As a good parent, you want to be as honest as possible with your child. You talk to them about the importance of eating their vegetables, being kind and doing their best in school. But when it comes to approaching a very adult subject with them-like paternity testing-you may find yourself at a loss. When’s the right time? How much do they need to know? Should you even tell them that swabbing their cheek is part of a test to determine their biological father? Is this one time when you shouldn’t be honest?
Because these are commonly-asked and very important questions, we recently conducted an opinion survey with a small sampling of testing-kit customers. The survey’s purpose was to gather information on what, if anything, these parents shared with their minor children about the testing process.
The Survey-by the Numbers
|45%||Respondents whose children were 1 year old or younger at the time of testing.|
|30%||Respondents with children ages 2-18 who did not discuss the purpose of the testing or the test results with their children.|
|77%||Respondents who think parents should talk about the purpose of the test with tweens (11-13 years) as well as older children, before they take the test.|
To Tell the Truth-(or not)
Parents in the survey who opted to tell their kids they were participating in paternity testing all had one basic thing in common: a desire to be upfront with their children. Here’s a sampling:
~ I just told her we needed to make sure.
~ I suggested to [my daughter] she could expect to go through a bit of an emotional roller coaster-it’s a bit like mourning [the parental relationship she thought she had with her stepdad]. I told her no matter what, her bio dad would never want to replace the man she knows as dad.
~ My daughter and her bio dad took the test together and anxiously awaited the results. Because of talking about all the possibilities ahead of time, the [positive] news was well-received.
~ I told my child I want her to know the truth and be able to know who her real father is, whoever he may be.
~ Explain every step of the testing process, results, and real consequences of the results. Stay positive; don’t scare them. Be completely honest and transparent at an appropriate level. If they express fears, take the time to acknowledge those fears and give them truthful information. Kids are incredibly intuitive and resilient.
If, for whatever reason, parents choose not to tell the child about the purpose of paternity testing before using the kit, these suggestions were offered for telling kids why they are having their cheeks swabbed:
~ I would just tell her that we’re checking for medical problems in our family’s history.
~ I will tell him that taking this test is for medical reasons.
There’s no Absolute Right or Wrong
As the variety of responses in this survey shows, everyone has a valuable opinion, but there really isn’t any one-size-fits-all solution for every parent, child and circumstance. Whether or not to tell a child the real purpose of paternity testing is a highly-personal decision that depends on a unique combination of factors. For example:
- The child’s age.
- The child’s emotional maturity/stability.
- The child is asking questions.
- Family dynamic.
- Whether or not the suspected bio dad is in her life and wants to be involved in her upbringing.
- The risk of a medical condition that may have been inherited from the bio dad.
The bottom line is, as parents we’d like to think we instinctively have all the answers for difficult situations, but sometimes even the most confident parents need a little help. Before making the decision whether or not you should talk about the purpose of DNA testing with your child, it’s a good idea to do some research. Here are some quick suggestions:
- Learn more about the test and the positive effects it can have on your family.
- Talk to friends or family members who have had testing done.
- Join the conversation, ask questions, or just read and learn from online forums like these:
Most importantly, keep in mind the results of this type of DNA test have the potential to be a real life-changer for everyone, and most especially for your child. Because every situation is unique, don’t rely solely on the internet or friends’ advice. Be sure to consult with experts such as your family doctor, school psychologist, or counselor who can give you the professional, unbiased opinions you need to make the wisest and most informed decisions for your family.Got an opinion? Let your voice be heard and help other parents! Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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