I've been adopted at early age and have no recollection of my biological parents. My adoptive parents have told me at a young age that I was adopted. Because this fact became integrated into my life so early on, it was a very normal subject for me to talk about openly.

Even so, I've never had much interest in finding out more about my biological family until recently. Because I am considering migrating to the other side of the world, I've felt the need to get in touch with my biological family now that it's still somewhat easier to do so.

My biological mother left me a letter stating that she doesn't want me to come looking for her. Given her reasons, I want to respect her request. However, I want to know if I have any siblings, because I was raised as an only child. So, I got in touch with my country's official institution for lineage questions.

They have been very professional about handling the situation. I have learned that I indeed have one half-sister and two half-brothers. They are full-blooded siblings between themselves, and all raised by my biological mother. All are of legal adult age in my country, so - in my opinion - they have the right to know of my existence (if they didn't already), even without my biological mother's consent. Also, I have the right (as per European Union laws, I was told) to know who my biological mother and half-siblings are.

Now, a potential problem has presented itself. The institution, who mediates all communication, has informed my biological mother of my intentions. They did this to inform my mother of my intentions, and present her with the opportunity to tell her children herself, if she hadn't done so already. While I expected that she did, it turns out she didn't. That means that my half-siblings are soon to learn about something that has been kept hidden from them for their entire lifes.

The truth-bomb that is this revelation and the emotional impact that it can cause has made me doubt if I really should be doing this. The institution has re-assured me that I'm not at fault here, and I am still fully within my rights. Still, it makes me feel like a bad guy. At any rate, the information is going to come out soon, even if my mother decides not to tell them herself. The institution will contact each of them personally to further progress my case.

My goal with the institution is to make them aware of my existence, and let them know that I am open to contact if they wish so. I'm leaving this in their hands, basically, but I feel at least they have the right to know.

Now, assuming they reach out to the institution and agree to a (neutral environment, institution-supervised) meeting, what are the pitfalls I should watch out for when engaging in conversation with my half-sister and half-brothers? I have absolutely no idea what it's like to have a sibling, let alone how to talk to one who only recently learned I exist.

I'm actually dreading a meeting, but at the same time hoping they agree to one.

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    Note: this is a repost from Parenting.SE because that question is too old to migrate. It has been edited slightly because it turns out I have three siblings, not just the one half-sister... Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 8:22
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    Have you already asked the institution? What did they say? I figure if they help people get in contact, they can also provide some guidelines on how to best have that contact?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 9:00
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    @Tinkeringbell I'm indeed in touch with FIOM about making contact. They are the mediators, and advised me on what to address in a letter to my half-brother. I've made contact (in writing only) with one of my half-brothers. But so far, no sight of a real life meeting yet, which is what I want answers here to focus on. I rather take random internet advice from people who've been in a similar situation than from a mediator who's never personally been in that situation themselves. Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 11:44
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    @user2851843 My siblings have the right by European law to know about this. I don't know my biological mother personally, but I think it's fairly naive to think something like this can be kept a secret from them for their entire lives. At least I've had the decency to wait until all of them are of legal adult age before attempting to make contact of any sort. You're probably right: she doesn't want them to know. But since they are adults now, that's not solely her decision anymore. Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 13:41
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    Please let us know how it went.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 12:21

5 Answers 5


what are the pitfalls I should watch out for when engaging in conversation with my half-sister and half-brothers?

I was actually in a very similar situation to this myself. My biological father had nothing to do with raising me. I knew he existed, but during my childhood a meeting was never suggested or encouraged by my mother or step father. This had quite an effect on me, as once I did meet my biological father, I then found out I had 3 half brothers and 2 half sisters which I then met in my early twenties.

So, to your specific question, I would say to you to not set your expectations set too high. Although you are related by blood, any relationship is built over time and trust is earned. You will not immediately or may never be considered family by your siblings.

Prepare yourself, especially if you meet them all at once like I did, for little relationship quirks they have that you won't (brother and sister stuff that is natural having grown up together). I found myself very angry at my mother and father over the established relationships they had that I missed out on building with them (growing up with them). This anger and anxiousness did not serve me well as I initially had the attitude of "Why bother, it's too late, I will never really be their brother".

Another tip I would offer is get plenty of rest. Regardless of how it goes, you will be emotionally drained after meeting them.

Currently, I live in a separate state from all of them, and I really do not have a relationship with any of my siblings except for the occasional Facebook post. It wasn't for lack of trying on both sides. Having a family of my own, the distance, and time passing alter all or our priorities.

The long and short of it: Keep your expectations low. Don't expect instant love or even a relationship with your siblings. That will take time and effort on both parties. Hopefully you live in the same area and building a relationship is feasible, and desirable by you and your siblings.

Best of luck to you.


The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.

Even though these people are genetically related to you, you're a stranger to them. And that genetic link may well mean less to them than you can ever imagine.

For example, they may see you as an intruder trying to shake up their perfect little family life. After all, it's not easy finding out that your mother has held such a secret from them their entire lives. And the animosity of finding out that their mother's honesty leaves much to be desired, may well be placed at your feet.

Still, it may prove that these people are honestly interested in finding out more about you. I would stay away from topics of conversation such as your mother's possible motive for keeping your existence a secret, etc. Instead, focus on actually trying to get to know them.

Read up on conversation starters, etc. The situation will be awkward for you as well as all of them, so be prepared to try and put everyone at ease. Tell them what finding out they exist means for you, and let them slowly come around to the idea that they have a half-sibling.

I know that if I were to be in their shoes I would want to make an honest effort to get to know you, but sadly not all people are like that. Brace yourself for that possibility.


Something similar happened to us lately. In the 1960s my next-eldest sister, who was a teenager, disappeared for a few months and came back thinner. We smaller ones did not think this was special, but later we heard the gossip that there had been a baby. No-one ever mentioned it.

Cut to 45 years later. All of us are married or partnered, with kids. A man contacted my cousin (he knew the place and the surname), and finally, us. After a bit of consultation, we siblings decided we were pleased and astounded. He seems to be a nice guy, with three cute kids of his own. We have adopted him as new nephew.

The exception is my next-youngest sister, who declared he is a charlatan and out to get somebody's money. But that's the way she is.

My oldest sister (we are many) was elected to tell my sister's two children that they had a half-brother. They first laughed their heads off - my uptight sister! - then got in touch over Facebook, where they maintain a friendly relationship.

Finally the guy telephoned his first mum and they are now in touch, though she is a bit embarrassed about it all. This all happened about two years ago and it's still going fine.

My sister-his-mum divorced a long time ago. I don't know if my ex-in-law knew about this. That could have been a problem. If my sister were very wealthy people might be suspicious, but she isn't.

The relationship is like that of distant cousins. The new nephew belongs to the family, we just didn't meet him sooner.

edit; so, things you should think of:

Your first mum may or may not have given you up willingly. She may have had no choice at all, or she may have done it on her own. Be prepared to understand both of these.

People will question your motives. Some may accuse you of being a charlatan or identity thief. Be prepared to counter this.

Not everyone will be pleased to hear about you. Does your first mum have a partner or ex-partner? Are they aware that you exist? Will they be bothered? You need to talk to her first.

Take your time. Do not expect to be invited to stay for Christmas right away. They need to sniff around you and make sure you belong. Have patience.

You are the new kid on the block. Be a good addition to the family. Be kind and friendly and non-judgemental. Be someone they will be pleased to have around.

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    You seem to be sharing a lot of experience on the subject, but maybe you can bring out the specific pitfalls in here a little better? (I'm catching 'not everybody in your new family may accept you' and 'you shouldn't go expecting to be a full-fledged family member' while reading between the lines, but it would be nice if you could state these explicitly, so I don't have to rely on my interpretation of your experience?)
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 13:47


  • as Tinkeringbell noted in the comments you definitely should reach for help at the institutions you already were in contact with, this is surely not the first case like this

  • I am not personally anywhere close to a situation like this [in response to your comment]

  • This answer might seem harsh and inconsiderate but I am trying to balance between what you are lawfully allowed to know, what you would like to know and what might be the interests of your siblings


I would advise you on viewing siblings more as a sort of 'forced friend', in the sense that you are basically forced to grow up with them and interact with them. Also they are often in the same age group, which makes a kind of 'friendship' easy, although this does not always have to be the case, just as not all friendships last forever.

The only difference to a 'normal friend' is that you also share a lot of things just by being in the same household. Same authority figures, same house, eating together, same festivities, common family activities, etc.

In your case you share very little. In fact the only thing is that half of your gene pool comes from the same creature - your mother. And that is almost meaningless. In fact there is almost no difference in the relationship between you and me, and you and them.

They are total strangers who might have some information you would like to have and that's how I would treat them. At least kind enough to get the information, more if you feel like it.

Your Mothers reasoning

You told us about a letter you have from your biological mother. Without telling its content it creates quite some variance to the situation.

I think the situation depends on why your mother gave you away. She could have done it for a good reason (i.e. to prevent poverty, disease, death) or she could have just regretted being pregnant with you and tried to get rid of you in order to not have to confront her mistakes.

I recommend going through the letter again and trying to figure out why your mother wanted you to never contact her. If she gave a valid reason you might want to let go. A valid reason could be for example that her social environment could pose a threat to hear life if it were to come out that she had another child.

But I think if there was such a drastic part to the story you would have probably told us. If it turns out there actually is such an issue - well bad luck for them. You can't fault yourself for that as it was your mothers job to disclose something like this properly.

So I will guess that it is a minor issue, in which case I tend to recommend you try to arrange a meeting via the agency of the institution.

Meeting the people

Before the meeting/what you should be mindful of

  • remember that these people have not much more in common with you than I do, and you wouldn't assume that we two are going to form a friendship now, so don't expect it from them either

  • they are likely very different from what you imagine, so keep your expectations low

  • they are total strangers, so don't trust them more than any other stranger just because you think they are related to you

  • be aware of what you really want from them and what you are ready to give to them (concerning: relationship, information, maybe even money issues, they might care about inheritance of wealth, etc.)

During the meeting

The biggest danger I see is them trying to manipulate you. Especially when there is a noticeable difference in wealth or social status. That's why I recommend thinking a lot about what they could bring up. Are there touchy topics in the letter from your mom? What if there was a recent family death? Who is your dad? Are you entitled to inherit anything if your mom were to die? Should you contribute to a funeral? There is so much but I think the best thing to keep reminding yourself of during the conversation is:

you don't owe them

You didn't do anything wrong, you are not responsible for their potentially fucked up family situation, you were not the one to cut contact, you don't have to pay any compensation. Nothing.

If they decline meeting you

Maybe you can still get a couple of your most urgent questions to them through the agency. But don't expect them to react. There is nothing you can do if they don't want to.

You could probably try to push it and just visit them directly but this obviously won't set the relationship at a good start. So just quit it. Accept that these people don't care about you and don't want anything to do with you.

And this might sound fucked up but I don't think there is any shame in it: keep an eye out for any 'family' deaths. You might be entitled to some property.

I also want to take this opportunity and commend your adoptive parents for being open about the adoption. They did exactly what your real parents should have done: be honest about what happened.


We had a similar sort of a case in my family - only in that case 2 children who had been adopted for very good reasons discovered that adoption and the existence of a large extended family when they were adults.

In the end one sibling was cautiously interested in meeting the rest of the family, the other bitterly resented being told that they were adopted and expressed a forcible wish never to hear the matter mentioned again and never to meet any other members of a family they did not acknowledge.

The important point is that not all the siblings have to react the same.

Also do not assume that all siblings have a warm family relationship. Cain and Abel were brothers. Your own lack of sibs when you were growing up may have led you to idealise their situation. It is possible that you may find yourself in the middle of bitter family in-fighting with one or both sides keen to drag you into the fight or even just to weaponise your existence. It's not likely, but it is possible.

If you can, look out for any clues which will tell you about differences of opinion. Treat all reactions with a little reserve, so that you do not find later that you have been put into a false position.

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