DEAR ABBY: I am a 22-year-old, single male who recently graduated from college. I received lots of congratulations in person and by phone, text and social media.

One of them came from a woman my age named “Bree.” When I responded, I didn’t recall ever having friended her but learned she’s a cousin who lives back east. Apparently, her mother and my father are siblings. When I asked my father about it, he got very defensive and told me whoever it was I spoke to is a complete and total liar. Ordinarily, I might have agreed, but his reaction tells me there’s a lot more to this.

I want to find out more. Neither of my parents will say a word about it, and I don’t know why. When I told them I plan to travel to the East Coast and meet Bree, I was told I may not be welcomed back if I do! This makes me wonder what horrible thing could have happened that would make a father consider disowning his son.

Because my father won’t share the truth with me, I am left with only this option. Pursue this, find part of my family I never knew existed and learn something, but lose the family I have and regret it forever. Any insight? — LOST COUSIN IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR COUSIN: I can offer insight, but not a roadmap for how to proceed. Family secrets can be devastating. That your father reacted so strongly shows how threatened he is that you might uncover something he isn’t proud of.

As a college graduate, I am sure you are familiar with the myth about Pandora’s box. While you may not lose your father if you delve into this, you may find that when you do, your image of him may be shattered. If you really feel you will “regret it forever” if you do, then make sure you are prepared for the possible penalty.

DEAR ABBY: My only son and his wife had their first baby recently. My daughter-in-law treats me terribly. She’s hypercritical of what I do or say. I am usually so blindsided I don’t have much of a reply.

When I attempted to help out with the laundry, cleaning, etc., I was met with more criticism and advice on how to perform those tasks. She also says I don’t know how to properly hold an infant. Abby, I have raised five grown children!

How can I change this situation? — PUNISHED FOR WANTING TO HELP

DEAR PUNISHED: Remind your daughter-in-law that you’re just trying to help her. She may not have been critical of your efforts as much as trying to convey how she would like those tasks done. However, if you can’t please her, take the hint and stop offering.

She may be a nervous new mother, but she appears to have gone overboard to the point of being tactless.

The next time she tells you you don’t know how to hold a baby, point out that you managed to raise five of them safely to adulthood. Then back off and give her some space because she may be hormonal and need it.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at http://www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in “What Every Teen Should Know.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)