Family Trees and Incest


Hello I am new here and come from a painful family history of abuse, emotional, sexual, physical. I have three kids now and am happily married, my question is, the girls (Ages 3, 2 and 4 months) will one day start asking about my parents. My father is my grandfather, my mother is my sister… What do I tell them? Family Trees are so painful to me! Please… any advice is helpful, also any advice on overcoming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Thank you.


First off I want to congratulate you on something. You come from an abusive place, and you have made the decision to sheild your chidlren from the same family members that abuse you! Do you know how many stories I have heard of a woman being abused by a dad, uncle, brother…etc…and when she grows up she lets that same abuser spend time with her own kids because she doesn’t want to rock the boat or cause trouble in the family. If they abused you, the will abuse your own kids if they get the chance. Plain and simple. My own mother-in-law did this with her abusive father being allowed around his grand-daughter (sometimes alone) and it disgusts me every time I think about it.
You have broken the cycle. Whew!!! Good for you. I mean it.
When they ask about your parents…depending on your situation, I don’t think it is unreasonable to just say they are dead. If they abused you, they are dead to you anyways. Plus, if you are ever tempted to let them back into your life it is harder when you already said they were dead :wink:
Someday, when your kids are old enough to grasp it, you can tell them what happened to you. No need in making them sad and paranoid as small children.

You can also visit the Padre Pio Deliverance Center webpage, they have some Catholic prayers for generational healing.


When you are confronted with something that you can’t gloss over, you have to tell the truth. For many years you can redirect them and give them simple answers, but eventually they’ll have to know. First of all, it’s part of their own medical history. They need to be able to answer questions about their family members - just like anyone.

When the time is right, and they are old enough to handle the truth, you can start talking to them about it. Don’t make it seem like something that they have to be embarrased about; they’ve done nothing wrong and don’t need to feel guilt. They need the truth and to be reassured that they are neither responsible for their family tree, nor bound by it.

In my own life, i have three adopted babies. Each of them comes from homes with mental illness, sexual abuse, drug and/or alcohol abuse. When they get older, we’ll have open and honest discussions about their birht parents and what it might mean for them. I’ll have to educate them on the signs of mental illness and ensure that they know it’s not a weakness of character or an ugly defect, it’s just part of their family history.

I plan to introduce these concepts slowly, over time and repetitively. It won’t be some big dump when they are 14. At 5, we’ll talk about drugs and what they can do to people, for instance - generic people, not specific. As I talk to them more, I’ll get more personel. I’ll start bringing in their stories. They have to see themselves in a positive light regardless of the circumstances of their birth.

You have to work through it all yourself, first. If you’re not comfortable and confident, then you’ll be unable to help them. You may need to go to counseling and work through things first. Do that now while they’re still young.

Openness, honesty, reassurance and love. Just be sure they know they are special and loved for who they are, then with your help they can explore where they came from.


I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying that a hurtful family member was dead, personally. First, it doesn’t solve the issue. If your kids ask for names, you still would have to give a reason for not drawing out that tree. Secondly, when they find out the truth, it will be confusing. Thirdly, it doesn’t explain that they need to be careful if these people ever show up.

In my family’s experience, it would be better to say that any abusive family members “made the choice not to be a part of my life”, and let them gradually find out that the choice was made by being hurtful to you and other loved ones without giving specifics that you don’t want to provide or think they aren’t ready for. That way, they are on alert if they ever encounter those relatives.

What is your relationship with your mother / sister most like? Non-existant / abusive, mother-daughter, or sisters? I would just tell your kids about that relationship - the emotional one - for now. If the actual relationship is more complex and between mother and sister, I would pick the one that is closest to the emotional truth and just tell them about that biological relationship for now. When drawing your family tree, draw it to reflect only relationships that exist both biologically AND emotionally. Put black boxes for ancestors that obviously exist, but with whom you have no relationship - parents and grandparents of yours, especially your biological father and biological grandfather, who are clearly unworthy of being named in your family tree. Don’t show other relatives with whom you have no familial relationship.

If you don’t have any relationship with either your biological mother or biological father, this could mean you don’t have a family tree at all - just two black boxes where your parents should be and no biological siblings (that you show). That’s okay. Just tell your children that you don’t have a family, that your biological parents chose not to be a part of your life. If you ever have reasons (like genetics) to discuss them, you can use terms like “biological male parent” to place the appropriate emotional distance in your conversation.

If they ever have a school assignment to draw a family tree, just have them put black boxes down on your side. The teacher should be able to figure out what they mean enough to know better than to pry. At least they can put down a mother and father - that’s what will matter most to them in the end. Trust me, I’ve seen it. I have several sisters without parents, and their kids are fine with having mothers without real parents and accept that there is no grandparent there to have a relationship with.

My own family history isn’t quite so complex (no incest that resulted in pregnancy), but there are a number of similar elements. These are actual tactics that people in my family use to deal with these kinds of issues to put their children on alert while insulating them from the most painful parts.



ETA: As for the full story, I agree w/ ChosenAndCalled about revealing it gradually. However, incest is a very difficult subject and you probably won’t be able to even begin to discuss it except in the vaguest terms until they are teens or close to being teens. Hopefully this gives you some ideas for how to avoid lying while insulating them in the meantime.


I wouldn’t lie by telling the children they’re dead. If they ever showed up, it would be very difficult to explain. Someday at some time I think you will have to tell them the truth for truth’s sake and for their safety. Projecting, I’m thinking if anything ever happened to you and they came around, the kids would have no idea why you kept them from knowing them.

Also do you have a relationship with your Mom? Because I see her as a victim too.

I’d also suggest you go talk to your priest, and/or a professional who specializes in incest. I would think they’d have some ideas on how to handle your situation satisfactorly for you and your children. :blessyou:


I would suggest that you really concentrate on catechizing your children NOW, get a good start at an early age, ingraining in them your faith history, and practice a Total Consecration for your whole (immediate) family. This will prepare them to deal with the ‘flaws’ of humanity, as we all have issues within our own families that are best overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. We should all be aspiring to the ideals and model of the Holy Family. This will also have a dual-effect of helping to provide healing for you and the PTSD, and God-willing, your extended family. This way, when your children come to the age when they can understand the actual issues in your family tree, they will already have a firm foothold in the faith to lean on to help deal with it and already know the spiritual solutions to overcome this and any other issues that pop up as they mature.

Here is a link to a free online ‘family friendly’ catechism:

Here is a link to a free and complete online Total Family Consecration program:

I endorse these programs because they have provided a real transformation in my own family as we dealt with our own crisis, and I can think of no more powerful tools for doing such - I mean really, show me anything more powerful than imploring Christ, through Mary, in union with St. Joseph (aka, the Holy Family) as they would want every family to.

Gary R.


Thanks to everyone who responded and to anyone who read this and is praying for me and my family. My relationship with my mother, that’s kind of hard to explain… sometimes its great, I love talking with her and spending time with her when I can ( When I married my husband lived 8 hours away, we met on a Catholic website, Ave Maria Single Catholics) so I moved where he was, partly to get away, but also because you can’t move a farm:) Anyways, Mom is also suicidal and taking care of my youngest sister age 6. I’m 30, Mom, my two sisters for sure one of my brothers and me were abused by my dad. Mom was since childhood into her 40s I agree, She’s a victim too.
Thank you for your advice, I don’t think I’d ever be able to tell the kids about the incest, I was told at age 14 and I went into depression from it and stayed depressed until I got help when I was pregnant with my second daughter. My heart goes out to anyone who has been through it, or is going through it now.Its a good idea to tell them that they “made the choice not to be a part of my life”, I hadn’t thought about phrading it that way.
I am slowly working on relifion. My dad was outwardly a good catholic, I went to Mass with him daily, said the rosary with himdaily, talked for hours on the Catholic Faith. Maybe I should add here that for some reason, I had repressed memories. of the events of abuse, I have tried many times to convince myself it never happened that the flashbacks aren’t real… but that wouldn’t explain the odd events in my life, that these flashbacks perfectly fit. I can’t go into any details. This is why It was so devastatung to me when my youngest brother announced how much he had been abused. My dad is currently in jail, they might have him committed. Please pray my dad gets the help he needs. He had brainwashed my siblings and me, and mom (from young on) that him and mom were married in the eyes of God. In our circumstances it was right. But NEVER tell anyone else… they wouldn’t understand our circumstances. When I told my husband he patiently found every spot in the Catechism that proved him wrong. I told my husband, why didn’t he find that? He had a catechism, He found a spot in the Bible that my dad said,“I don’t know why but I’ve looked and nowhere in the Bible does it say a man can’t have sex with his daughter” That really irratated my husband, he found the verse in question and he said it said that a man shall not have sex with a woman and her daughter. My husband said "Your grandma is a woman right?"
I’d write more but the kids will be waking up soon. Thanks so much everyone!!! I apperciate it
God Bless


I certainly can’t make a better judgment than you can, but I want to just remind you that your kids’ reactions will be different than yours. You grew up in a dysfunctional situation, and the abuse directly affected you, and the person who raised you. It makes sense that you would be hurt badly by this revelation (although perhaps you were already hurt by it). Your kids are growing up in a healthy family situation, and the abuse will not be personal to them like it was to you. Not that they won’t react at all, or that they won’t question things, but it is much less likely to have such a strong effect on them, because it won’t mean as much to them. I have a close family member who was a victim of incest. When I found out, it shocked me, saddened me, forever affected the way I view my family, and the way I view boundaries/parenting/etc…But it didn’t cause depression, or a negative life-changing problem for me, because I was an outsider to the abuse. I think that in the same way, your kids will be outsiders to this situation, and so it won’t rock them to their core like it did you. Also, remember that they will ask WHY the family members are out of your life. They will probably dig until they get answers, and hiding it from them forever might be very difficult, and might cause them to mistrust you (you know the way people are when they know secrets are being kept from them). I do think that you could say that “the problems are adult issues that make you very sad” and that you’d like to wait until they are a certain age to explain them. In fact, that’s what I tell my own kids about things they’re too young to hear - I say “someday you will learn about this, but for now, I’m not going to explain it, so I can help protect your mind and heart.”



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