It’s never fun being the bearer of bad news, especially when it involves your child. You don’t want to see that look in his eyes that reflects disappointment or pain. Sometimes as parents though we have to do the hard jobs, the ones no one else wants to do. If your parenting journey involves an adopted child, you must decide whether or not to tell him the secrets of his past. You may have to tell him that his birth mother was addicted to drugs. It may seem easier to sweep all that under the rug and consider it irrelevant. Sparing your child that conversation may feel like the right thing to do, but it’s not. When your child grows into an adult, you have a responsibility to tell him. Here’s why.

1. It’s his story. No matter how sad or devastating his adoption story may seem to you, it belongs to your child. That story is part of his past, and therefore, a part of his identity. All of who a person becomes is made from the tiny details that have occurred over a lifetime. Also, knowing his birth mother was addicted to drugs may go a long way in his reconciliation of why he was placed for adoption. It’s a big deal to an adoptee to know the reason why a birth parent chose not to parent him. Being addicted to drugs is a reasonable explanation.

2. It’s his future. Society has been going back and forth for years about whether drug addiction is a disease or not. Some say it’s hereditary, while others disagree. I’m not going to get into that debate, but I will say that it should be up to your child to decide how to use that information. He may want to watch his substance consumption for possible signs of addiction. He may choose not to drink at all in light of the situation of his placement. It’s also possible that the news won’t change his behavior at all. The point is that it’s his decision to make.

3. It’s his health. If your child’s birth mother used drugs while she was pregnant with him, that could cause health risks later in life that he needs to be aware of. Everyone knows that babies born addicted to drugs experience withdrawal symptoms and are more likely to have developmental deficits as children. What most people don’t consider is that some health concerns carry into adulthood. According to, “Prenatal exposure to cocaine may lead to an increased risk of seizures, depression, schizophrenia, and Parkinson disease.” It is believed to also increase the risk of heart disease. Growing up as an adoptee, my main concern was my health. I wanted to know if there were conditions that ran in my biological family that I should be on the lookout for. I definitely would have wanted to know if my birth mother had been addicted to drugs.

While it may seem easier to make up a nice adoption story or simply say you don’t know why he was placed, that’s not how you should handle the situation. The truth has a way of revealing itself in time. It will hurt your child more to learn that you lied or hid things from him. That may drive a wedge between the two of you when he needs you the most.