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  • Lessons on Expectations from Encanto

    As parents, we often dream of what our children’s lives will be like, sometimes even before we’ve decided to have children. It’s normal to want the best for your child and to set them up for a life that is better than your own. From these desires stem expectations, which can be a delicate balance for anyone to navigate, especially when it comes to a parent’s expectations of and for their children.

    This dynamic is highlighted in Disney’s latest animated feature, Encanto, and the storyline leaves us with several real-life lessons we can apply in our own families. Here are a few takeaways on how expectations can affect family life:

    How children use their gifts is their choice.

    Your child may or may not develop the skills and interests you had hoped they would. They may or may not want to follow in the family traditions, pursue your dreams for them, or make the same life choices you had hoped for. Different isn’t necessarily wrong and the best gift you can give them is to honor their search for what is right. For them.

    Even if they choose to use their gift in the way you’d hoped, recognize the pressure that is still associated with it. To meet an expectation day in and day out can be overwhelming, even when it is doing something you love and have a talent for.

    Focusing on what isn’t takes away energy from what could be.

    When our expectations are not met, there is an inevitable feeling of disappointment. However, it can be an opportunity to reflect on the expectations and what we were truly looking for. Did our child really need to accomplish something very specific, or did our tunnel vision keep us from seeing their success in other forms?

    Aside from having infinite definitions, success is not instant nor permanent. What is and what could be is an evolution that will involve changing visions, desires, and motivations. This evolution will also come with failures, which don’t need to be a source of guilt – for you or for them.

    The weight of expectations can be crushing.

    When we feel like we have something to prove, especially to our parents, the weight of the pressure can prevent us from performing our best. When nothing is ever good enough, all that is sincerely great can be overlooked. Children are observant and intuitive and if they sense that the only acceptable option is their parent’s (or teacher’s or society’s) version of perfect, success can feel unachievable. Instead, we can show our children through our own words and actions that perfection is not the goal, giving them healthy behaviors to mirror.

    Just like we are more than our faults, we are more than our gifts.

    Our inherent worth is not tied to our gifts and the choice to use our talents does not make us more or less valuable as a member of society. There is much more to be appreciated and celebrated when we keep the whole person in focus, rather than just choosing parts.

    My biggest takeaway, though? The character Isabella, who represents the “perfect child” may have said it best: “What could I do if I just knew it didn’t need to be perfect? It just needed to be? And they let me be?”

    By Amanda Cornaglia, LGPC-Intern
    Ponciano Counseling and Wellness, LLC

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