With November being National Adoption Month, I was reminded of a blog I wrote about a year-and-a-half ago about parental expectations in adoption. I thought it would be timely to share it again this week. Expectations play such a big part in our role as either pre-adoptive or current adoptive parents. Naturally, we have high hopes for our child(ren). We pray that they succeed in life and we cheer them on in their accomplishments. At the same time, we need to remember that our children—especially if they are adopted internationally—come to us with many “gaps” in their history. Depending on the amount of background information that comes with our child (which can be highly inaccurate, even with children adopted domestically) there can be much more that we don’t know about their history that what we actually do know. Therefore, we must periodically adjust our expectations of our child—not lower our expectations mind you—but adjust them to the uniqueness and abilities of our child.
Your dream for your child to attend college may have to be adjusted if you discover that he or she has moderate or severe learning disabilities (common with children who have experienced a lot of trauma). Or, if you are White and your child is a person of color, you may be disappointed and hurt because your child does not seamlessly blend in with your family and friends, or your child’s Caucasian schoolmates. You may need to seek professional assistance if your child has difficult attaching to, and bonding with you. Please understand that these challenges are neither a negative reflection on you or your child. For most adopted children these are facts of life; and again, require an adjustment of our parental expectations.
The keys to navigating these and other adoptive parenting challenges are realism (or what I like to call “eyes wide open”), and grace on our part. Realism/”eyes wide open” involves keeping the big picture in front of us. We must always remember that our child’s story is not over no matter how tough the challenges may be. Grace involves the grace we give ourselves (i.e. adjusting our expectations of ourselves) as well as the grace we give to our special child—not the type of grace that excuses negative and harmful behaviors, but instead, a mindset that reminds us where our children have come from which enables us to meet them where they’re at. This grace and realism help us to keep our expectations in healthy adjustment and focus.
*For some helpful reading that addresses the issue of expectations, please check out the book list on the “RESOURCES” page of this website.