When Expectations Meet Reality

By: - June 16, 2021

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Have you ever wondered why parenting is so different from what you imagined it would be? Why do we have so many unmet and often unrealistic expectations about our families?

When parenting kids that come from a background of abuse, neglect, and loss, we are often unprepared for the struggles we will have. Or, even if we are prepared for the challenges we will face, living the reality is very different than knowing about it.

When our expectations are unmet we find ourselves at a crossroads in our parenting. We can continue down the same road of frustration and chaos, or we can reexamine our expectations and lean into the hard places of parenting kids who have experienced trauma. We can shift our expectations and perspectives in order to better love, serve, and guide our children in the right direction.

5 Common Unmet Expectations:

  1. Life will get back to normal soon after a child is placed in my home.
  2. Love will be enough to heal the wounds of trauma.
  3. Kids will act their age.
  4. Traditional parenting such as using a time-out, grounding, removal of privileges, and rewards will work.
  5. Parenting will come naturally.

The Reality:

  1. Life needs to slow down and we may have to cut back on things we are doing for quite a while after a child is placed in our home. Things may never go back to “normal.”
  2. Trauma is complex. It changes the brain. While nurture is a KEY component, understanding trauma is necessary.
  3. Kids are roughly half their chronological age. When we view our kids’ behaviors through that lens we will set proper expectations.
  4. Our kids have unique histories and require unique parenting to meet their needs. Traditional parenting can actually be harmful to our kids.
  5. Good parenting takes intentionality and practice.

When we change our expectations to match reality, we set ourselves and our kids up for success. It can be difficult to shift your perspective, but when you do, you will find joy where you are instead of being angry or sad that you’re not where you’d like to be.

“Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”

John Piper

What expectations did you have for your kids, yourself, or your family life that were unmet when you started fostering or first adopted? How have you adjusted those expectations? How have you seen this be successful in the life of your family?

Do you want more information on this topic? Check out these episodes of the Empowered Parent Podcast!

Expectations: Season 5, Episode 6

Why Traditional Parenting Doesn’t Work for our Kids: Season 3, Episode 14

Also Found In: Challenges & Issues, Connected Parenting, Discipline, Motivations & Expectations, Resources for Families, Serving Children in Foster Care, Talking About Adoption, Tapestry Blog

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