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Letting Go of Adoption Expectations to Meet a Child’s Needs

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Courtesy of the Monroe family

Unfulfilled expectations can lead to disappointment and even disconnection between parents and adopted children.

Who are you? I remember wondering as I looked into the face of my young son. It was the moment when I first began to face the reality of the adoption journey and how it was different from my expectations.

Long before I had a chance to get to know my son, I had created an unrealistic picture about who he would be. On top of that, I expected the adoption journey to be relatively easy once we brought our son home. Indeed, I’d convinced myself that adoption was little more than a historical fact of how a family came to be, not an ongoing journey.

Unrealistic expectations

True, all parents start out with some unrealistic expectations. But for adoptive families, these unfulfilled expectations can lead to disappointment and even disconnection between parents and children. When a child’s history of pain and loss begins to depart from what parents expected their adoption journey to look like, parents can be tempted to protect their wishful assumptions rather than acknowledge their child’s history and feelings. When a child’s behaviors begin to collide with the “way we do things as a family,” parents can find themselves quickly nearing the point of despair.

I know these experiences well. When faced with this reality, my instinct was to respond by looking at my child and pointing an accusing finger as if to ask, “What’s wrong with you?” As I began to lay down my assumptions, I discovered that my calling as an adoptive parent was to meet my child where he was.

Embracing what they need

The adoption journey invites parents to move beyond what we want and embrace what our children need. And as we let go of our expectations, we find that God’s desires for us and our family are so much greater than what we ever anticipated.

In both the good times and bad, in both the joy and the pain, God is writing a story of hope, redemption and love within our lives. I am still learning who my son is. And I have come to see that he doesn’t have to become more like me or even who I thought he would be in order for our family to become the “we” that God intended.

Michael Monroe and his wife, Amy, lead Tapestry Adoption and Foster Care Ministry.

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