My child is 8 years old. I met my husband when she was 7 months old and he has been there for her ever since. We had our second child when she was 2 years old and they are one in the same. She calls my husband daddy and he has never treated her any differently from her sibling.

Her bio dad struggled with addiction her entire life and that is why we separated. The last time she saw him was when she was 18 months old and doesn't know he exist anymore. We knew one day we would have to a talk with her about it and he(bio dad) had talked time about her learning about him one day as well.

At the beginning of the month he was found dead from suicide. Bio dad's family would like to see her and I don't want to keep her from them, but I don't know when is an appropriate time to tell her about all of it or how to go about it.

We don't want to keep it a secret from her and have her resent us for not being honest. She has his last name and she is starting to notice that we all have different last names. Also she has a half sister from him that she has never met.

It's a very complicated and crazy situation and its not like they write a book on everything. I just would like to know if anyone has ever experienced something similar and what advice they can give.

  • 1
    @MaxW when you have a comment that long, please write an answer :)
    – Acire
    Dec 4, 2017 at 13:01
  • so your childs biological grandparrents, whom presumably she never met, want to see her? I think "NO" in that is totally fine if you feel your child isn't ready for that
    – Batavia
    Dec 4, 2017 at 21:35
  • The Pearl Jam song "Alive" was based on this real-life situation for lead singer Eddie Vedder. So many factors involved, that's a tough one. Looking forward to reading some good advice from other users on this one. Dec 4, 2017 at 21:36

3 Answers 3


I have adopted three children. The eldest was adopted around 3 years old, and has memories of her birth mom (birth dad was never in the picture), so it's not quite the same situation. We've always been open with our children about the fact that they are adopted, and they quite often brag to their friends that they have "two mommies and two daddies" instead of just one of each.

If your daughter has had no idea until now, I can see that broaching the subject might seem difficult, but I think some of the language we use with our children could be useful in your situation as well.

I would suggest talking to your daughter, and telling her something along these lines:

Here's something I haven't told you before: you actually have two dads! Your other dad had a lot of troubles, and it was hard for him to take care of himself, which meant that he couldn't do a good job of taking care of you, either. He always loved you and wanted the best for you, but he couldn't take care of you because of the problems he had. [Husband] loves you so much that he took over the job from your other dad.

It will probably take some time for her to process this, and then I am sure she will have questions, and potentially want to meet him. That's when you'll have to tell her that he is no longer alive.

I have some sad news. Your other dad died not that long ago. I'm sure he would have wanted to meet you someday, but sadly that can't happen. But there are [other members of his family] who want to meet you, and I bet they can tell you stories about him and what he was like. Do you want me to try to arrange a meeting with them?

Obviously the conversation doesn't need to go exactly like this, but this gives a general idea of how the conversation might go.

A few points to keep in mind:

  • Keep comments about your ex neutral. You probably don't have a high opinion of him, but your daughter doesn't need to know that. Especially because he is no longer around, it's fine for her to have a rosier picture of what he was like.
  • Keep things vague initially. She will probably have lots of questions, so answer them, but don't give her more information than she needs. "He wasn't able to take care of himself very well" is probably better than "He was addicted to [drug of choice]". If she presses for details, provide them at your discretion. It's also fine to say, "That's something we can talk about when you're older."
  • She will have a romanticized notion of him, and will need to go through a period of mourning, despite never knowing him. Support her in this; it's a necessary process for her, and will help her process the knowledge and work through the grief.
  • This could be hard on your husband. She may be confused about the "two dads" thing and wonder how he fits into the picture. Reassure her that he is fully her dad and loves her unconditionally, and that will never change.
  • Above all, avoid language like "real dad", or that your husband is not her dad (he is!). If "other dad" is too vague, call him her birth dad, or biological dad. If you've already talked to her about sex at some level, you can explain that he was the one who conceived her. One line we use with our children is that they grew in birth mom's tummy, but they grew in our hearts. You want her to feel loved unconditionally by all of her parents; both you and your husband, and the birth father.
  • mostly agree but would say (as a step parent) "full-time dad" not "current" or "real". You then aren't writing bio-dad out of the picture but also making the point that she has continuity Dec 6, 2017 at 9:05
  • @bigbadmouse Thanks for the correction. I think the language we use is very important. I was unaware of the connotations that "current" brings, but now that you mention it, it makes sense. I've changed things accordingly. Let me know if you think there's any other language that needs to be changed. Dec 6, 2017 at 16:31
  • Thanks you so much. Your response is very helpful with this while situation. We plan on let his siblings get to know get but just as friends this way when we do have this talk with her they won't be a bunch of strangers. Another worry we have is the fact that he has another child who does know him and we know that will be a whole nother conversation. I really appreciate the advice. Thank you very much Dec 18, 2017 at 4:36

I'm a step-parent of a child with an abusive bio-father. Its not a hugely different situation to your child's. Bio father was not a pleasant person, we told stepson everything and I don't think it helped him. We didnt keep his family away, but they aren't a good influence. His family wanting to see her is good, and you can never have a too-large family-support network in my opinion. NB I make the assumption that they are fairly respectable and not a bad influence in any way.

I would keep this under wraps until she hits 10 at least, if they are sincere, they will wait that long.


I'm not a dad (yet!). But in my inexperienced opinion, you should do what is best for your child. Even if the family wants to see her, she is 8, do you think she has the tools do deal with, "Your dad isn't your dad, your real dad just died, here is the family you never met"? I know I didn't have them when I was 8. At her age it should be easy to deflect questions about different last names, when she is old enough that you think she would understand, tell her. Also don't wait until she is 18 or older. She has to understand that you waited to tell her for her protection and not to protect yourself.

And consider this, which again is only my view of the world but might offer a different perspective. DNA means nothing. Blood means nothing. What has meaning are the relationships you build with the people around you. Your partner/husband is her father 100%, he raised her with you, taught her a lot as did you I imagine. So if she has a family it's your side and your husband’s side, not her biological "father" side.

By all this what I mean is, protect her at all costs. Should it be your choice to present her to that side of the family or should you let her grow older and let HER make that decision, to meet and know more about that part of the family if she so choses to? This is the question you need to answer yourself.

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    Please consider the possibility of changing some of the language choices in this post. As you have said, a father is much more than biology, and her current father absolutely is her "real dad". So saying, "Your dad isn't your dad; your real dad just died" really makes no sense. (As an adoptive parent, I'm very conscious of the language we use regarding these things; it can have a huge effect on perception.) Dec 5, 2017 at 20:01
  • the bio family are also grieving their recent loss. She is the last link they have, answers and comments should consider this. Dec 6, 2017 at 9:02

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