Hi, we have just been contacted by my stepson's half brother's father. My ss's brother is still an infant. We are conflicted because he and his partner want the two children to meet. The father of ss's brother is still in contact with the Bio Mother and that situation is very volatile at best. We don't trust the father's motives. Would introducing the children be wise? What ill effects can this have on the children?
From: Tilly, Australia
It is never in children's best interests to have unspoken truths about the family. At the very least, your step-son should know that he now has a half-brother. Help him to send a "Welcome" card or note or gift. Obviously that's not because the baby will understand the gesture but because your step-son will.
Why is it so important not to keep this a secret? Two words: acceptance and trust. When children grow up knowing the truth, they are more likely to accept the facts as just the facts, as in, "This is my life. This is my family. No big deal." When they learn about it later in life, whether "later is at age 10 or 15 or 35," there's a struggle:
Who is this person to me? What does this person mean to me? Is there a place for him/her in my life? There's also often an erosion of trust in their parents: "If you didn't tell me this, how can I trust that there aren't other secrets you aren't telling?"
You don't mention your step-son's age and, although you hint at extenuating circumstances, I don't know what they are or how difficult they might be, but nonethless, I would advocate for meeting the baby as well as for maintaining some kind of relationship over the years. You can be in control of what that is until your ss is old enough to influence that decision. Again, in general, openness is better. For more help on the subject, read this from The Guardian; and this, which I wrote last spring about how to tell your child about half-sibs.