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Counseling/How to tell my 13 year old son his dad is not his father.

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When I was a teenager I was obsessed over my now husband. We had an off an on relationship and when we were not together I would see other guys. (Mind you our marriage is great this was when we were dating). Well I got pregnant and my husband is more than Likely not my sons dad. There is only a 1% chance that he could be. Well my son has Asperger's syndrome and we never thought that it was important to tell him because his bio father never has been in the picture. Never asked about him or anything. Then the other day I was stupid and contacted the bio father to ask about hereditary health issues in his family and now he wants to meet my son. I don't know how to explain all this to my now 13 year old son. My husband and I have talked before about what ifs and what not but he don't want me to even say the other mans name. He compleatly shuts down and gets mad at me. This isn't going to go away. So I guess my questions are how can I help my husband to talk about this and maybe talk to this other guy who is quite nice and thinks the world of my husband. And also I how I go about telling my son? I need help and don't know what to do. My biggest fear is that my son will break down. He has depression as it is and I don't want this to destroy him.

Answer
Hi Nicole - One of several problems you describe is your husband's shutting down. That suggests to me he may have inherited some psychological wounds (and maybe you have too). Start to explored this for all your sakes by reading and discussing these:  http://sfhelp.org/gwc/gwc.htm, http://sfhelp.org/gwc/means.htm, and http://sfhelp.org/cycle.htm

Your son's depression and Asperger's suggest it may be wise for you and your husband to get evaluated by a local family therapist - http://sfhelp.org/fam/health.htm

You have several choices: [1] don't introduce your son's Dad to him at all; [2] do so, but introduce him as a "family friend" (if the Dad is OK with that); [3] tell your son the truth in the future when he's older and can better understand what happened; and [4] at some point, get a paternity test to erase any doubt who the father is.   

Sooner or later, your son will have to process his feelings about being abandoned by his dad.

I caution you to not catastrophize your son's possible reaction ("...destroy him.") The truth may cause him significant hurt, resentment, anger, confusion, and grief. If you provide a healthy, stable family for him and model how to manage strong emotions, I would hope he would be able to grow toward independence - specially if any grandparents and/or other relatives can support you all.

Bottom line, Nicole, I encourage you three adults to get family therapy to decide the best short and long term decisions for all of you. - Pete  

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Peter Gerlach, MSW

Expertise

I can answer questions about mood disorders, depression, suicide, relationships, communication skills, problem solving, clear thinking, bonding disorders, trauma recovery, addiction management, grieving, shame, guilt, fear, reality distortion, and trust disorders; courtship, family functioning, "problem kids," mediation, (re)marriage, divorce, stepfamilies, stepparenting, boundaries, self-neglect, abuse, parental neglect, personality subselves, ("parts work"). I cannot answer legal or medical questions.

Experience

I maintained a private therapy practice near Chicago for 27 years, and have worked with over 1,000 men, women, couples, and families on a wide range of personal and family problems. I have been in personal recovery from growing up in an alcoholic family since 1986, and have worked with five therapists to heal my own psychological wounds. I maintained a "warm (phone) line" for callers on the topics above for 20 years, and have taught over 200 seminars and classes in midwestern universities, churches, support groups, and schools since 1981. I have practiced internal-family therapy ("parts work") with trauma-recoverers since 1991.

Organizations
National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council; SelfGrowth.com Compassion and Choices, and Final Exit Network

Publications
# Several hundred articles in my non-profit "Break the Cycle!" Web site at http://sfhelp.org These articles are augmented by over 150 educational YouTube videos .

# six books on childhood-trauma recovery, effective communication, and stepfamily courtship, coparenting, and management.

Education/Credentials
A bachelors degree in mechanical engineering (BSME, 1959) from Stanford University, a Masters degree in clinical Social Work, (MSW, 1981), and over 500 hours of post-grad training in the topics above - including clinical hypnosis, spirituality, codependence, addicrtion-management, and guided imagery. My post-grad traning includes two 9-month internships on doing internal-family therapy at the University of Illinois.

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of grateful emails and comments from students and clients all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
Over 1,000 average Midwestern-US women, men, couples, and families. A physical disability limits me to doing telephone and Skype counseling now.

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