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.

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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!!

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,


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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!


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


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!!

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.

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.

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