repeatedly told was, ‘You'll change your mind when you're older,’” Wesner shared. “I'm 40 years old, and I have not yet changed my mind.”

Melissa Wesner

One of the lines that I was repeatedly told was, 'You'll change your mind when you're older.' I'm 40 years old, and I have not yet changed my mind.

— Melissa Wesner

Wolken says that if you experience pushback from family members, it might be appropriate at first to try to be empathetic. “When people in your life question you on this, it's okay to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are dealing with the same societal arguments or pressures that you may have had to answer to,” she says. “You may also be talking to parents who have to grieve a dream of having grandkids.”

However, even while holding space for compassion, you should not sacrifice your own boundaries. “No matter what the reason is, you are still allowed to make the best decision for yourself, and communicate as such,” Wolken says.

She offers a way that you can respond that is empathetic to their feelings, but also solidifies your decision. Consider saying something like: "I hear that this is hard for you to process because [provide a reason that gives them the benefit of the doubt]. We have put a lot of thought into this decision and know it is the best decision for us."

When Is It Time to Redirect or End the Conversation?

At times, even after laying down a boundary, family members might keep on pressing you.

If this happens, Wolken recommends that you calmly repeat your statement about your decision one or two times. Doing this is called the “broken record technique,” and is a type of assertiveness skill, Woken describes.

However, if things don’t improve, it’s also fine to reply, "I've told you our decision and do not want to discuss it further at this time.” This may be an appropriate response if your family member seems to be ignoring what you are saying, or continues to try to change your mind.

If things escalate even further, and you feel like your boundaries are being crossed, then it may be appropriate to say something like, “I have told you I do not want to talk about this any more right now; if you don't stop, I will be leaving/walking away.”

“If they persist, then follow through and walk away,” Wolken says. “While I hope it does not come to this point, you need to be willing to step away from the conversation if it is not moving forward in a productive way.”

Tips for Managing Your Mental Health

Regardless of how this conversation goes, telling your family members how you feel about having kids could seem like a big deal, and may be challenging for your mental health. It’s vital that you take care of yourself during this time.

“These conversations can feel overwhelming,” says Wolken. She suggests surrounding yourself with people who understand where you are coming from and support your decision. “When you have those difficult conversations, your support network can remind you how much you matter to them and how you made the best decision for yourself,” she says.

Wesner agrees that support from friends is essential. She also recommends journaling your thoughts and feelings, as this a strategy many people in this situation find helpful. Finally, she suggests connecting with a mental health counselor if you are looking to speak to someone who may be able to be more objective about your situation.

Therapy is also an opportunity for you to share your feelings without fear of judgment, Wolken describes, and is a safe space for you to learn and practice assertiveness skills, should you need to have further conversations with your family members. “[Therapy] may even be a place where you can bring those family members in for a session to have a conversation about not wanting kids,” Woken adds.

A Word From Verywell

Making the decision not to have kids is a perfectly valid and increasingly common choice. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to share the news with family members.

Remember that you have the right to your personal boundaries when it comes to dealing with your family, and that even if they don’t like your choice, it’s not their place to try to persuade you otherwise. Make sure to stay in touch with empathetic friends during this time, and consider connecting with a therapist if navigating these discussions with your family is distressing.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Neal, Z.P., Neal, J.W. Prevalence, age of decision, and interpersonal warmth judgements of childfree adults. Scientific Reports. 2022;12:11907. doi:10.1038/s41598-022-15728-z

  2. Ekelund M, Ask K. Stigmatization of Voluntarily Childfree Women and Men in the UK: The Roles of Expected Regret and Moral Judgment. Social Psychology. 2021;52(5). doi:10.1027/1864-9335/a000455

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.