I just found out that my daughter has a half-sister. Should I tell her?

Your instincts are saying no for a reason, says our elder. Listen to them.

Dear EWC

My daughter is almost 14. Her biological father has never met her nor been involved with her life in any way (financial or otherwise). We had a very short, very tumultuous relationship when I was quite young (he’s more than a decade older). I knew when I had her that I was “on my own”. I met my husband when she was two. I found out through social media today that her biological father has another daughter, 15 years older than mine, that I didn’t know about in the brief time I dated him. She’s an adult, nearly 30. My question is: do I tell my daughter she potentially has a sister? Do I email the sister? Do I tell my husband (I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t except that if nothing is going to come of it, why make it a discussion?) My instinct says to leave it alone. We’ve gone nearly 14 years not knowing; what service does it do to bring it up? It seems like telling my daughter could cause more harm than good. What do you think?

Excelsior replies

I don’t see any benefit in telling your daughter. I can’t imagine her being interested in an adult stranger, nor the adult half-sister having interest in your daughter. The half-sister may well have been kept in the dark about her father’s past. Contacting her runs the risk of putting her beliefs about her him and her family life in jeopardy. Frankly, looking back at myself at your daughter’s age, I think I’d be really scared at the news, and afraid I’d somehow be forced to meet her. I might wonder if my whole family life would change.

You don’t know what sort of person the half-sister truly is, regardless of what you’ve seen on social media. And, I don’t view your daughter and her half-sister as sisters in the usual sense, since they are so far apart in age and have no relatives that they both know. The circumstances of your relationship with her father were unhappy, and I think entering into their world could open up a past best left alone.

A while ago, I was contacted by someone related to my great-grandmother, asking what I knew about her side of the family. I realized she was a fourth cousin, so wrote back cordially. When she called to confirm something, she sounded like someone calling from a business. It was clear she didn’t share my pleasant feelings of being in contact with a distant relative for the first time. Enough said.

Our instinct is a powerful warning system to take heed of our best interests. I think you should follow yours.

Letter #: 437412
Category: Family

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