Saturday, January 21, 2012

Unmet Expectations

Expectations are something we have to deal with in all areas of our lives.  While it may be good to have expectations-- when our expectations go unmet we can face a whole range of emotions from disappointment to anger to sadness to frustration.  In my life, something I constantly struggle with is dealing with unmet expectations. When I realize an expectation goes unmet, it helps me to adjust my expectations the next time around or in similar situations. 

Adoption is an area jam packed with expectations. Expectations from the adoptive parents, the adopted children, community and family members.  There is no way around it-- whether we want to have expectations or not, they find a way to creep in.  Having met countless adoptive families in the past 7 years I've seen people with a wide range of expectations for 'how things will go' once returning home with their child(ren).  I always try to be careful with families as I offer council on how to deal with the transition ahead, as I want to be aware of how much they are ready to hear!  But it is clear that there are expectations at stake already.

I've been reading a book called Wounded Children Healing Homes- How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families. The book was written by a dear friend and colleague of mine, Jayne E. Schooler.  I highly recommend this book to any of you adoptive parents out there or anyone currently considering adoption.  

As I have read the book and the stories of the wounded children shared within, I have thought of the countless faces of children and families that have crossed my threshold in the past year.  It is a reminder that my home is only the beginning of their journey-- the real work comes once they land back in the US and begin to transition into being a family.

Jayne's book starts off with a list of expectations that adoptive parents commonly have.... expectations that unfortunately often go unmet when these families bring their child or children home.  As I read each of the expectations, I realized how many sounded familiar.  These are things I've heard spoken or seen written on blogs countless times.

Here is the list of unmet expectations that the book starts off with (the book offers a long explanation and example under each point that further expounds- I'm just listing the main points).

Ten Expectations About Adoption

1.) Our Love will be enough.

2.) We will feel love and connection to this child quickly.

3.) This child will step into our family system and easily learn how to function within our rules, goals and ambitions.

4.)  This child's needs will be just like those of our biological children.

5.) Our biological children will embrace this new child as a sibling.

6.) Our child will fit well into our extended family and be welcomed by them.

7.) Our friends and acquaintances will validate our role as parent in our child's life and support us through the adoption process and beyond.

8.) Our child will see us as his family and forget about his birth family and his past.

9.) We can do for this child what was not done for us, or we will not do this child what was done to us.

10.) We will never feel any regrets or ambivalence in adopting this child with a traumatic past.

Now if you are an adoptive parent, I am guessing that perhaps a few of these expectations resonate with you.  Perhaps you are thinking, 'wow- I really did think that, and now I realize why I'm so frustrated, as what I expected has not come to pass!'  Perhaps you are struggling with resentment right now and feel guilty, perhaps you are dealing with the tension between your biological children and your adopted child, perhaps you are feeling guilty because you have wondered if you ever should have adopted!

I write this all to tell you that you are not alone (and your feelings are normal)!!  Clearly these expectations are ideals, and they come out motivation to have a happy and whole child in your family.  The reality is that bringing healing to a wounded child takes a lot of prayer, time and it takes resources.

Wounded Children Healing Homes is a great resource.  It is full of stories to encourage and stories to challenge, and full of strategy to help your home become a place of healing.  So if you read one book on adoptive parenting this year, I'd go over to amazon and order this one-- I don't think you'll regret it.  If you do read it-- pop back over and tell me what you think and any insights you gain into parenting your children.  I'd love to hear what wisdom you glean.

Happy reading...


Anonymous said...

Karen, I will read the book. Thank you for the recommendation. kelly

Natasha Jones said...

I should get a copy of this book, too. The only expectation I had was that our adopted child would be thankful - ha! Big mistake! :)
She is thankful now, but it took a while. :)

McPeek Family said...

Natasha you hit it right on the nose for me...that was really my only expectation too, for her to be thankful. We are getting there! Thank you Karen for sharing. I will definitely buy it!

Karen said...

Yes-- I think the 11th point should have been gratitude. It is an expectation that most parents struggle with the most....and I believe need to come to terms with early choose to love and parent and give....even if gratitude never comes! Carry on friends!

Jo said...

Thanks for the recommendation Karen. I just added it to my amazon cart.

Cassc said...

can I offer up another great resource: Empowered to Connect. is dedicated to helping parents who are raising children with traumatic pasts. A lot of the articles have addressed a similar topic of expectations...