When Our Dreams Shatter

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No child can live up to every silent or spoken expectation. So how do we prepare to deal with the heartbreak of our broken dreams? Mark Gregston shares a few basic action steps we need to take.

"Broken dreams are like broken plates: we hang on to them way too long because one day we’ll get around to gluing them back together, but even when you do they don’t look quite right and eventually end up in the trash anyway.”  – Anonymous

Every parent has lofty dreams for their children.  As a newborn infant cradled in your arms, you probably envisioned your son or daughter as a healthy, intelligent, and mature adult with a great job and beautiful family of their own.  Maybe you even imagined your kid in the White House!

But as they grow, many of the hopeful dreams we cherished will be dashed to pieces.  It could happen as a result of some bad decisions on their part.  Or it may happen as a result of something beyond anyone’s control.  The fact of the matter is that no child can live up to every silent or spoken expectation.  So how do we prepare to deal with the heartbreak of our broken dreams?  There are a few basic action steps we need to take.

Dealing with Broken Dreams #1: Identify the Issue in Your Child

Expectations can be dashed in an instant.  Imagine your star athlete son calls you from county jail to bail him out, or your beautiful daughter confesses to a debilitating eating disorder.  Realizations like these can take the wind right out of our sails.

When we’re overcome with disappointment, the first step we need to take is identifying the reasons for our child’s behavior.  Have they moved to a new school?  Are there issues with a divorce or a re-marriage in the family?  Has there been a loss in your teen’s life?  Examining why your son or daughter is not living up to certain rules and expectations can help you identify the problem and move on a lot easier.  Now, looking for a reason for the behavior is not the same as finding an excuse for your child.  The goal is not to let them off the hook or brush the problem under the rug.  Rather, we want to dig deeper into the hearts of our kids to understand why they’re struggling.  Once we pinpoint the problem, we can work on getting past the disappointment.

Dealing with Broken Dreams #2: Move Towards Your Child

Even when you understand the reason behind your child’s behavior, it can be tough to maintain a relationship when they have crushed your expectations.  It can feel like they are rejecting you and everything good you desire for them!  However, dealing properly with broken dreams and getting back on track with your child requires a conscious movement towards the relationship instead of away from it.

This commitment to move toward your child looks different for men than for women.  For dads, dreams are often unspoken and assumed.  Men generally express their expectations through actions like cheering at their kid’s football and soccer games or pushing teens towards academic or personal achievements.  When those unspoken dreams are broken, dads tend to retreat back, withdraw and move away from the offending child.  They might even become angry or severely critical of their kids.  So for dads, moving towards your teen means articulating disappointment and responding in love instead of anger.

For moms, speaking up usually comes a little easier.  Teens probably know right up front what mom expects from them.  But when the best-laid plans are cast aside, it’s common for moms to respond by laying on guilt or becoming overly protective and demanding.  So for moms, moving towards your teen could mean resisting the urge to guilt kids into making the right decision and scaling back the control.

Even when they’re at their worst, kids need their parents.  They need our support.  Don’t let your broken hopes for your teen prevent you from maintaining a positive relationship with your child.  Move towards him or her in love, grace and comfort even when it’s the most difficult thing to do.

Dealing with Broken Dreams #3: Release Your Kids to God

As parents, the roles we play in our kid’s lives are temporary.  What will last forever is their relationship with the Lord.  But releasing our children to the mercies of God can be one of the hardest, most excruciating things in the world.  Letting a wayward son walk out the door can seem unbearable.  Watching your daughter suffer health issues or the repercussions of a painful accident is agonizing.  But as we let go of our children and give their lives over to God, we can be sure they are in the very best of hands.

If we trust our kids to God, we will never be disappointed.  The story of Hannah is a good reminder of that fact.  Burdened with infertility, Hannah prayed to God for a child every single day.  And one day, God answered her prayers and Hannah and her husband conceived a child.  Now, you would think that Hannah would hold tight to this miracle baby of hers.  I mean, she waited years to get pregnant!  But Hannah knew that she had to release her boy to the Lord.  In First Samuel 1:27-28 she said, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him.  So now I give him to the Lord.  For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”  Hannah’s son went on to become the one of the greatest prophets and judges in all Israel.

Do you think Hannah struggled with broken dreams?  I’m sure she did!  But she placed her son and her expectations into the hands of God, and He did not disappoint.  Maybe it’s time to turn that prodigal son over to God.  Perhaps you need to stop grasping for control and release things to your Heavenly Father.  Because, let me tell you, God can work miracles in your child’s life!

Dreams are powerful.  They provide drive and encouragement.  I say, dream big dreams for your kids!  But remember not to hold on too tightly to those wishes.  Broken hopes and expectations are a natural part of parenthood.  So when your dream for your child does shatter, sweep up the pieces, move towards your teen and turn the keys over to God.  Only He can change our dreams into something much greater.

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