Posted by: fatherof11 | May 27, 2008

Reasonable Expectations – They are YOUR Child

For some of you reading this post, this may seem like a strange topic. “Of course they are my children, that is what it meant when I adopted them.” Yet we see many parents who, either subtly or not so subtly, view an adopted child as less than a biological child. This particularly is true when parents of older adopted children start having troubles that they do not know how to handle and they begin looking for a solution. Their tendency may be to seek worldly counsel, although the only place they will find true wisdom is in God’s Word.The Greek word that the Bible translates as adoption literally means “placing as a son”. The picture is one of being taken by choice and placed as a son in the family. Adoptions in the Roman world were typically done by the very wealthy so that there would be an heir to the house. The child would receive the full rights and privileges as a son. Legally, there were no distinctions between the adopted child and the biological child.
It is also interesting to note that while the Bible does give grounds for divorce, it never gives grounds for the “divorcing” of a child. The only remedy given for a completely unmanageable child is given in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 where parents were told to take him to the elders of the city and have him stoned. Notice they were not to give him to the elders or others to care for because they could not handle him. He was their responsibility to the end. Do not get us wrong, we are not suggesting that parents should have their children stoned. However, it is clear that there are no grounds given in the Bible for “divorcing a child”.
We do not think that this means that there is never a place for a child to be sent out of the household, though. Certainly a child who is a danger to the other members of the household can be sent away to protect the others. Likewise, one who has some form of sickness can be sent away for treatment. The difference in both these cases is that, while the child is gone for a time or permanently if they are old enough to be on their own, they still remain a part of the family. Given that the issues that caused them to be sent away are solved, they should be restored to a full relationship with the family.
Therefore, recognize that these older adopted children are now your children just as much as any biological children you may have.  Because God brought them into your family through a different means, does not mean they are any less your child.  We are no freer to “give them up” when we experience challenges than we are our biological children. 
Too often people attribute problems with adopted children to the fact that they were adopted or to the fact that they were in institutions. The fact is that most of the problems these children have are simply the result of their sinful own nature. However, dealing with these children becomes more difficult because of the severity of some of the problems, the way in which a lack of proper parenting has allowed these problems to become firmly entrenched and the language barriers with foreign children. Furthermore, the depth of fear and anger they may have from the severe neglect or trauma they may have suffered may further exacerbate the issues. However, this does not prevent us from parenting them – these children are very much in need of our love and care.
 A second, more subtle issue that arises in some families is the one where the child, though considered a permanent member of the family, is viewed as being something less than the biological children. We are aware of a woman who adopted a child so that her “real daughter” would have someone to play with. This is a temptation some of us must fight against if we are going to parent these children well, depending on our own particular heart idols.  Most parents are not blatant in their unequal treatment, it is usually a much more subtle thing.  In fact, they may not realize their own ways which reflect favoritism. They may give better gifts to the biological children at Christmas and birthdays. They may be more affection towards the biological kids. This is an easy trap to fall into, since the newly adopted kids often have no idea what it means to be affectionate and so may not give any affection on their own and receive it poorly when it is given.
With some of our adopted children, we had to make it a point to regularly give them hugs. At first they would be stiff as a board. This seemed to not be a matter of fear because of some form of abuse, but simply the fact that they did not know how to respond, because they may have never been given a real hug. After some time they would at least relax, but still lack any real understanding. With one of our daughters it took four years for her to finally give Dad a real hug after bedtime prayers.
The point being that we need to make it a practice to be as affectionate to the adopted ones as the biological ones. Likewise we may even need to train them how to respond. We do need to be careful, however, to distinguish between a response that comes from lack of practice and one that comes from fear. In particular, there is the possibility of prior abuse that may cause them to react in fear to affection. Dads in particular need to be aware of this with regards to their adopted daughters. The sad fact is that when adopting older girls from some cultures a history of sexual abuse is not only possible, but likely. Do not force affection on such a child, but make consistent attempts at showing affection in a way that is not threatening and will hopefully build trust over time.

We do want to point out, however, that we do not always treat our children the same even though we desire to love them equally. For instance, we cannot expect a newly adopted child from a foreign culture to understand the rules of the house the minute they arrive. We need to be patient and introduce them to these children as they are capable of understanding. Because of this, we may have to explain to the incumbent children that the rules for the new child will be different for awhile until we can teach them all and allow the new child time to adjust. However, as time goes on they will learn more and more and, eventually, the rules will be the same (or at least more similar) for all of the children.

Finally, there is also a tendency to expect more out of the biological children than we do the adopted ones. In some respects this may be valid. We have two thirteen-year-old daughters. One has been homeschooled since kindergarten – she is academically mature and capable of high standards with regard to her school work. The other has maybe four years of total schooling, with two of those years being in a different language and another being of dubious quality. To require these two to perform at the same level academically would be absurd. In this case, expecting more of the biological child is appropriate. However, the adopted child because of her background is more mature in many ways. In our home, Dad often struggles with expecting the biological child to be as mature as the adopted one.

We should always strive to love our children equally, whether God brings them into our family through biological means or adoption. However, we should treat them as individuals, teaching them that we will do what we believe is best for their individual needs.  In the end, they must know that we consider them to be our child, just as much as the one who sits next to them at the dinner table. 


Editor’s note: It was interesting to read and edit this, which was written by my husband four years ago.  As a bit of an update on those two thirteen year old girls – the first one mentioned is graduating from homeschool at the age of 17 and the second one is studying for her GED test, to be taken soon.  Both of them hope to start working full time as soon as possible and, in the end, their goals are actually not as far off from each other as one might imagine. 🙂







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