Every child who is adopted will eventually have to work through feelings of loss.

If you’ve considered adoption and appreciate advice from someone who’s been there and done that, Mary Ostyn is one to listen to.

She’s a former obstetric nurse, speaker, and writer of several books including A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family and  .

Having gone through the process six times, Mary knows about adoption and offers wise advice for couples and families about helping your adoptive child navigate through their feelings of loss or grief.

“Sometimes when people adopt they assume that if they are adopting a child as an infant, that maybe the child won’t have loss. But the truth is that any child who was separated from their first family has already experienced loss.”

Every individual child will experience feelings of loss differently and intensity levels of those feelings will vary. Mary advises adoptive parents to be ready for your child to ask questions about their adoption.

“A child may have just really smooth sailing in their early years, preschool years, but then they may have some real questions come up. Of course adolescence is a common time where kids will have questions, but even earlier kids may need to revisit the facts of what you know about their first family.”

We learn about the range of emotions and questions that adopted children are trying to navigate through.

“A really big question in an adoptee’s mind is often, Why were my first parents not able to parent me? Was there something I did?

“That’s often actually something that kids assume is true…that maybe they weren’t a good child and they were sent away for that reason.”

Mary encourages adoptive parents to meet their child on a deeper emotional level, despite personal challenges.    

“Sometimes that can be challenging if we have gone through loss to come to adoption ourselves, and we can sometimes feel a little intimidated by the idea that there are other parents out there in the wings.”

“It can sometimes be hard to just be straight forward with their kids and say, ‘You know what, I find I bet you’re thinking about your first mom, you know it’s her birthday today?’ or ‘It’s Christmas and you have memories of time with your mom from a different year.’

As parents, we need prepare for these important conversations with our children, at any stage in their life.

“There’s all sorts of times and triggers and reasons that a child might need to talk through some feelings about that fact – it’s a really pivotal part of a child’s life; whether it happens to them in infancy, or whether they come to a new family at an older age with memories already of their first family.”

Highlight: Talking to your adopted child about loss

Advice for adoptive families