I read someone was having a tough time with their adoptive son and I wanted to help but didn’t want to give unsolicited advice. I reached out and told her I would pray and if she wanted to chat I would love to. She was busy but said she would be happy to read the resources I had to share. I didn’t mean to give a Ted talk, but once I started I realized I needed to preach this to myself as much as anyone. So in case you are needing the reminder that parenting is tough but also a sacred privilege that God can help us in, pull up a seat and welcome to my talk.

Here’s some thoughts on what’s been most helpful for me and you can take what you want and ignore what’s not for you. Ask God he’ll help you know what is what.

Don’t take their bad behavior personally, it’s not you they hate even if their words say it. They feel sad, angry and hurt. The devil wants to steal, kill and destroy and the best way to do that is to sabotage the relationships they do have.

It’s not us vs. them, it’s us and them vs. fear, hate and despair. We have to fight for them not against them, which is hard because they are trying to fight against us.

Remember that fight is part of the fight or flight instinct that happens when we feel fear or danger. So instead of fighting them we can ask, “what are you afraid of?” “How can I help you feel safe?” “What’s making you feel sad right now?”

We need to be calm and with compassion we can be honest with our feelings too. “I’m sorry you are hurting, the way you are talking to me, disobeying me, etc is making me feel hurt too. Do you want other people to hurt like you? Why?”

We can’t correct until we can connect, we can’t connect until they trust, they will not trust until they feel safe. You can ask, “what makes you feel unsafe right now?” And in those answers find answers together. Maybe covid is making him feel like things are out of control or going to change and change reminds him of his mom dying or being separated from family and maybe it’s making him miss her and be afraid of someone else dying. Trying to help them talk about what he’s thinking and feeling will help foster conversation which can help him feel safer.

When our older daughter has a bad attitude or get’s real difficult I always get mad and want to yell and give consequences but when I remember, I can stop and consider: she might be thinking and feeling things that I don’t know about or haven’t realized. So I try to pause and sometimes consciously whispering when I want to yell helps me remember to use self control like I want her to and I ask what she’s feeling, what she’s thinking of and what or who she is remembering. 9 times out of 10 she says something about her bio family. Now might she be manipulating me? Totally possible, but I didn’t yell, which is a win, she got to say something and we can still have the consequences for her behavior, but now I can approach it with some compassion and hopefully I have cooled down enough to have a reasonable one that fits the crime and not a dramatic, harsh one.

It’s also important to apologize for when I do yell or over react. We usually will review the whole interaction so every guilty party has a chance to say sorry for the part they played. Because rarely is it just one person’s sin. Usually everyone played a part in whatever trouble we are having.

And probably the most important one, that I forget all the time, before I even start talking, TO PRAY, and ask God to help me see their heart like he does.

We can’t do this on our own, only God has what we need to do this. But he is more than able.

Let’s find a way to talk and communicate because whatever they cannot get out in word will come out in negative behavior!

Friends, you are doing good work, even when you feel like you are failing.

It is better to error and repair than to never have errored at all. For in the repairing we build bonds and help heal what’s been broken.

God, you love our kids. You love our whole family. You want to be our hope and peace. God please pour your Holy Spirit on us and give us all more love and compassion and understanding for each other.

Give us divine wisdom on how to parent and how to help our kids.

And Jesus please come and fill our hearts with hope that you can make all things new, that you can heal broken hearts and relationships. That you forgive all sins, big and small and that we can even model repentance and forgiveness for kids.

God I pray your blessings over them and ask that today would be a turning point for all of us and that we would look back on today and how hard Covid has been as the time God came and met us and rescued us and made good and beautiful healing out of what was broken and scary. We know you can do anything and we pray for soft and willing hearts for all our family.

Amen! And thanks for coming.