We're coming full circle here. We've covered a lot of topics this month -- topics designed to help you prepare to parent. Karen is back again today sharing once more about how to get help -- this time, from your church.
A little while ago, I wrote a post titled Alone in a Church Full of People. It was in response to my many friends who felt that their church families had abandoned them in the tough times of parenting a traumatized, older child. I was saddened at the number of friends who had stopped going to church, had no support from their church, and even had negative experiences with their church family. I was saddened for them and for what it said about the church. Here is something I hope will help –
An Open Letter to Our Church
Dear Pastor and Church Members –
As you know, we have recently adopted a (insert child’s gender and age here). We are entering into a very new and scary world, and we need you to help us. Before we tell you what we need, here’s a little information on what it’s like to adopt an older child.
Most people figure that adopting an older kid is actually easier than having a baby. The child sleeps through the night, feeds themselves, and actually has the cognitive ability to understand that they have entered a wonderful new world of family and safety and security and love. It’s an easy transition for all – filled with hope and new beginnings.
The reality is that our older adopted children don't act their age and don’t always assimilate well. Their traumatic beginnings have affected them in ways we are only beginning to understand.
They can’t walk into a room full of kids who have been in Sunday School together since pre-school and make friends easily. Some weeks we are simply trying to keep everyone alive. The more subtle issue is that no one understands that the bruises on my arms are from restraining my child during a rage - and getting to bible study would be easier if I could come in my pj’s and know that during child care, my child was OK. Given that, here are some things that you can do to help us.
- First and foremost, our family needs prayer. Dedicated and committed prayer partners who will come along side our family and pray us through the times ahead. If there are one or two prayer warriors that would be willing to do this – that would be wonderful.
- Our meals ministry is a blessing to new moms; we could use meals, but not just for the first two weeks home. Rather, feeding us one or two nights a week for several months or more would feed our souls and relieve a significant amount of stress.
- Educate your lay leaders and pastoral staff about raising children with backgrounds of trauma. There are some wonderful resources available for you, and they will help you understand what our family is going through. We need you to understand.
- Please release us from our volunteer obligations. It simply isn’t the season for us to pour into others; all we have is being poured into the broken soul God brought into our family to help heal. Guilt about not teaching Sunday School or leading Awanas or volunteering at VBS is hurtful, not helpful.
- Please refrain from offering parenting advice to us about our adopted child’s behavior. More discipline won’t help him – trust me, we have tried. What he needs is healing first, and that looks different. It doesn’t help when the Sunday School teachers tell us “you just need to be more firm with him."
- Help our child transition. Find a buddy for them to hang out with in Sunday School. Our child doesn’t know how to make a friend or be a friend; help us show them what that looks like.
- Show up and be the hands & feet of Jesus. Come sit with our kids so we can take a walk together. Offer to clean my house. Take my adopted child out for ice cream to give our other kids a break from the chaos for an hour or two. We are not asking for days or weeks – just an hour or two a week.
We need church. We need the healing that only God can bring into this child. It is harder than anything we have ever done. And we need the Body of Christ to stand with us and sometimes hold us up while we fight for the healing and the restoration and redemption that Jesus will bring our child.
In Him –
In our case, our church has been very supportive. They have supported all of our children for two services every Sunday so that we can attend one service and can sit and have a date during the other service. It’s an unconventional way for us to have a date each week – but it works. They also have a college volunteer who is our older daughter’s buddy for children’s church and the transition time. Their disability ministry helps Katie be in class for two services.
This is important. We needed to be connected to the Body and to Jesus while walking the last year and a half. It’s OK to ask your church to help – and to help them understand how to help you.
Ask for help.
Karen blogs at Casa de Alegria.