Tag Archive for: foster parenting challenges

50 Things I Learned From Raising a Challenging Child

Emerging into the world our daughter arrived six minutes after I had waddled through the emergency entrance at the hospital doors.  Our family joke was that she was the creator of drama and the day of her birth was the beginning.  She had orderlies, nurses, and doctors frantically hustling for her grand entrance while my husband, Dave, was still parking the car.  We knew that she was special arriving on the infamous 8-8-88 and weighing in at two ounces shy of 8 lbs. 8 oz.

That was the day I came to a whole new appreciation in knowing that God is good.  It just so happened that Dave was supposed to make a four hour drive to Cleveland that morning for a mandatory work event that would have kept him out of town for three days.  Our daughter arrived just shortly after 6 am; my husband was supposed to leave on the trip by 6:30 am.  Indeed, God is very good.

By the time she was three and attending preschool two mornings a week, I had begun to realize that she was indeed a very special child.  One morning I had just dropped her off at her classroom door and was standing in the hallway talking with another mother when the teacher had the children line up single-file to go to the big room for games.  I hid behind a half-open door so my daughter wouldn’t see me.  I watched intently as I saw her tap the little girl ahead of her on the shoulder. She then began to whisper something in the girl’s ear indicating that she was supposed to be in line in front of her.  Sure enough, my daughter got in front, stood still for a moment, and proceeded to tap the little boy in front of her and move into the line in front of him.  As I watched this happen over and over, I knew this child was destined for greatness.  Each child she had tapped and spoken to seemed  oblivious to what had just happened.  She was grinning from ear to ear as she led her classmates down the hall.

By middle school, I saw the beauty and talent this child had within her.  She not only had a stage presence and a beautiful voice, but she had such a tender heart for others.  It was common for mothers whose children were a couple of years younger to call me up to see if our daughter would come play with their kids.  Every time I would hear something like “She is so creative.  When she comes to play my kids don’t get bored.  She is really patient and makes sure to include everyone.”

She also loved to be in the kitchen baking something sweet.  One Sunday morning the youth pastor was telling a story from the pulpit about how no one in his family liked pumpkin pie so he didn’t get a piece for Thanksgiving that year.  When my daughter heard the story, compassion welled up within her.  The next Saturday she spent the day making him his own personal pumpkin pie to surprise him with the next day.

The difficult piece of this seemingly wonderful child was a dark side that we never quite understood.  Given a simple “no” over something seemingly minor became reason for a fit of anger or defiance.  A quiet family afternoon at home could quickly spiral into a “you never” or “you can’t make me”.  Jealousy over things only God can control turned into, “I should have been the first-born. I need a sister.  I wish she was my mother!”  And the list went on.  

At 16 it seemed as if the heat turned up making things even darker.  Phone calls from teachers and other parents became a very real part of my life making me want to crawl into a hole and never come out.  I was trying desperately to find ways of helping this poor child that seemed destined for self-destruction.  Our family felt helpless in reaching her.  Counseling sessions were going nowhere so I did the only thing I knew to do.

I let go.

She moved out of our home at 18 and the path she chose seemed even more vile.  We kept in contact on a regular basis, but her antics kept our family in constant wonder of how to handle each new difficult situation.  We tried a reset of her life a few times, but the efforts would revert to a similar lifestyle breaking our hearts.

As I continued to maintain contact with our daughter, I employed new skills I was learning in an attempt to rebuild our relationship.  It was working.  She seemed more open, wanted to spend more time with me, was able to accept our family’s boundaries, and was beginning to reciprocate when it came to relationship.  She told my husband that I was her best friend.  

I thanked God for his goodness.  

But even through this glimmer of hope which included coming back to our home for a week, the choices she made were deadly.  Our daughter passed away May 30, 2017.  

I am convinced that even though we may not be able to save our children from destructive lifestyles, He uses it for good.  After all, God is good.  God is very good.

Because of my daughter I am changed.

Because of my daughter I know that God is my strength in times of need.

Because of my daughter I have learned to let Him be in control.

 

50 Things I Learned From Raising a Challenging Child

  1. Maybe God gives us these kids to change us.
  2. We may think there are only two sides to a coin, but really there are three. These kids see the rim on the circumference and make us think outside the box.
  3. I am not in control.  Let me repeat, I am not in control.
  4. There is always a different choice that I usually don’t see—this child does see it.
  5. These kids live life to the fullest in a very short period of time. We have to seize some of those moments to be in their world.
  6. These kids teach us to listen, listen, and listen more. As parents, maybe we should try talking less and listening one more time.
  7. These kids teach us that taking risks is part of life, and it shows we have guardian angels watching over us.
  8. These kids teach us to retract our words through apology over and over. They teach us that sometimes apologizing is more important than being right.
  9. These kids teach us to pause before we speak. We learn to gauge our words by their potential outburst response.
  10. These kids teach us to be consistent. One slip of letting them get by with something proves that they can change our mind.
  11. They teach us to learn who we are talking to. Is it our child or a voice from our past?
  12. Things we learned as a truth from childhood may actually be a lie; seek to find real truth.
  13. Friend’s “advice” shouldn’t drive our actions when it comes to parenting. We really need to listen for God’s guidance.
  14. It’s easy to give the impression that if you give me the right behavior that you will get my love. Work hard on unconditional love.
  15. Tension should be resolved quickly; don’t let it linger.
  16. We need to become masters at reading our child’s unspoken words. These are an indicator of what is truly below the surface.
  17. We need to do everything in our power to make sure there are more positive interactions than negative so they can feel our love.
  18. As moms, we need to make sure we have plenty of rest. Pushing ourselves to be supermom gives us less ability to respond with love and patience.
  19. These kids will push us to the end of our rope sometimes. Practicing non-emotional responses ahead of time will give us the skills to react calmly in the heat of the battle.
  20. My child taught me that every person has value and I need to show kindness to all. Inviting their friends in gives me opportunity to speak His truth to those who surround her.
  21. Beware of judgment. We are all on a journey; some are just farther along than others.
  22. It is important to break out of our place of comfort to enter their world at times even when it is a little scary and doesn’t make sense to us.
  23. Boundaries are important in the parent/child relationship as they keep us emotionally healthy. Mom and Dad need to be on the same team in setting them.
  24. Enabling our child to do less than what should be their responsibility stifles their maturity even if done in love.
  25. We cannot make our child’s life better for them. We need to teach them to own their own future.
  26. Letting go of one child sometimes means saving your other children.
  27. Rebuilding severed relationship can be done. Never stop trying, and be aware of the other person’s capacity to reciprocate at various stages of the rebuilding process.
  28. Make sure that the amount of energy poured into your challenging child doesn’t suck the life out of you so that you can’t be there for your other children.
  29. Behavior doesn’t necessarily define the whole person. It is only one slice of the pie.
  30. Children become the average of the five people with whom they surround themselves. Teach them to choose friendships wisely.
  31. Laugh often even when you want to cry. Laughter releases endorphins that will make you feel better in the midst of the pain.
  32. Our kids make choices that sometimes lead to destruction. We have to remember that they are their choices and the outcome is between them and God. 
  33. As parents we need to own what is ours to own and not accept blame for every mistake our child makes.
  34. None of us are perfect parents and neither do we have perfect kids. If our kid self-destructs it is not automatically our fault.
  35. Our child’s heart might pull them into a destructive lifestyle. We can warn them, but we can’t control the situation.
  36. “I always thought that I’d see you again” can be a stinging lyric that fits unspoken conversations that you should have had. Initiate those conversations often.
  37. We need to teach our kids that relationships are transactional. There needs to be give and take on both sides.
  38. It’s easy to start thinking of these kids as a bother because they know how to press our buttons. Find ways to engage for short periods of time about non-emotional issues so that the mending of the relationship can begin.
  39. Offering empathy and validation for your child’s feelings means more than telling them your perspective on the issue.
  40. Keeping the pain and frustration to yourself makes you an island. Reach out and find a “safe” person who has been through a similar struggle to lighten your load.
  41. When you feel like there is no hope, pray. Starting with Amen or “so be it” shows that you accept that God is ultimately in control.
  42. When consequences for actions fail, push the reset button and work out a better solution.
  43. If emotions are high, take deep breaths and slow the conversation so that your brain has enough oxygen to speak with respect.
  44. Give your child the benefit of the doubt even when the likelihood is that they were in the wrong. Allow them time to tell their side of the story.
  45. When parents, teachers, and other authority figures call you to tell you “that awful thing your kid did”, listen, thank them for calling, and pause before dealing with your child on the issue. Listen to your child while asking open-ended questions about the incident.  Whatever you do, avoid any knee-jerk reaction.
  46. Stand firm in what is right and what is wrong so your child will always know where you stand on a given issue. Silence can be interpreted as implicit acceptance.
  47. When our kids make choices we don’t feel are good for them, rather than say “I told you so” talk through what could have been a better option.
  48. Be grateful for the positive aspects of your child’s personality. Find the good in them and encourage them again and again.
  49. Become a “safe” person for your child to talk to—no condemnation, no advice without their permission, and lots of listening with validation.
  50. Be your child’s #1 cheerleader when you have opportunity to do so and give lots of hugs.

Because of my daughter I have learned to “Let go…and Let God,”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emotions Out of Control? 5-Steps to Reset the Relationship

Emotional outbursts can be spurred in most of us.  We find ourselves yelling at our kids when our space has been upset.  The same is true of our teens.  They come home from school livid at something that happened and instead of dealing with the situation, they stalk through the kitchen screaming at us and what we’ve done that has ruined their lives.

I’ve been doing research for several years about our emotions and how they affect us as well as our kids.  One of my kids has always been hypersensitive emotionally and the smallest thing could bring a mountain of inconsolable tears, or anger, or even full-on rage with a sibling being the targeted opponent.  As a mom who hadn’t been taught to understand my own emotions, I was helpless to understand my child’s.  Trial and error brought nothing but further anguish and louder communication (okay, yelling!) on both our parts.

What I’ve since discovered is that there is a small part of the brain called the amygdala that never lets us forget.  It houses the emotional control center where the fight or flight response occurs.  Everything we encounter runs through that emotional part of our brain before we can discern if it has a valid reason to respond.  That center tells us if something is good, bad, or terrifying.  If that part of the brain is triggered before we have time to give the situation cognitive thought, we will react rather than respond appropriately in a given situation.  Years later, if we encounter a situation that brings about a similar fear or feeling, we will again react without thought.  It is ingrained and “remembers” the feeling and causes us to respond accordingly even when we don’t understand why we did what we did.

New research that is out  talks about the brain skills that many of us as parents haven’t learned.  When we have emotional outbursts we need to pause so we can:

  1. Recognize the emotion
  2. Understand what our reaction is attached to from the past
  3. Identify what expectation we are holding onto that might solicit the out-of control response
  4. Transfer the emotion through our cognitive thought in order to form a better response
  5. Re-engage with an apology to re-set the relationship

Instead many of us keep doing what we’ve always done in similar situations as we emotionally erupt or we see many kids and adults alike resort to drugs and alcohol use to dull the pain within.

How can we teach our kids to establish emotional control when at times we don’t have the capacity to display what it should look like?  If we were never taught these skills how can we pass them on to the next generations?

Life Model Works has a book out entitled Transforming Fellowship: 19 Brain Skills That Build Joyful Community  to raise awareness of how emotional skills can transform relationships.  While their book is focused on building community within the church, so many of the principles apply to us with our kids.

Scripture also gives us a clue:

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Choosing to focus on the good even in painful or difficult situations can help us re-wire our brain and our emotional capacity.  Learning to pause long enough to analyze the patterns or getting help from professionals can also help us gain control over our emotions.  And when we are in relationship with others who struggle with emotional control it is important that we learn to take care of ourselves.

If you have kids that are struggling with emotional outbursts, With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens and Tweens is a good place to start.  In it you’ll find ways to interact with your kids and help them see healthy coping skills.  If you have kids that are further down the path and are already into drug or alcohol addiction, I’ve discovered a new book that will help you get your life back.  In her book You Are Not Alone: Hope for Hurting Parents of Troubled Kids Dena Yohe shares her story and practical tips for parents who are  dealing with teens and 20-somethings who are on a destructive path.  You can listen to her interview on Focus on the Family, Monday and Tuesday, August 21-22, 2017.

Praying that God will raise your emotional awareness as you parent this next generation.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Interested in leading a parenting Bible study that will have women talking and learning about emotional maturity?  Want them to walk away with a WOW! experience?  With All Due Respect will do just that and we promise to make it easy to lead.  You don’t need to be a perfect parent; you don’t need to have perfect kids; and you don’t need to have ever led a group before.

For the next month we’re offering our new Small Group Leader’s Guide for only $5.95 so you can get your small group started right away.  That means you can start a group at a greatly discounted rate!

Our Small Group Leader’s Guide is an easy-to-follow guide that will give you questions, exercises, and opportunities to engage with other parents as you think about your own parenting.  If you know a mom who has kids that are 9 or 29 this study will be life-changing as they think about parenting.  You can even get suggestions on how to run your groups from me.  I love to engage with other moms and leaders and you can reach me through the website at www.greaterimpact.org. 

 So grab your friends, and grab a copy of the Small Group Leader’s Guide here .

Dare ya!

With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens and Tweens by [Roesner, Nina, Hitchcock, Debbie]