25 answers

When Do You Tell a Child Her Biological Father Isn't Who She Thinks He Is?

A friend of mine has 3 chilren. The first and last child have the same biological father, who the friend is married to. The middle child's biological father is a man she had a fling with during a break in the relationship with the husband (before they were married). The middle child is 8 years old. My friend, I'll call her Jan, isn't sure when she should tell her middle child who her biological father is. Her husband knows about the situation,I should add. The child has known Jan's husband as her father since birth. He doesn't treat her any differently than the other kids. She looks nothing like him or the other 2 kids.
Some other factors in the situation: Jan and her husband are having issues and Jan is considering divorce. The biological father is not really emotionally stable and is leaving it up to Jan to decide if he should be in the girl's life. Jan has heard through family members of the biological father that he isn't an especially good father, he's fathered several children with several different women and doesn't pay much attention to them.
My opinion is that she should save her 8 year old the identity crisis at this point... it will be much easier to handle when she is more mature. I could see maybe at some point (possibly before the tumult of puberty) explaining to her that her husband isn't her biological father, but he is her dad and he loves her and maybe eventually introducing her to the biological father. I myself put a biological father up on a pedastool, but I was in a step child situation, and hadn't known my stepdad from birth. Any one been in a situation like this? Either as the child, the parent, or biological parent? What do you think she should do?

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I just want to thank all of you for your heartfelt responses. Everyone had valid points. I don't know what my friend is going to do. Last I heard from her, she said she was going to put it on the back burner for a while. I hope she's doing the right thing.

Featured Answers

I just want to share my story and opinion. My son has never seen his bio father. He was 5 months when I started dating my husband and 2 when we married. I believe honesty is the best policy and I began to tell my son as soon as we could carry on a converstation. Secrets come back to bite ya!!
D.

This is a very hard situation, when she finds out she will be heart broken. I dont know if she is in age to understand. I dont know if my advice is the best, but If I was in her situation I would wait a few more years, and when she tells her about her real father is, I would say that she has not just one dad but two. One that has always been there for her and see her grow up, and the other one that gave her life. And that she does not have to give up either of them. And maybe let her decide if she want to give her other dad the opportunity to get to know her. I think if she has waited this long to tell her, that she could wait at least till she is 11 or 12 that she may better understand how the mom could have had two men in ther life :) I think if she tries to tell her when there is a possible separation or divorce going on, it will be very hard for her to deal with two very difficult situations at the same time.

Take care,

A.

More Answers

My daughter is my oldest, she's 5 years old, and her biological daughter left her when she was two. In April it will be 3 years since she's seen him. About a year after that she was adopted by my son's father. Her situation is a tad bit different because she can faintly remember her biological dad. She has honestly thought that her adopted dad was her real dad and when she'd have memory flash backs she would seem confused as to why she remembered another dad, who to her, wasn't her dad. She's very mature and very intelligent for her age, but I too had wondered when I should tell her because once she gets older it would be obvious that she wasn't really his child. Her biological father was 1/2 Mexican and 1/2 Italian, her adopted dad is 1/4 Mexican so needless to say there is quite a bit of difference in the skin tone and ethnicity between my son and daughter. About 4 months back my daughter started having a huge flashback of her biological father and seemed totally fine with it as if she understood what was going on. I decided to explain it to her, and she completely understood, she didn't ask to see him, just asked why she stopped seeing him. I never belittled her biological father, just explained that her "new" dad loved her very much and that's why he adopted her. She has never had any issues from this discussion yet. She is fully aware of the situation, and has not brought up the topic of her biological father again. I know some might tisk me for telling her so soon, but my daughter has seen a lot in her life, and she is very intelligent and mature for her age. I wouldn't ever suggest telling a 5 year old that sort of information unless they were mentally ready to process it. So I would say it depends on the maturity level the 8 year old has. But if the husband should have a say so in the matter also. He might rather the biological father stay out and things continue the way they have even after the divorce. Then just at some point explain the situation to the child in a nice manner so that they don't feel unloved or unwanted by the real father. There is no worse feeling for a child than to feel unwanted or unloved, even if they never knew the father. But given the situation that the child has never met the biological father, I feel that it would be best to wait until more of a teen to late teen age to explain it to the child, unless of course the child starts to question it earlier on. Good luck!

J.,

I would eventually tell her but when you think she is ready and mature. I am 1 of 5 kids and I have a different father than my brothers and sisters the guy we lived with and the one I called dad (it was their dad) I found out when I was 13 he wasnt my biological father, I never met my real dad and to this day I still dont know him and the father I knew as my dad wasnt a great man to his kids, he passed away in 85, but I am glad my mom told me I had a different father, I was always told I never looked like the dad that raised me, I was different all together. I didnt look like my brothers and sisters either. I think every kid has a right to know where they came from just use your better judgement and when the time is right.

It didnt change who I am today by not knowing my father, but in her case she has that oppurtunity to meet him, let it be her chose to want to get to know him or not.

Hope that helps

G.

I have been struggling with a similar situation. My son is 3, and my husband has been his daddy since birth, but is not the biological father. I think children need to be raised with that knowledge, because if you tell them once they're older they're more likely to be upset that the secret was kept from them. It's almost as if they've been lied to. I am trying to figure out how to approach the situation as he grows, so anything your friend learns from the experience, I'd be glad to know. Best of luck, I hope that she decides on what's best for the whole family. Feel free to email me at ____@____.com.

I just want to share my story and opinion. My son has never seen his bio father. He was 5 months when I started dating my husband and 2 when we married. I believe honesty is the best policy and I began to tell my son as soon as we could carry on a converstation. Secrets come back to bite ya!!
D.

J. E. My brother was adopted when he was three days old. My mother never kept that fact from him when he was growing up but she told him it was his choice to try and find his bio parents if he wanted to. He choose not to because he knew in his heart and mind who his parents were. I know this is a little different of a situation but it follows the same factors. If Jan's little girl is asking questions then have Jan and her husband sit down and discuss the situation and let her know that Daddy loves her very much and that he is the one that matters. Let her make the decision of maybe meeting her biological father if she wants to. But let her know she doesn't have to call him daddy and she doesn't have to love him. Tell her how much she is already loved but let her make the decisions on whether she wants her father to be a daddy too. I didn't know my father till I was fifteen and I am glad my mom did things the way she did. My father wasn't a very good father either and I still barely talk to him because I choose not to. I hope this helps you.

Sincerely,
W. E.

i know what ur going thru... i was just like ur child.. my mother told me that the guy that i thought was my real dad wasnt. she told me when i was between the ages of 8-10.. it was very hard on me which im sure it would be hard on ur child also. but really no time is a good time to tell ur kid that but yet it needs to be done.. yet if u dont want ur kids dad in their life then i would leave it the way it is unless there is a medical problem then u may need to tell them. im now 23 years old and have met my real dad about 5 years ago and i still dont have much of a relationship with him.. all im saying is do what u think is best for ur child, u and her father and dad...

I never met my biological father until just after my freshman year in high school. I had always had step-fathers and my biological father wasn't up for discussion a whole lot. I got curious and, under my own decision, I went to Kansas to meet him. I was supposed to stay there for 2 weeks. Needless to say, I came home a week early. So don't worry about telling her everything right now. Feed it to her as you go along and when she is ready to deal with him face to face, that will be her choice. Just make sure you are honest about him and his character, no matter how wonderful the stepfather is. The stepfather has to understand that this is your daughters decision and she hast he right to know all about her biological father. I hope this helps you coming from my own experience. God Bless

Well I'm coming at this from several different angles. In my opinion I feel that as parents we hold a responsibilty to our children to always be honet with them regardless the end result. I feel that there is a way to address it in such a way to where the child can understand it. for me I was asopted and was never told about it until I found things out on my own, so I hold a lot of resentment for that. Also I just recently had a son tht I put up for adoption, and the parents and I when we discussed how we wanted to let the child know decided that it should always be advised that they are his parents and that a very loving person brought him to them becuase they could not have children of their own. We alos agreed that it could also just be according to the child's curiousity about where he came from. what I have noticed with kids is that we all view them as being so fragile when sometimes they are even more resilient than we are. Kids hit an age mostly early on in which they do notice things like wether or not they look like their parents and or their siblings. i know that I was only 11 if that when I started asking questions. The other angle I come from is thte fact that my daughter, her biological father chose a long time ago to not have anything todo with us, and now my significant other plans on and we are starting soon the process in which he will adopt her. now for me, I fully plan on telling her from early on that while he is her dad, her biological father is someone else. She sees pictures of him every couple of months, and while she doesn't fully understand now, I know that in time she will, and she will remember. Just like with my son that I put up for adoption I show her the pictures of hime every week or so, as well as her half brother on her biological dad's side. I do this so that as she gets older there is no confusion and she will always know that I have been honest with her. i guess given my background and having not been told the truth from the beginning I don't want my kids to feel like I have ever been dishonest with them and I want them to learn early on that honest is very important, and I hope that as they grow older they will always feel like they can be honest with me, becuase I have set the example for them.

I was in the same situation growing up. I did not look like anyone in my family and I was under the impression that my sister and I had the same father. My mom told me when I was 12. I was devastated. I felt like everyone had deceived me and lied to me. I did not contact my biological father until I was 20. My family left it up to me when I wanted to see him. I believe that all my trust issues developed from this. I think that no matter what age the child is, the earlier she knows the better. I think if you wait too long, she may then be smart enough to feel as though she was deceived and this may be a negative impact in her life. At an earlier age it would be easier to deal with and she will have more time to grow into the situation. Leave it up to her if and when she wants to meet her father. I don't regret meeting my father, but I do regret trying to maintain some sort of a relationship with him. I hope I can help. This has been such a hard thing to deal with in my life, and all the trust issues that have developed from this situation have really put a damper on a lot of relationships in my life.

Please be honest with the child and then support her through the process of understanding. I wish my parents had been willing to let me know, as an adult child I am still asking questions to be able to deal with what happened so many years ago. Of course there are times I wish I had never known, I am so happy I have never given up. I would contact a family therapist and get their opinions and make a great effort to making this a positive transition for her. I know this is a tough adjustment in all your lives simply put she (the child) may actually be really good about this or really hate this but with support you all can make it through. Just remember it is not about you or her dad but about her and who will be hurt , punished or cherished and loved. Think about how life for you was at 8 years old now compact on the news see if you can handle it now think of her and try to face it from her eyes now ask yourself are you asking her to make a choice between mom and dad and stepmom what do you want her to know and how will she.... respond? or will she just be angry as I did because I was knowing the truth from day 1 but honestly now i would not go back and change a thing because i do not know how i would turned out... something to think about
if ya want to talk first hand email me ____@____.com

S.

I am like you my parents were divorced when I was very little. I don't remember them ever liveing togeather. I thought my real dad was great even though he never saw me or my sister. He wasn't very attentive when we did see him. The last time I saw him I was four. Until I was 18 I resented my mother and thought it was her fault I didn't get to see Daddy. At 18 I tried to find him and I found an Uncle and grandfather who both said how much they missed me blah blah blah. Neither of them would make an effort it was up to me to call and write ect. I still haven't spoken to my dad.
I did have a wonderful step father who was in my life from before I can remember but just as a family friend till I was three or four. Then he and my mother got married. I now feel he is my dad my father the man who raised two kids who weren't his and he didn't want, but he never let either me or my sister know. Other then to say once that he never wanted kids. I think I may of got that from my mom and herd it in passing.
From my perspective I would let the child be happy while she can and not get to know the dead beat. When she is 16 or so I would think she would be ready for the news unless there is some medical problem that comes up and she has a need to know. Then she is mature enough to understand but she wont till she has her own children. I never understood many things my parents did while growning up now that I have a two-year old it is clear it was all for love and to keep me safe. :)

honesty is the best policy when you lie t your kids they learn to lie too you should of never told her that to begin with the sooner you get it over with the better dont prolong it it will just make matters worth and besides neither father sounds like what you want her around anyway do her the favor let her decide even though she is eight let her decide then she would never hate you for not know her real dad and being a part of his life even if he does turn out to be bad for her she will know and you can always just have it a visit supervised a way to get them to know each other and then work from there but dont lie to her that would be a mistake that will bite you in the butt in the end.

Why tell the child at all? You know it will hurt her and make her feel different, how could that ever benefit her? If the person she knows as dad is raising her, let her be.

One of my best friends went through something similur. Her parents got divorced when she was a child, and her father took custody of both her and her little sister because her mother was into drugs very badly. When she was 11 she needed knee surgery and it was reveled that she was not her father's child. Her mother had been sexually assaulted and she is a result of that. She felt so betrayed and let down by her family that she pretty much cut them off, ran away and has had a very rough life since. She's 28 now, and still has issues about the whole situation, mostly stemming from the fact that no one told her until they HAD to tell her. While I do agree that 8 is young my advice would be to handle it much the same way you might handle telling a child they were adopted. However it works out I wish your friend the best, this is a difficult situation to handle.

~ T.

My daughter has a different biological father than my husband. She has never met her biological father and only knows my husband as daddy. I plan on telling her when she gets older, I even saved some pictures so I could show her what her biological father looks like. I don't know when I will tell her, I think I will just know when the time is right to do so, I do not think that your friend should tell her child if her and her husband are getting a divorce, that is a hard enough time on a child. On the other hand she needs to sit down and talk to her husband, if they are going to get a divorce she needs to make sure that he is still going to be there for the child. I think your friend will know when the time is right.

My mother told me that my dad wasn't my biological father when I was 13, and they happened to be going through a divorce. My mother didn't have to introduce me to another guy because I was conceived through donor artificial insemination. I was devastated, mainly because I found out that everyone but me knew, and because my dad wasn't there when she told me, so I didn't even tell him that I knew about it for a couple years, because I thought he would stop loving me. I think the sooner she knows the better, my brother who was five years younger than me, eight, handled it much better, and never had any problems with it. This needs to be something that both parents do together, it would have been much better for me if my dad would've been there. She shouldn't be doing this because she's getting a divorce, that's a really bad time to put more stress on a child. As for the bio. father, I think that should be the childs decision, unless he is a danger to her. I can tell you from experience that sooner is definately better, and if at all possible before her parents get divorced/separated.

Hi have struggeled to make this decition too. I was in a long relationship with someone and had 3 kids. The oldest one, wasn't from my ex partner (i'm not together with him any more). My oldest daughter, was from my first relationship and her father never much cared about her. In my second relationship gave birth to two more boys. As my daughter was 5 years, her biological father appeart after years and want to see his daughter. Now what, what should i tell my daughter who this stranger is. She was to this time 6 years old and i decided to tell her, that this stranger is her biological father. He wanted visitation and i let it up to my daughter if she want to or not. She decide to give it a shut. He visited her first every two weeks, then he started lieing to her. Suddenly he couldn't pick her up etc. After a while, my daughter was then 8 years old (he want to see her out of sudden again), she told him, in his faith, that she don't wanna ever see him again, because she don't like to be lied to. In all this years, she called my two boys father, dad and she still does ist. She know's what's going on and know's who was there for her the whole time.

What i try to say is, i think your friends child is old enough to understand. The kid will decide for her own, what's good for her/him. Sometimes you think kids don't understand and don't know what's the best for them, but sometimes we just think totally wrong. She should give it a try. Even if she should get devorce, i think her husband have enough godds to don't visit her afterwerts or treat her different.
I'm not together any more with the father of my two oldest boys, but my ex still wanna see my daughter and spend time with her, because in all this years, they build a father and daughter bound. He loves her, like his own child.

good luck

J. my brother who was told when he was 12 about his father being different than mine and our sisters dad. It was to late!! He was so made he started getting into trouble, dropped out of school at 16 smoking at 13, went through the drugs and drinking. Now he is 38 and he hates our sister. See out of 4 kids all of us have different dads. My dad was killed in Vietnam so I knew about mine since birth, My brother found out at 12 , My sister always new who hers was, as well as my youngest brother. But my brother thought for 12 years that his dad was the same as my sister, when he found out he was mad he hates it that she has the dad he wanted. His dad has had nothing to do with him since he was 4 months old. 4 months ago my brothers son was killed at 17 it has brought back the pain of not having a dad. I think they need to set her down and tell her now that she has a different dad, that she is just as special as the other kids. Try to get information on the biological father, we have found that it is important to have history in your life. Good Luck and God Bless.

I'm usually all for honesty, but if the biological father is a creep I would wait to tell the child. If the biological father had any interest wouldn't he alreay be in the child's life in some way? My neice's "dad" is not her biological father. At one point my sister had to explain the situation to my neice and it went remarkably well. My sister just explained that she was a young girl when she got pregnant and that my neice's "dad" loves her very much. I know the circumstances are different, but it's important to let the child know that her "daddy" loves her.

J.:

A good policy to follow....always tell the truth. If the child finds out later in life, she may resent her parents for not being honest.

A. L

This is a very hard situation, when she finds out she will be heart broken. I dont know if she is in age to understand. I dont know if my advice is the best, but If I was in her situation I would wait a few more years, and when she tells her about her real father is, I would say that she has not just one dad but two. One that has always been there for her and see her grow up, and the other one that gave her life. And that she does not have to give up either of them. And maybe let her decide if she want to give her other dad the opportunity to get to know her. I think if she has waited this long to tell her, that she could wait at least till she is 11 or 12 that she may better understand how the mom could have had two men in ther life :) I think if she tries to tell her when there is a possible separation or divorce going on, it will be very hard for her to deal with two very difficult situations at the same time.

Take care,

A.

I am currently 23 years old and when I was 15 I found out that my biological father wasn't who I thought he was. I was raised by my sister's father who I knew to be my father. It hurt so deeply that my mother had lied to me all these years. When a child is old enough to understand they should be given the chance to. I now see my bio-dad on most holidays and we keep in touch throughout the year as well. Everyone deserves a chance to build a relationship with their parents, even if we don't get to choose them.

I wouldn't wait to tell her. It will come out in the divorce when the husband doesn't want to pay child support on a child that isn't his.

Jan can equate her husband's role as the same as being a good step father or an adoptive father. They choose to be that specific child's dad. It's not really the same as being her bioligical father but it can be just as good because they are family by choice.

So if it does come to a divorce Jan needs to have her lawyer stipulate that visitation, presents and celebrations need to include all three kids. She may think he would include her anyway but most of the time he might not and if he does get involved with someone else well she may not be as generous and try to keep him from supporting (emotionally) a child that is not his.

I saw this in the last few years. My cousin has 2 kids and her husband insists that neither one is his and when they split up he went on with his life as if he didn't have other children. He even went so far as to write a letter to the court stating he didn't want to be a father to them because he didn't think they were his. He also refused to submit to DNA testing. So now she's had to have child support enforcement after him. The kids feel totally rejected and she can't overcome the feelings of guilt for doing things that would put her children in this situation in the first place.

Good luck to your friend

Well, depending on the adults involved I would seriously think about NOT telling her. It might cause some really hard feelings between the child and her Mom and Dad. Trust issues, feelings of of not belonging etc..etc... I was in the same situation myself and am not totally sure that my son is my ex's child. My ex knew what happened too and he swore that he would raise the child as his own, regardless. My son is 24 now and doesn't have a clue and his "Dad" has always been his Dad. I do often worry about medical complications if they happen to occur and I guess I will cross that bridge if ever neccesary. Please believe me when I say that there are plenty of families in this situation and have been for MANY years. Good luck to your friend and may God bless all those involved with the strength and wisdom to do what they need to do.

Sounds like a lot is going on in their world right now. If there is a possible divorce coming, then not only will the 8 yr old lose the only father she has ever known, but she will also realize he wasn't hers to begin with.....no way would I ever consider putting a child through that. Another thing to keep in mind is lets say the divorce happens. Will they protect the child from all the child support stuff? Will he come out and say he only has to pay enough for his bio kids? This places stress on mom and if any fight comes from it, she will find out that way too. This has the potential to ruin this little girls life and her outcome based on how well it is handled. If they do divorce, they will have to remain friendly to one another so no harm is done to the child. That isn't impossible to do, but it would be difficult particularly if down the road the "dad" gets a new wife who is jealous. This is a very ugly situation. My prayers are with that poor little 8 yr old and her whole family that this situation can be handled in the best way for everyone.

B. :)

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