#20 – What do you expect from your child?

June 19, 2011 at 10:05 am | Posted in Adoptive parenting do's | Leave a comment
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This is being posted on Father’s Day and I think it’s quite appropriate. It often seems that mother’s are more lenient and compassionate with their children than fathers who sometimes think they have to be the standard bearer for rigid standards. In adoptive families where children don’t physically inherit skills from their parents, it can be tough for dads to live with a child who doesn’t physically have the skills that they themselves enjoyed for years. To complicate this scenario, we as parents sometimes are at a loss as how to encourage the skills our adopted children do have, since they can be unfamiliar to us. This can be a challenge for both parent and child.

With an open mind, looking at our children as blank pieces of paper, and being sensitive to clues as to where their talents may be, this experience should be one of joyful exploration. We need to remember that all talents are special, nor just the ones familiar to us within our physical family. Encouraging our children is essential for them to grow up feeling accepted and appreciated.

Adult adoptees have expressed the fact that sometimes their adoptive parents didn’t expect very much of them because of their biological background, and this hurt them deeply. No matter what the adoption story is that you tell your child, and no matter how nicely you tell it, the bottom line is that their biological parents were not capable of taking care of them at the time of their birth. As the child grows up he can imagine all sorts of (negative) reasons why his biological parents couldn’t care for him.

When adoptive parents impart the idea ‘Just do the best you can’, this is often interpreted as, ‘We don’t expect much of you, just do the best you can.” The child might think the reason for this is that his biological parents were not very capable and his parents now look at him in the same light. With a vivid imagination, he can envision all sorts of behaviors that might cause this – and incorporate these behaviors as part of his own identity. In other words, my father or mother probably was a drug addict, so that’s what is expected of me, or similar scenarios. Some adult adoptees tell us they thought this way.

The point is not to hold impossibly high standards or make any child feel inferior when he doesn’t do well, but we should always let our children know they can do whatever they want if they work at it. We should encourage their efforts in any positive field they choose. They need to sense from us that we know they are a good and capable person. None of us is perfect at everything, but we learn as we go through life that we can be competent at many levels if we try. Adopted kids who might doubt their identity or talents need to know their parents believe in their abilities. Our kids are in charge of their accomplishments – not their biological parents and not their adoptive parents (except for the cheering on part, of course!)

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