Dear Cheryl: I’m 41. When I was 17 I had an affair with my 31-year-old high school teacher. It ended when I graduated, and I never saw Mrs. White again.

Recently, a young man named Mike contacted me and claimed that he’s my son. He’s the right age. When Mrs. White’s husband was hospitalized with kidney failure, Mike learned that he couldn’t have been his father. (He was tested as a possible donor.)

Mr. White passed away, and Mike confronted his mother. She gave him my name. Now they both want me in their lives.

I now recognize that my relationship with Mrs. White was abusive. She exploited her power and my immaturity. At the time I was ashamed. I’ve never acknowledged the relationship to anyone, and besides Mrs. White I saved sex for marriage. My wife thinks I was a virgin. I never corrected her because I didn’t want to think about how much of my innocence was stolen from me.

I don’t want to have anything to do with my abuser. But Mike is completely innocent, and I can understand his curiosity.

Bringing Mike into my life could wreck my marriage. My wife may not be able to accept that I had sex before we were married. If I had told her I had when we met, she would have been fine with it. But it was too painful to discuss. Now she may feel betrayed. And how are my six kids going to react?

Maybe everyone will feel great, or maybe it will destroy my family. My first concern is for my wife, then our children, then Mike. What do you think? Keep in mind Mike could always go directly to my wife and out me. — Father Of Seven

Dear Father Of Seven: I strongly encourage you to tell your family about Mike because it’s the right thing to do, and because, as you say, they might find out anyway. It’s so much better if it comes from you.

Now, let’s take your concerns one at a time. First, your wife. I think you’re seriously underestimating her. You’ve been married a long time. She knows you and your character. If she can’t understand the shame you felt when you were 17, then she needs counseling in order to come around. Everything you did was perfectly understandable.

Regarding your kids, the older ones are probably teenagers themselves, or older. Use this as a great way to reinforce how the decisions they make now can have lifelong consequences. Encourage them to get to know Mike — first as a person, then hopefully as a friend, and perhaps one day as a brother. Tell the younger ones as much as they need to know, depending on their ages.

Mike is blameless, as you said. You may never be a father to him, but you could be a friend or a mentor. Get to know him, and let him get to know you. Allow your relationship to develop.

As far as Mrs. White is concerned, it might be very helpful to confront her. Let her know how you feel. Make her aware of the damage she did to you.

A lot has been dumped on your plate. You may want to talk to someone to help you sort out all your feelings.

— Got a problem? Send it, along with your questions and rants to cheryllavinrapp@gmail.com. And check out my ebook, “Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front.”