Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: I've found one of my half-sisters on Facebook. Would it be unkind to tell her of our true relationship?

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Dear Virginia,

I never knew my father. My mum had a one-night stand with a guy who then set up a new life abroad. Now I'm in my forties and have my own family – and I've found my father's sister, who knew about me. My father has never told his wife or his two daughters about me. I've found one of my half-sisters and become friends with her on Facebook. Would it be unkind to tell her of our true relationship? Or should I do the decent thing and accept the status quo?

Yours sincerely, Fred

Haven't you suffered long enough? You've had to spend your childhood without a father – and now you are a dad I bet the extent of your loss has come home to you sharply. You must be thinking: "Why didn't I have a dad to love me and help me grow up?" It's no wonder that you have become interested in finding out about the other side of your family.

But what interests me is why you want, first, to contact your half-sister. The plan might backfire. The person you want to get in touch with, before anyone else, is surely your father. If you got in touch with him, who knows – he might welcome you and everything would flow from there. Unlikely, but it is a possibility. Could you not ask your aunt to convey a message to him – you could give her an open letter – asking him to get in touch?

If you mentioned in the letter that you know his daughter, your half-sister, from Facebook, but that she knows nothing of your relationship, it would make him realise there might be a risk of your coming clean to her, and he would see it would be far better that this information should come initially from him. In other words, he should be given the chance to explain the situation to his family before you come crashing in.

If he refuses contact, and asks you not to be in touch with your half-sisters, I don't see why you should do what he says. You have had a life without a father, you have been good to him, as it were, by sparing him any responsibility for 40 years – so he owes you at least a cup of tea and the opportunity just to be in contact with his daughters, your half-sisters. If he really wanted never to be contacted by you again, then he could have found ways to keep himself hidden. He's surely aware there's someone out there who must be curious to find him. It wasn't too difficult for you to discover your aunt....

Visit www.adoptionsearchreunion .org.uk – for information on the pros and cons of getting in touch, and how the whole tricky issue is best handled. There are millions of pitfalls and it's best, first, to get advice from experts.

It is not your fault that you were born, or didn't have a father, and you have an absolute right to reveal yourself, find out where half of you came from and perhaps form a friendship with your dad or half-sisters. It's not a case of not doing the decent thing. The decent thing is not just to give yourself a dad, but also to provide your children with extra, loving aunts and, hopefully, a grandfather.

Readers say...

Let your aunt mediate

If your father knows about you, but has chosen not to tell his family about you, your appearance in their lives could make them question the honesty of the man they know and love as a father or husband, and you could be abandoned a second time.

Why not speak to your aunt and ask her to mediate? If your father wants contact, take it from there. If not, only you can decide whether to let your sister know who you are. She will either seek further contact, or not, but at least the truth will have given her this choice.

Christina Burton, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex

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Go right ahead

A few years ago, by luck and circumstances, I "found" my biological parents. Since then, a new world has opened up. My family has extended and I have some truly fantastic people in my life. So go for it. Ask your father's sister for support. Fate has brought you this close to knowing your family, so don't give up.

ZoE-Laura, Ely, by email

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Just back off

Let sleeping dogs lie. Your father didn't have a relationship with your mother and never intended to have one with you. He's unlikely to welcome you if you go upsetting his tidy life and family. As much as you might want to further develop your relationship with your half-sister, it would be kinder to everyone if you just backed off.

Sandra Griffiths, Lowestoft, Suffolk

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Don't trust Facebook

I don't think you should tell your half sister who you are without asking your aunt. She will know what her niece is like and whether she is likely to welcome you into her life. Or contact your biological father to see whether he wants you to meet him and his family. If your father wants to introduce you to his family you are likely to have a better start with your sister than through Facebook!

Nowmi Zaman, Barrow-in-Furness, by email

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