Life is full of expectations and our parenting journey is no exception. We all come into adoptive parenting with a set of expectations for how things will or should unfold. This is completely normal, though each of our expectations may be different. Expectations give us some framework for how the future will be and can be motivating for us to keep journeying on.
Where we can experience challenges though is when our expectations are actually unrealistic but we do not realize it yet. And when our parenting expectations do not match current reality, then we can become understandably alarmed. My own parenting journey is no exception to this. I began my adoptive parenting journey in 2005 confident that all the ways I had parented our five biological children would also be effective for our Russian- born, orphanage- raised twin six year old sons. I had an expectation that my prior experience and success as a parent would carry over with my twins. I expected that because I had already parented four children through the age my twins were at the time of adoption, that I could expect the same great results. I expected the twins to respond and thrive under my experienced parenting as my other children had.
I was surprised at the reality. It hit me hard. I immediately thought it was the twins’ issues but soon learned that it was my unrealistic expectations of how easily they could integrate into the family.
Part of my disconnect between expectation and reality was that I did not understand the effect that early trauma had on my twins. I thought that my tried-and-true parenting techniques were the answer: just do more of what worked with my biological children. But my biological children already felt safe with me, for example. My adopted twins did not. It wasn’t until I began to directly meet their needs for feeling safe and cared for did I see them relax and settle in to FAMILY. I missed some opportunities with them because I held on to unrealistic expectations.
So now I think it is a good practice to periodically take stock of expectations and I encourage you to do the same – for your adopted child, for your other family members, for yourself as a parent. Examining one’s current expectations in a variety of areas can be helpful at any stage of your parenting, to see if there are any areas where you can make adjustments as necessary. Below is a short 2 minute video that discusses the kinds of expectations that are commonly in need of considering as we parent our adopted child or children. I welcome your thoughts and comments.