What our children need most to hear from us and experience in their very core is that there is a God Who is strong enough to take them away from the places of darkness and loss and bring them to a high ground of safety and stability. Our children need to experientially witness the greatness of God to rescue and restore. We’re not the heroes because we adopted. God is the hero of their story. And mine. And yours.
One of the things I talk about with the families I serve is the attachment cycle, that built-in mechanism through which all infants learn about their world and their worth as a human being. Attachment is very important to proper human development. The cycle goes like this: (1) a baby has a need, (2) their body is alerted that something is not right in their world and they express this distress. (3) A caregiver comes to meet the need. (4) Trust develops. Baby learns that someone comes to help them.
Attachment relates to answering questions of identity such as ‘who am I?’ ‘Am I precious?’ ‘What is my place in this world?’ This cycle also sets the early stage for us humans to understand the world around us. “Is this a safe place?” Here is a graphic showing this cycle in infants, but keep in mind that this attachment cycle does not go away as the baby matures. All humans move through this cycle throughout our development. When a baby’s needs are met, attachment grows. In fact, this is the mechanism through which attachment grows.
When needs are met with a caring adult, the cycle comes to a beautiful closure where the baby is satisfied. Then, when a new need arises, the infant knows that their expression of a new need (crying) will be satisfied by a caring person. And the cycle continues, getting stronger.
But when there exists no caring adult, this attachment cycle is broken. In the graphic below, arousal refers to the feelings and body sensations that occur due to the need. It is in the arousal stage that the infant expresses a need (#2 above).
If a caregiver does not meet the infant’s need, this leads to emotional and physical distress and the cycle of attachment is broken. Infants who have had this cycle broken too many times will simply stop asking for help. In an infant, it may be that they just stop crying. But internally, they are still very much distressed and it will come out in other ways. As the infant develops physically, gowing into a child, then adolescent, then adult, this broken cycle from infancy still registers deep within them. They have come to believe that people are not trustworthy. This is broken attachment. They do not ask for help with words, but they may ‘act out’ due to unmet needs.
I use TBRI to support families with children who have come from a hard place – whose children have had this cycle of attachment broken too many times. Basically what I am doing is helping adoptive and foster parents support a new and healthy attachment between themselves and their child. There is always hope!
Let’s go back to the first picture I posted.
Do YOU have this kind of attachment with your Heavenly Father? Admittedly, I am working on this, myself. Have you considered your attachment to God in this way? Do you have trouble ‘expressing a need’ because you don’t think He will meet your need? The psalmist knows the truth.
If you would like to learn more about how you can create a new and healthy attachment with your child, please let me know through the Get In Touch button.
You are of a chosen generation. You are feeling that in-between space which consists of where you once were and where you are going In Him. Look to God’s creation for inspiration here. Is it any wonder that the caterpillar builds a cocoon to hide away from the world during its transformation? The hermit crab buries itself in sand as it molts. But the difference is that they do not stay in the in-between, they press on to NEWNESS as they hear the voice of their Creator calling unto them to TRANSFORM. And so they obey. Is it instinct? Is it more than instinct? What I know is that you are not meant to permanently dwell in this in-between stage you find yourself in; you are not meant to live here. But it is ok that you find yourself there at this moment in time.
SH’ma. Listen for when it is time to arise.
Sh’ma is Hebrew for ‘listen and adjust your life to the Words you hear.’ Listen and allow yourself to BECOME that which He calls you to become. When it is time, Arise! In an act of love and devotion and faith in the One Who gives you His NEWNESS, arise. THIS is your identity; just as much as it is in the Before and in the In-between. Your identity is ‘the one who moves toward his/her God’.
Even if you have turned away from SO MUCH…now it is time to move on with the Lover of your soul. It is in the moving on WITH God, that you find your TRUE IDENTITY, the one He has had for you all along. Hebrit in the Hebrew language is ‘Hebrew’. One who crosses over. You are a Hebrew. And you are loved. And He died for you so that you could BE with Him. That is your identity. Don’t despise the journey, yours may look different from anyone else’s. The prize is in moving closer to God.
People who are over-scheduled, over-worked and over-stressed are lethargic and not able to reach for much beyond the daily grind. I know this by watching people and by experiencing it myself at times. In the West, we’ve taken this to an art form and even consider it a badge of honor to be so busy in life. I wonder where this came from? It is not from God. He regularly scheduled breaks for us, with weekly sabbaths, monthly observances of the new moon, and cyclical feast and observance days in His calendar. By and large Christians are not taking advantage of His Days and so they slumber on, dreaming they are awake. Ok, I’m being dramatic, but I want to set the stage. Christians are a tired, overworked people with a solution right in front of us that we don’t see.
The solution is to stop striving for identity in the things that we do. Instead we can look at our identity as the people of God, based on His choosing us, not anything we did. Identity is about membership in a group and is essentially social. We are who we are in community. We are the children of God, not a collective of individuals. 1 Corinthians 12 talks about how each of us has a vital part to play in the collective Body of Messiah. Fierce independence is a western ideal, not a hebraic one. And really, we are poorer for not taking advantage of the collective identity we have. God’s Word is meant to be lived out in community. So are His holy days marking our son (and daughter)ship.
A great way to integrate your adopted child into your family and bring them identity is through your becoming more identified with God’s family through His holy days. Celebrating these days with others just like you around the globe is a great way to demonstrate belonging. We are in the season of the fall biblical holy days so this is a great time to build traditions in your family that set you apart as family and God’s family. As your child awakens to their identity as your son or daughter and no longer an orphan, take this time to also awaken to your own identity as a child of God and no longer a spiritual orphan. Use God’s identifiers. Be the Body of Messiah.
The Fall Biblical Days
The first of the fall biblical days is addressed in the following scriptures:
Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month, you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any laborious work, but you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD'” (Leviticus 23:23-25).
“And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work, For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.” (Numbers 29:1)
The set apart day occurs in the seventh month of the Biblical calendar (Not July on our western calendars) so it parallels the Sabbath (7th day of the week) as a special and holy time to seek God. It is as if we have divine permission to set aside the things that distract us from seeking God deeply.
Day of Trumpet Blowing
Interestingly, this holiday has no name given in the scriptures. It’s referred to by several names, one of them being Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar or rams horn), so it became known as the Feast of Trumpets.
Scripture reveals the prophetic meaning of the Feast of Trumpets with its sounding of the trumpet/horn. This holy day points forward to a time when God’s people will be gathered back to the land (Isaiah 27:13). Gathering implies first identifying. Many of God’s people are already awakening to their identity in Him. Also, this day points to the time when Messiah will return (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). Other rabbinical traditions teach the blowing of trumpets is a reminder of the ram’s horns blown by Joshua and the Israelites at Jericho (Joshua 6); and also a reminder of the ram that Abraham sacrificed in place of his son Isaac (Gen. 22), pointing to Yeshua/Jesus.
This season asks, ‘will you hear and heed the call of the shofar? Reflection, repentance, and renewing our heart toward God, self, and man are all deep aspects of this day. It’s as if we are being called to awaken from a spiritual sleep by the sound of the shofar.
I think sometimes when we parent hurt children, we get so caught up in what isn’t that we forget the Who Is and we forget that as parents we have His authority to speak health and healing into our child. We can speak God’s life into our children, we can recognize His life in our own being. We are the ones God entrusted our children to raise. This is part of your identity.
For many of us parents of children from hard places, we get overwhelmed with our child’s needs and can only think in the here and now, like changing behavior and avoiding more problems. Who can blame us? Being in the trenches creates understandable desire for easy and immediate outcomes, doable in the now, for weary bodies and souls. “I just want this to stop right now.“
When we have a breather from today’s chaos, then we’ll think about long term goals for our children’s futures, right? I totally get that. The problem is, we might not get that breather unless we intentionally take a pause in the middle of the chaos, and reassess what our goals are and what they can be to offer the greatest healing for our child. Can we even look long term in the middle of today’s struggles and not be afraid of the future? I think this is a problem common to humanity.
Perhaps a starting place is acknowledging that God’s Kingdom life is one with no anxiety about ‘tomorrow’, rather, it involves being focused on the settled work of Jesus. He overcame. We can overcome. We can help our child overcome. End of story.
As we seek God’s perspective, we find that worry and anxiety fall away. We begin to focus more on the things that are important to Him and less on the things we think are important but are not. Our long term plans for our children will be most effective when we do not let fear determine our steps. But walking in this is not easy is it? Looking long term with fear and worry is not the answer because it leads to parenting choices in the short turn that can actually work against the security and connection we are trying to create in our homes for our children.
Short term parenting can lead to reactive parenting, which negatively affects our children for the future. Click the link here to read more about long term vs short term parenting, from a blogger back in 2012, which I think gives a good view on this subject. No guilt trip is intended, but rather a hope to get you thinking about long term, even in the midst of short term needs.
God is a God of connection and relationship and He created this need in us. When we have this view in mind, even when correcting our child’s behaviors, we are close to the heart of the Father, Who corrects us in love while desiring closeness.
I often find myself astounded by the idea that I am a daughter of the Most High God – that I am a full partaker of His Covenant faithfulness (and its responsibilities) as an act of God as Spirit. God breathes life into what is mortal and corrupted and we are brought into God’s family through His choice, not as natural sons and daughters but as chosen ones.
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”Romans 8:14-15
Because God is the one who chooses to adopt, the process depends solely on Him. We do not have to earn sonship. Even in our imperfections, He chooses us. There is much freedom in that. That is truth. But what happens when we do not take hold of that truth? What happens when we hold on to our former status?
For me, I act like a spiritual orphan again. I go around looking for love and acceptance in the eyes of humans. I shrink back from my Covenant responsibilities and act like a slave to sin again. I ‘act up’ and do not obey my Heavenly Father. I mistrust Him. And it is not just me, we all do this when we take our thoughts off of the wonderful truth that we are sons and daughters of God. And what is God’s response when we stray? He invites us again to come to Him and remember our identity in Him. In fact, He even created a calendar of activities for us so that we can remember our identity in Him. More on that later.
What identity is your child walking in? Is he or she secure in their place in your family? Or are they still trying to earn a way in? Are they walking in their new status as your son or daughter? Or do they still feel like they are on the outside, looking in? Remember, children who come from loss often carry a spirit of orphanhood with them even when the truth is that they have belonging in your family. Much of the acting out we see in our children is that they are unsure of to whom and to Whom they belong.
Consider some activities you can do with your child to help him or her know by experience that they belong. Do you have a regular ‘family time’? Do you have family rituals you can participate in together, things that say ‘we are family’? It could be fun to come up with new rituals – those activities that say WE ARE FAMILY. I think it is in our nature to like to celebrate together, as a showing that we belong. I mean, how many man-made celebrations do we have here in the west? And don’t our children love to participate in them with us, especially when we put our own family ‘spin’ on them? Of course! Did you know that God has His own ‘family rituals’ too, that He invites His children to participate in? They are in the bible and they are for US!
God has family rituals and celebrations that mark us as His!
An often-neglected truth is that God created His divine calendar on the fourth day of creation, to teach us about His plan of redemption through Jesus/Yeshua the Messiah. “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years”. (Gen.1:14) The word seasons (Hebrew word moed, or moedim in the plural form) isn’t seasons like we think of the words for spring, summer, fall, and winter. Moed means “an appointed time, a festival.”
Also in Psalm 104:9 “God appointed the moon for seasons”, the word seasons is “moedim”. God appointed the moon to determine the appointed times and festivals. In the ancient times the prophets and the apostles looked to the moon to determine the God-inspired calendar, knowing that the new moon marks the beginning of a month, and a full moon the middle of a month. His set apart days were determined by moon phase. At creation.
It is amazing to realize that these “moadim-appointed times” were set in the earth prior to the creation of any living being. Before man was ever created, before any sin was committed, God had already created a timetable for His children to meet with Him as a sign of belonging. In the Amplified Bible Genesis 1:14 says, “Let them be signs, and tokens (these lights) of God’s provident care”. Provident care points to our son (daughter)ship in Him. These appointed times are signs of God’s agreement with us, that He is our God and we are His people. When we celebrate them together with Him and others, we are saying to the world that WE ARE FAMILY.
We are coming up on the fall celebrations, starting with the Feast of Trumpets. Maybe this is the year you and your family can celebrate together the wonderful truth that no one can take away from you – YOU BELONG TO GOD.
Facebook is a source for some great memes. I love this one I saw today, perfect for September 1st! Here in Montana, the leaves are not changing colors yet, but the promise is in the air. Fall is my favorite time of year, perhaps as a throw-back to my southern roots because it gets so hot in Arkansas where I grew up and we all longed for cool relief. Maybe if I was a Montana native I wouldn’t love autumn so much, because it is a reminder of the frigid winters here.
But maybe I love autumn the best of all the seasons because somewhere deep in my spirit I recognize autumn for its themes of a final harvest before the dormant period. There is such rapid growth of life during the spring, development during the summer and first harvests, and then comes those amazing leaves in autumn which change color before falling to the ground. Winter provides a rest and snuggling in.
“The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.”
What is God asking YOU to let go of this season? Just as tree leaves turn vibrant color as if to say, ‘pay attention to me’, perhaps there are things God is highlighting for you, in your life? God is asking me to let go of guilt and shame for things He has already forgiven me of that I repented of as a younger parent who did not know better. My children are now adults and I still try to carry guilt that is no longer mine to carry. God is highlighting that, and telling me to let it go as an act of honor for what Jesus/Y’shua did for me already with His Resurrection.
Are you carrying guilt like this? Are there things the enemy whispers to you now that that you know better, about things you did when you didn’t know better? Here me in this, if you have already repented of it, that is not your voice of accusation. That is certainly not God’s voice. His conviction about unrepented sin comes with the promise of restoration and return to relationship with Him. He NEVER accuses you of things you are already forgiven of. We are not designed to look back on past actions we have repented of, and dwell on failures as if we will never rise above.
Is it time to let go of this kind of guilt and shame? Watch the leaves. See them turn bright colors. Watch them fall. And remember to let go.
Father, today I ask forgiveness of all the negative and harmful words I have spoken about myself, all the times I listened to the enemy speak for me and for you. I thank you that you have forgive me of _______, and I will walk in that forgiveness from today forward. Help me experience your Presence in my life, to KNOW that I am forgiven. Let me use my thoughts and actions to honor the Forgiveness you have given me through Your Son. I ask this in the merit and worth of Jesus/Y’shua, Who did so much for me. Amen.
Much of what TBRI talks about is creating an environment for your child that lessens the number of times your hurt child acts out, and decreases their episodes of dysregulation. But a huge area of challenge I hear from parents and caregivers (and faced myself as a parent) involves the times when your child is already dysregulated. In that state of being, you are no longer looking for proactive solutions to avoid the meltdown, you’re deep into behavior management of the current episode. This has to stop now!
While it is a reasonable thing to expect a healthy child to calm down on their own, for many of our kids who come from abuse and neglect environments and for our kids whose regulatory systems are underdeveloped for any number of other reasons, this is asking for something our children are not yet capable of doing.
I need to share a biological truth with you that, when I first heard it, hit me hard. In that moment of your child melting down, your child may not even be capable of processing information in their brains. In these moments, physiologically, they are in a quicksand of their body’s survival functioning processes and their rational mind goes ‘off-line’.
THERE IS A BATTLE GOING ON, UNSEEN.
There are so many higher order physical processes that go on internally to take one’s body from dysregulation to calm, and we don’t see any of it because it’s happening inside the body. Especially for our hurt children, these systems of restoring balance and calm are in direct competition with another body system that is much more developed in them and so highly sensitive that it takes over even the body’s natural desires to be calm and regulated . Our children have over- reactive and more developed survival systems of fight, flight, and freeze which kick in at times when it doesn’t even need to. A hurt child’s body registers survival mode when there is no real threat and this creates physical chaos that we see manifest as fits, temper tantrums, screaming, etc. The hard truth is that anything we say to them at this time does not carry the weight and meaning that we need it to in order for them to calm down on their own.
But hear this though. It is not a matter of they won’t listen, but they can’t. They are drowning in their dysregulation and their bodies become incapable of rescuing themselves. Here is a God moment if ever there is one, right? We know about being incapable of rescuing ourselves don’t we? We know that in a spiritual sense, we needed an outside force to take us from the chaos resulting from ‘lost-ness’ to the calm (shalom, peace) of reconciliation with God our Father. We could not, and can not save ourselves. Our children’s physical dyregulation is a mirror of that chaos we can remember ourselves experiencing before God rescued us. Does this change how you look at your dysregulated child?
This is how our own eyes and hearts of compassion can get kicked into gear, as we see parallels of our child’s physical dysregulations with our own spirituals needs that have been met through Jesus. It is a tall order, but here is what needs to happen. We need to remember that we needed rescuing from spiritual dysregulation – it was not something we were capable of doing for ourselves. We needed a calm, confident, and compassionate God to step outside of time and eternity and come to our level and take us out of that chaos. As image bearers of God to the world, we can model for our children in their physical dysregulation what Jesus did for us spiritually. We can be the calm, confident, and compassionate force for our children.
We can always learn the tips, techniques, and strategies to be there for our children, and to help co-regulate them out of their physical and emotional storms. That is the easy part, its just a matter of gaining knowledge. TBRI has some amazingly effective ones. But the real healing comes, I believe, when we parents co-labor with God to change the way we look at our children’s struggles. We can see even our child’s maladaptive behavior as an opportunity to model for them the love and rescue that God has done for us. We can transform our minds to see our children anew, through God’s compassion, with His calmness (shalom/peace) and in the confidence that He will help us heal our children when we co-labor with Him. Then we all win. We are all healed.
I love my children, loving them is easy. LOVING them is another story altogether. Let me explain what I mean. There is a kind of LOVE that the scriptures tell us is part of the character of God. I Corinthians 13 is a working template for love lived out within humanity, but even that is inadequate to express the core of Who God is, even when He is wrapped in humanity. The LOVE that Jesus demonstrated through His Life, Death and Resurrection is so poorly captured by those words in 1 Corinthians in any language – they are best experienced, rather than talked about. We are image-bearers of God, divinely designed to express a kind of LOVE in the world, and certainly in our families that transcends our best human attempts at lowercase love. It is important to remember, we are works in progress. We are still learning what it means to LOVE. And in the meantime, we love with lowercase love. We can only LOVE because He first LOVED us. 1John 9:14
I saw this meme on Facebook today and immediately my eye caught that last text: Love is not self-seeking. Mercifully, God has me in an intensive season of reminding me that I am fully forgiven for my shortcomings that I have repented of, so when I read that part of the meme, I felt no condemnation (praise God). But I did immediately jump back to how much as a young mother I needed to learn what self-seeking means in the context of parental love. I believe when we know what self-seeking looks like, we can turn away from it and back to LOVE. Once you (and I) know better, you (and I) can DO better. God LOVES us through this process. Remember that.
I’ve come to understand that there are a lot of not-so-obvious ways to self-seek as parents, even when we honestly think we are doing ‘xyz’ FOR our child or children. Before I spill my heart on that, let’s look at the phrase: love is not self-seeking.
Love does not seek its own desires.
Ou zetei ta heautes is what it says in the Greek. Loves does not seek its own interests. We know that 1 Corinthians was written by Paul, a Jewish Roman citizen who spoke Greek but whose thinking patterns were Hebrew, having been educated in the rabbinic tradition and with a firm foundation of what we have come to know as the ‘old testament’. Always remember though, that this heritage is infused with and made more full by Paul’s life-altering encounter with the risen Messiah, Jesus/Yeshua – the One Who embodied LOVE. These 14 attributes of Agape Love from 1 Corinthians carries the scent of One Who has forever changed the face of LOVE. Without Jesus, this LOVE would not be filled with the meaning that it is. With Jesus, we will still need His help to make it actionable and sustainable. Please remember that.
Bible scholar Skip Moen says that the phrase we are looking at is made up of zeteo, to seek and heautou, the reflexive “of himself.” Skip says it is the same kind of passionate seeking as in ‘seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness’. It is intense. LOVE does not seek things of itself, rather it seeks the well-being of others; it is not self-serving. This is not the same as self care. Self care is important. LOVE of this kind also willingly exposes itself to vulnerability and gives up self-service for the sake of another, regardless of the outcome. In this LOVE, there is no calculation of the probabilities of a return for this investment. This LOVE does not focus with strong intent on what I will get out of it.
Read how Skip Moen puts it:
“Love is about giving up who we are for someone else. This self-sacrifice does not come through human discipline, human altruism or human martyrdom. This love exists only because it is divinely produced in the believer caught in the grip of a bond stronger than death. If our attempts at love still rely on a calculation of the return, if we seek to protect ourselves in case of disaster, if we are restrained in our sacrifice because we worry about what will happen to us, then we have not understood the depth of real love. Love does not seek its own desires. “
So much more can be said, this only touches the surface of what it means to not seek one’s own desires. And to put it into the context of parenting will take many more conversations. But I think (hope) this gives you a starting point, or a continuing point to see the standard by which the people of God approach this particular attribute of LOVE. Yes, it is a tall order, and I personally fell short many times when it came to LOVING my family. But it is important to know what we are aiming toward, and that is the point of this blog post. Once we know the direction, we can align our lives to the Master, and live in our calling.
So what might happen when we as parents lowercaselove with self-desires at the forefront?
For me, it produced pockets of discord in my home and in my being. I experienced an encroaching bitterness and then shame that I tried to cover like Adam and Eve’s fig leaves (Genesis 3:7) through more acts of service toward my family in hopes I’d feel peace again. It produced a gnawing feeling that, because the results (fruit) were not what I’d hoped for, that I was a failure as a person. Guilt. Shame. Feelings of failure. More self-covering. I was looking for fruits of the Spirit but I got something different. When the fruit of LOVE is compared with the fruit of lowercase love, then it’s no wonder resentment builds. They do not produce the same fruit. It is no wonder because the lowercase love is not life sustaining. Nor with it comes joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Whew!
But the thing about this kind of LOVE is that it is not sustainable in ones own strength. We can bring forth this kind of love occasionally in our humanity, but eventually it will give way to self-serving acts of service that are lowercase love. Here is an example. Two nights in a row I patiently read Goodnight Moon to my child five times in a row simply because it delights them, but on night number three maybe I read it five times in a row because my self interest was for them to think of me as a patient and loving mother. Do you see the difference here?
On many days when it was hard to homeschool seven children, I kept up with it because it was the best for them. But on other days I did it because I wanted others to think I was a good homeschool mother. If I am being honest, some days my value as a person was tied up in projecting an image of ‘good wife, mother, friend, Christian…fill in the blank’. The acts of service (lowercase love) I did in that mind set were born out of lesser love: I am doing this for you so you will value me. Or so you will love me in return. The recipient still received something from me, but it was a missed opportunity to show forth God-sized LOVE. Additionally, in those times when I expected a response from my children for something loving I did for them, it was the response I was serving, not my children.
There is now no condemnation for those in Messiah Yeshua!
Repeat this until you really believe it. The response to reading what I have written is not intended for shame and guilt. So if you do relate to this at all, you can ask God our Father to set you back on His Course of LOVE, which is really what repentance means. I am fully forgiven for my missed opportunities when I put esteem of man above God (idols). I am fully forgiven for choosing the easier lowercase love over His LOVE. God freely forgives, and exchanges love for LOVE.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until I became the mother of previously orphaned twin sons who were unable to positively respond to my lesser love that I begin to ask God to cultivate in me LOVE, including this attribute that LOVE Is Not Self- Seeking. To parent my twins in a way that is healing, they needed the LOVE of God poured out to them through me. But first, I had to walk in His LOVE for me who once was a spiritual orphan needing a Heavenly Father. WOW. Let that sink in. We all were once spiritual orphans needing LOVE. He will show us the Way.
There is so much to say about the things I learned about God’s LOVE for me, though my journey parenting boys with complex developmental trauma. I hope you will join me as I continue to share on this blog what God places on my heart.
As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts.
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.