Two children, two moms, one dad. Can this equation work?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  February 23, 2011 06:00 AM

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I have a 4-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter from different moms. I would like for them to know and meet each other. When is a good time to make the introduction? How should I prepare them, myself, and their moms?

From: Concerned Dad, Los Angeles

Dear Concerned Dad,

Family secrets are never in a child's best interest. Finding out at age 13 that you have a half-sibling somewhere out in the universe is far less hurtful than if you find out at 23 or 30. It's even less painful if you learn at age 3 or 5 or 7, and grow up with this knowledge as part of who you are.

But the questions you raise -- When is a good time to make the introduction? How should I prepare them, myself, and their moms? -- are really more about the adults than the kids. Kids are far more resilient and accepting of differences than we realize. It's the adults who have the issues.

What is the relationship between the two moms? Do they even know each other? Do they share your wish for the children to know each other? Are they willing to be friendly and cooperative for the children's sake? What is your relationship with each woman? Is one angry? Jealous? Unpredictable? What's your relationship with each child? What do you imagine the relationships to be like going forward? Are there likely to be more half-siblings down the road? Do you currently assume financial responsibilities? Will this change in the future? What if step-fathers enter the picture? Will that affect your relationship with all the various parties?

These are questions you need to grapple with before you move forward. I suggest you seek the guidance of a professional and that the mothers be involved in the discussions as well.

In an ideal world, yes, the kids would know each other, even be friends. That ideal, however, requires cooperation, collaboration, and recognition by all the adults about what's in the children's best interests. All it takes is one of the adults to sabotage the whole thing, one comment to plant a seed that can fester for a lifetime: "That father of yours loves your half-brother more, he gave him a nicer Christmas present."

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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1 comments so far...
  1. Just wanted to say good luck to you, Concerned Dad -- a concerned dad is a good dad! I hope each of your children learns to appreciate your care for their well-being, and someday enjoys a relationship with the other. There are resources out there to help -- start with a counselor/therapist, some books from the library, ask your children's pediatrician, etc.

    Posted by serafina March 3, 11 11:07 AM
 
1 comments so far...
  1. Just wanted to say good luck to you, Concerned Dad -- a concerned dad is a good dad! I hope each of your children learns to appreciate your care for their well-being, and someday enjoys a relationship with the other. There are resources out there to help -- start with a counselor/therapist, some books from the library, ask your children's pediatrician, etc.

    Posted by serafina March 3, 11 11:07 AM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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