Empowered to Connect offers many helpful resources for families parenting children from “hard places.” Among my favorites are the short video clips of Dr. Karyn Purvis teaching parents just like you and me on specific topics. ETC’s newest resource, Practical Help for Families in Crisis, is a must for any family that is struggling to parent their child. At just under four minutes, take just a moment to watch it now:
In this short video, Dr. Purvis highlights a number of strategies for helping families, many of which we used when our family was in crisis. The over-arching theme is that we cannot parent children from “hard places” alone. As she says, we need to “pitch our tent” with others who understand and turn to them for help. As we struggled to find our way, we learned that we needed a “team” for our daughter because we could not meet her needs and the needs of our other children at the same time. We were exhausted, emotionally and physically, and we were stressed beyond belief.
How can the Church, friends, and family help us when life is out of control and we are slipping into a downward spiral that seems to have no end? Here are a few of Dr. Purvis’ suggestions.
Dr. Purvis recommends a few days of respite care for your child in order to rest and regroup. We found care for our neediest child and went away for a few days to our friends’ mountain home. Russ and I slept, prayed, cried, and talked. We even watched some ETC videos of Dr. Purvis teaching and were infused with hope. Maybe there really was help for our child.
We brainstormed about changes we could make to make life more bearable for our family. Who were the people we could turn to for help? We wrote down our needs and brainstormed ideas of how our friends could help us. In addition, we discussed our decision to put two of our homeschooled children in school, lifting a significant load off my shoulders and offering me respite for six hours each day.
After School Pick Up
Today, two years after we reached our low point, a dear friend still picks one of our daughters up from school each Wednesday and takes her home for the afternoon and dinner. It is remarkable how restful that day is for me and how much she looks forward to the special time away.
Dr. Purvis suggests having someone provide dinner once a week. This would have been heavenly, but with our family size of thirteen, we didn’t feel we could ask for this. That being said, it would be a perfect ministry for a church to provide to a family in crisis! I reduced my stress by making a very simple menu which I repeated each week for a number of months. It was not a season of culinary adventure, but my family was fed and nurtured around the table.
There came a day when Russ and I realized that if we did not take care of ourselves in the midst of crisis, we might not make it. Our health was suffering, we were unable to sleep, he ate too little while I ate too much, I cried – a lot, Russ grew more and more silent. In the midst of it all, we had eleven children who looked on wondering what was going to become of their lives.
We claimed the early mornings as our time to connect with each other and with the Lord. It took some consistent training, but we established a rule that the six youngest children had to stay in bed until 7:15 each morning, and we began to spend some quiet time together. We went for long walks, read our Bibles, and sipped coffee in the peaceful morning. Even our most hypervigilant child learned to stay in bed. Those mornings became our lifeline and little by little, our hope was renewed.
Let Go of Shame and Seek Help
Russ and I finally let go of shame and began to talk about our struggles with other people. It was incredibly humbling to admit that we were in a parenting crisis far over our heads. A few good friends witnessed life in our family, and still loved us. They became the people we could talk openly with about our struggles to parent such broken children.
Additionally, we got professional help from doctors and therapists who understood our family’s unique needs. Being able to talk honestly and transparently with people who would not judge us, brought light into our darkness and helped us find our way to healing.
If your family is in crisis, my hope and prayer is that you will find a few people who will “hold your hands up.” Perhaps you can turn to your church, extended family, or friends to create a team of people who will come alongside you. It took lots of trial and error, but eventually that is exactly what we created – a small group of friends we can turn to at nearly any moment who will come to our aid. Parenting children from “hard places” is unlike anything else Russ and I have experienced; we urge you not to do it alone.
Lisa Qualls has been married to her husband Russ for over 26 years. They have 11 children who came to them by both birth and adoption. She earnestly believes in the power of God to heal children’s broken hearts and is privileged to participate in the process with her own children. Lisa writes about her life and family for Empowered to Connect (www.empoweredtoconnect.org) and on her blog, A Bushel and A Peck (www.onethankfulmom.com).