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So, You Just Found Out You Have a Child. Now What?

Life tends to throw curveballs when you are least expecting it, and there may be no bigger surprise than finding out you have a child.
Tracking down extended family members or unknown biological relatives is easier now than it has ever been. Family lineage websites such as 23andMe and Family Tree have made it possible to identify people in your family that you don’t know. The original intention of these sites was to build a historical family tree, but the technology has been put to use tracking down long-lost family members.
This has been felt significantly in the world of adoption. And it may now be something you are dealing with personally. Many birth parents choose to move on with their lives after adoption, and some birth fathers are unaware that they ever had a child in the first place.
When you receive an email, phone call or knock on the door from someone saying they are your child, what are you supposed to do? Can anything be more jarring or unexpected?
This is a challenging situation. Here are some things to consider if you just learned that you have a child.

You’re Probably Feeling a Lot of Emotions

You might not be comfortable talking about emotions. Many men aren’t keen on this subject. But let’s be honest: You’re feeling a lot right now.
Fear, confusion and maybe even anger are swirling around, mixed with surprise, happiness and love. All of these emotions are supercharged, which makes processing them even more difficult.
The first thing to do (as uncomfortable as it may be) is to acknowledge your feelings. You may even consider finding a counseling service. This is a monumental life event, and professional help could be a great support for you. If you don’t address what this surprise encounter has made you feel, you’ll never be able to respond appropriately.

Don’t Rush Things

There are most likely so many questions flying through your head.

  • How did this happen?
  • Who is the mother?
  • Why was I never told?
  • What has your life been like?
  • Do you have a good family?

Take a breath before you start in on your list of questions. Your child has their own long list. Take things slow, because this situation is already overwhelming for both of you. You’ll have time to find the answers you deserve. Don’t try to figure it all out immediately.
Instead, take things one at a time. There’s plenty to process for both you and your child.

Talk to the Rest of Your Family

Once you have gathered yourself and processed the news, it’s a good idea to consider those closest to you. If you have a family — a partner, children or both — this new development could affect them nearly as much as you.
Recognize how challenging this could be for them to learn. Discovering someone close to you has a new, significant relationship to another person can be a lot to handle. Just like you need time to process the news, there’s a good chance they will need time to process, too.
While it is your decision to make, it may be a good idea to bring your partner and/or children into your decision of how to move forward (more on that in just a minute). Listen to their input and make a choice together. Their support can make a world of difference.

A Relationship Might Be Possible

There are a couple paths this news could lead you down. It may be that your contact with your child is only a one-time event. After learning about the relationship, both parties could decide it’s best to keep living life how it was before. However, there is also a chance that you and your child could form a new relationship.
Every relationship is unique. Your child may be reaching out to you with hopes of building a relationship, or they may simply want to make contact. Additionally, your desires matter in this situation, too. Do you want a relationship with your child, or not?
If you feel comfortable with ongoing conversations, and this is what your child wants, then this unexpected surprised could be the start of a meaningful relationship. Just as you should take your time with questions, you should also take your time building a relationship. It may feel like you have a lifetime to catch up on. However, you can’t fit all of that missed time into a few hours, day or even weeks.
Relationships develop naturally. This relationship is a truly unique one, and it will take time. It can become one of the more important things in your life with effort, patience and care.