You should tell teen of her biological father
DEAR ANNIE: When she was 21, our daughter became pregnant by a casual college boyfriend. Three months into her pregnancy, they broke up because the young man had no interest in raising a child. Our daughter decided to let him go and has not ever found him or required child support from him.
During the pregnancy, she began dating another young man, who wasn’t put off by the fact that she was pregnant with someone else’s baby. He loved our daughter and was committed to raising the baby as his own.
They married soon after our granddaughter was born, and despite divorcing our daughter three years later, our former son-in-law has continued his commitment to being a loving father to our granddaughter. He has been the only father in her life. His parents and family have always loved and included our granddaughter as their own.
Our granddaughter is now 16. No one has ever told her the truth — that our former son-in-law is not her biological father.
Our daughter has done a great job raising her daughter but is terrified of the prospect of telling her daughter the truth. She is afraid her daughter will flip out and hate her when she is told the truth. She also fears her daughter will be angry with everyone who knows the truth and has been “lying” to her all these years.
Our family — and our daughter’s ex-husband’s family — all agree that our daughter needs to tell her the truth soon, before someone spills the beans and our granddaughter is devastated. But our daughter is passive. She wishes someone else would take care of this for her, but we all agree she needs to be the one to tactfully tell her daughter the truth.
Do you have any advice on how this situation should be handled?
— Concerned Grandma
DEAR CONCERNED: Even the best-intentioned secrets are still secrets, and they’re dangerous. It’s in your granddaughter’s best interest to know who her biological father is. However she processes it, it’s information she deserves to have, one of the more practical reasons being for the sake of her medical records.
Help your daughter talk through her fears. She’s said she is afraid her daughter will flip out, so explore the worst-case scenarios there. She’s only 16; she can’t very well pack up and start a new life over this news. She might threaten as much, but once the dust settles, she’ll still be there, and so will all of you.
As a family, you can reassure her that biology does not make a father. Love and commitment do. The man who tucked her in and read “Green Eggs and Ham,” taught her how to ride a bike, kissed her bruises when she fell, spent hours trying to grasp the concepts of geometry so he could help her study, dried her tears when the other kids left her out, dried his own tears on all her first days of school — he is her real father. And that will always be the whole truth.
DEAR ANNIE: As the autumn season sets in, I feel as if there is a void in my earthly existence. I do have to admit that I have had suicidal episodes in my recent past. My spiritual beliefs have been, in a way, torn apart since June of this year. I still believe in God, even though I mistrust him or her for the moment. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
— A Tormented Soul
DEAR TORMENTED: If you’re having any suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255, immediately. There are people there 24 hours a day who would love nothing more than to listen and help.
Though I don’t know the details of your life or what has happened to shake your faith recently, I know there are people who care about you. Count me among them.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.