To Love Our Real Child We Must Release the Child of Our Fantasies

October 2, 2019


As Intentional Parents. we hold the belief that adoption is not an event but rather a journey. We accept that adoption operates as a permanent factor that shapes and influences who our children are, how they think, respond, grow, and experience the world. We understand adoption complexity and we strive to attune to our children’s needs, to be their safe harbor, to have empathy for their struggles and to encourage them to grow and develop into their best version of their genuine selves. Because we embrace a Both/And attitude we know our children are products of both their “biology and their biography”[1] and understand that these two factors intertwine within our children inseparably, permanently, and interdependently.

Genuine selves One might assume that  our commitment to our children’s “genuineness” once made, is thorough, unquestioned, and without hesitance (conscious or unconscious.) Honesty compels us to admit that sometimes our children’s inclinations and aptitudes do not fit smoothly in our family’s historic patterns. Their preferences may not align with our own personal preferences, traditions, and patterns. They may rub us the wrong way. Moreover, they may even conflict significantly. So how do we handle this push/pull of intention, commitment, historical patterns, aptitude, and biology?

First with intention. This level of commitment occurs only with deliberation and awareness; it does not happen when parenting on autopilot. It demands constant restating, recommitting, and re-attuning. Look for ways to help kids see, appreciate, and nurture their talents. Express respect and appreciation for their differences as well as for the ways in which their talents reflect generational family patterns. Be fully invested; remember that human beings, especially children thrive on and require our attention. It is the currency they value must. Spend it generously! Affirming them is as important a parental responsibility as disciplining. (Keep in mind that true discipline aims to teach not punish.) Attention, affirmation, and affection are essentials, not extras.

Acknowledge their efforts. Even their tiniest step deserves to be noticed and appreciated. Affirmation is also one of the best ways to reinforce and support growth. (This is true for ourselves, partners and co-workers. We all benefit from acknowledgment and appreciation. Sprinkle it authentically and liberally! Everyone will be glad.

Adoption is not always the reason While it is important to consider when and how adoption or adoption fall-out can influence our children’s behavior and choices, it is certainly not the only factor. Resist the inclination to over-identify adoption as the “culprit.” Sometimes it is; sometimes, it is not. Determine when adoption is the trigger point and when it is some other issue of difficulty. (This attuning is the first and most obvious step to finding viable solutions and the need for developing additional skill sets.)

Love, nurture, and accept the child you have not the fantasy you dreamed about before your child arrived. It is the foundation of Adoption-attunement.

Learn how the coaches at GIFT Family Services can help you and your family navigate your adoption journey. We've faced our share of family challenges and crises, ridden the metaphorical rollercoaster, and our families have not only survived; they have thrived. We offer experience, neutrality, and understanding.

Adoption Attuned Parenting


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Dear Abby-Gotcha-The Open-hearted Way to Open Adoption,[1] (Lori Holden’s terms— For a more in-depth discussion, see her book “The Open-hearted Way to Open Adoption”)

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