I can remember our first foster daughter coming into our home a couple days before her 13th birthday. For months we would say good night to her and head straight to our bedroom. We would close the door, lower our voices and begin to re-evaluate the day and then plan for the next like officers strategizing in a war room.
Parenting a “hurt” child often feels like a massive game of chess, strategizing the next unique move to love this very unique kid. It is also one of the most taxing things a human being can do. It is dealing with the brokenness of humanity head on and needs every bit of tact, strategy, and God’s grace and mercy that He will give.
And when exhausted from giving it your all, it is easy to lose sight of some mission critical parenting principles. Here are 3 things I force myself to remember in the thick of it all.
1) They have been raised to survive, not to thrive
In most cases lying, stealing, selfishness, and the inability to empathize will surface again and again. Get ready, because they all come with the territory. All of these are symptoms of a human being who has been forced into survival mode early on in their little lives. Every decision they have had to make growing up has been made in the context of an unsafe environment.
Their way of life: survival mode.
While parenting and leading “hurt” children, we must remember that our primary role is to do whatever you can to expect this way of life(survival mode), and then create an environment and family ethos that transitions them into the truth that they were create not only to survive, but to thrive. Their creator came into the world to give them Life, and to give it to them to its fullest.
2) Be grateful for gratitude, but do not expect it
Too many people have read that “one” story from “Chicken Soup For The Soul”, or have watched that one movie on Encore. Happy ever afters rarely happen with “hurt” children. Nine out of 10 parents who have experience will tell you how insanely tiring and taxing it is. You take them weekly to counseling and eventually you need to book appointments for yourself. I think I have aged 10 yrs in the past 2! So when our adoptive kid decides to call us by our first name instead of Dad or Mom after 5 years of being with us, or when you don’t get an immediate “thank you” as you buy them their first big wheel, remember they did not choose this. Frankly, they did not choose us. Be patient, and cherish the moments where you do get small glimpses of gratitude.
3) I’m parenting a hurt child for their entire life, not only for their childhood.
I forget that parenting a hurt child will be a life long thing, not an 18 year thing. It will be decades of reminding them that they were created by Jesus and for Jesus to thrive not simply to survive. It will be decades of reminding myself of the brokenness that they were formed within, cherishing but not expecting the sweet moments along the way. When frustration comes because my 10-year-old foster child lies, I must remind myself that they will not be perfect before they move out at age 18 or 22. I have to do a gut check and remind myself that it is a miracle they are still alive and with us in the first place. They will be attempting to break out of the broken systems and culture most were created in for the rest of their lives, and this is ok. Sad, but ok. Let us be patient and walk alongside of them for life knowing that our perfection and theirs will not surface until we stand next to our savior one sweet day.
To all those in it with us,
We are so grateful for you and will continue to pray for the battle you find yourself in.
As my 8 year old adopted daughter says,
“Peace and Hair Grease!”