Eight Ways to Help a Struggling Family

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Last week I got an email from a woman whose friend has adopted a child and the family is struggling. Her heartfelt note asked what she could do to help this family; the line that grabbed me was, “The mom looks sad and frustrated all of the time.” Most likely, the entire family is fueled by fear and sadness.

She closed her email with, “What can I do to help? What can our church family do to help?”

Let me offer a few thoughts.

1. Ask her what she needs.

*Go to her home with two lattes in hand, give her a hug, and listen. She may not know what she needs, but ask her, and if she isn’t sure,  make suggestions of things you can do for her.

*Bring a snack for her kids and maybe a DVD for them to watch; quite likely she has been very isolated and will be thankful for a few moments with an adult. I remember standing on my front porch and bursting into tears telling my friend, Signe, that I didn’t know how we were going to survive. The compassion on her face, all those years ago, still comes to mind. Parenting a very difficult child is a lonely business.

*Her needs may surprise you. Maybe she hasn’t been able to get her hair cut (or go to the dentist, go to another child’s sporting event, attend church, have an uninterrupted conversation with her husband, take a nap)  because she has nobody to care for her child from “hard places.”

2. Feed Them

Everybody needs to eat and that need doesn’t change, even in the midst of crisis. There are many ways to help with this, and if you can get some other folks to join you, this will alleviate a lot of stress on the family.

*Bring dinner once a week.

*Fill her freezer with prepared dinners.

*Organize a cooking day and work with her to fill her freezer.

*Go grocery shopping for her once a week. Pick up her list and take one of her children along to be your helper – he’ll feel special and your friend will have a little break at the same time.

*Give her gift cards for local restaurants, especially places that deliver.

3. Drive

When life gets very hard, it is difficult to leave the house. Things are left undone, other children aren’t able to participate in activities, and we all grow frayed around the edges.

*Do errands for her once a week.

So many things were left undone when our life was being lived moment-by-moment. Wardrobes grew smaller simply because I couldn’t get to the store to replace the jeans that had holes in the knees. I had great hand-me-down Christmas dresses for the girls, but no tights. Movies and library books weren’t returned on time, prescriptions weren’t pick up, snow tires weren’t put on…you get the picture).

*Take her children to an activity on a regular basis.

In our isolation, the other children grew very sad, stressed, and lonely. We never knew what kind of chaos an evening might hold , and we were exhausted, so our default was to simply say “no” to everything.  Isaiah and Ladybug were able to begin attending a youth group only because the youth pastor offered to pick them up and bring them home.

Sports and after school activities were nearly impossible. If you’re signing your child up for recreational basketball, ask your friend if her child would like to play and commit to driving to the practices and games.

My friend, Sue, began picking Sunshine up one morning a week and taking her to the library. To this day, Sunshine still looks forward to her Thursday mornings with Sue, which often include tea, the library, and her weekly spelling test.

*If your friend is traveling a distance for treatment or therapy, offer to go along and drive once a month. She may be thankful for the company and the opportunity to rest. Pack a few snacks, stop to get a special coffee, or even have a meal while you are out. Be sure she knows that you are not in a hurry and that you have cleared enough time for this.

4. Clean

*Show up. She may be embarrassed by the state of her home. If she is spending hours with a raging child, or even with a child who needs loads of attention and nurture, cleaning bathrooms, changing sheets, and mopping  floors will slip down the list. I was too embarrassed to ask for cleaning help, but I have a friend who would stop by, make tea, and as we talked, she would sweep my kitchen floor and wash the dishes alongside me. It felt natural and I wasn’t embarrassed by her help.

* Fold laundry. Call her in the morning and tell her that you are going to stop by that afternoon to fold laundry. She’ll keep those machines running if she knows you’re coming to help. Be sure to help her put it away.  One time a friend came over, picked up all of our dirty laundry and returned it clean and folded – it was like a miracle.

*If you have more money than time, hire somebody to clean for her – even once will be a big help.

5. Respite and Babysitting

Babysitting and respite can take on a variety of forms.

*Babysit the kids while your friend is home so she can take a nap or work through the unending pile of paperwork that accompanies children with special needs.

*Babysit the other children while she takes her high need child to an appointment.

*Babysit the child from “hard places” so your friend can have a moment with another one of her children.

*Weekend help is particularly helpful for children from “hard places.”  Weekends have always been difficult for Dimples, the lack of structure that she enjoys at school doesn’t transfer to a long Saturday stretching before her.  We would try to fill her days, but friends who invited her over for a few hours, or even all day, were a huge help.

*Predictable, scheduled help is a tremendous relief for families. I’ve written about this many times, but my friend, Michele, picked Dimples up from school every Wednesday and kept her until after dinner. I could count on Wednesdays being a day I could schedule appointments for other children, or simply catch my breath. It was the one night a week when we had a calm dinner time.

*Respite care is a great need for families whose new children have significant challenges.  A family can quickly become exhausted when there is constant raging, arguing, and destructive behavior. A friend who understands children from “hard places” and is willing to give the family a 24 hour break will have an impact far beyond what they may imagine.

6. Don’t Forget the Siblings

Our original children struggled with our inability to give them attention and time when we added three new children to our family and one year later added another.  They lost us as we struggled to figure out how to live this new life.

*Give practical help. My friend, Beth, welcomed Ladybug into her family and homeschooled her for a year after Dimples came home.

*Offer support to the kids. Isaiah and Ladybug joined the youth group of a local church and we were thankful for the encouragement and positive adult interaction they received.  It was so meaningful, that we eventually made that church our new church home.

*Remember that they need to have fun. Friends who took our kids to do something fun were also a huge blessing when life at home seemed to be loads of work or simply tumultuous.  If the children have a sibling who is raging or crying for hours, the kids may need relief from the stress too.

7. Be Dependable 

I want to stress that is very important to be clear about what you are committing to, and then follow through. Your help will likely be a greater lifeline than you can imagine. Asking for help and trying to create a schedule of support for Dimples has been one of the most difficult parts of being her parent. Friends who canceled on commitments likely had no idea that it may have resulted in hours of rage and struggle for our entire family.

8. Don’t Judge, Just Love

*Trust me, your friends who are struggling are likely already feeling shame over their inability to hold their family neatly together. They need to be reminded of how  much they are loved by God and by you. They need to know that they are not alone – you don’t have the answers, but you’re going to stick by them while they sort it out.

*Assure them that you are praying for them – and really do it. Write their name on a post-it and put it on your mirror. Don’t forget them because they may be hanging by a thread.

*Remember that your friends and their child from “hard places” are doing the best they can, and yet they suffer. Love them through it.

There are many other great ways to help a struggling family – what do you suggest?

This post reminds me of two others you might like to read: Six Things Adoptive/Foster Families Need When New Children Arrive, and Tuesday Topic: Let Me Know if You Need Anything.

I would love to hear from you on this topic.

Encourage one another.

Lisa

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

64 Comments

  1. Karen NumberTwo Hannaford
    November 4, 2013

    That is so clearly put! The only thing I would add is that if a friend has a sick child (I mean a major illness) or a special needs child, the needs are much the same.
    I really love the first one. So many people do what they think you will want and while you appreciate their effort, it isn't actually helpful. I've had a friend bring in a meal that couldn't be frozen just when I had cooked a whole ham (there are only 4 of us so it lasts a few days). I have a friend with allergies and she had a special meal cooked for her. The lady knew she was gluten free and was very careful about it, but because she didn't ask, she didn't realise they could not eat potato and the dish was wasted. There are always so many things that you can't get to and you really want or need to do them.
    I remember the isolation too. That was partly cos my kids were so little, but it went on for so much longer than it would have, because it was too hard to take my younger one anywhere (he has autism). That was actually one of my reasons for homeschooling. I kept my older one at home and the younger one went to a special school. It gave me time to enjoy my big boy and do the things we couldn't do once school was out. I can't imagine what it would have been like if we'd had a bigger family and I had more kids to juggle.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      Karen, I'm so glad you commented because I was thinking of you when I wrote this post. As you have participated on my blog, I've recognized that some of my challenges are quite similar to yours. I tried not to make the post completely adoption-heavy because of that. Parenting children with special needs is difficult at times, no matter what the need is.

      Reply
  2. Kimberly Witt
    November 4, 2013

    Excellent advice, Lisa! I've always wanted to write something similar myself, but now I don't have to. I'll just send people here. This advice applies in MANY situations of families in crisis.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      Thanks, Kimberly; I tried to make it more generally applicable. I'm glad it seems to have hit the right tone.

      Reply
  3. Deborah
    November 4, 2013

    Wow – all such fantastic suggestions……. reading the list made me wish that someone had asked me what they could do to help when we were in the deepest depths of dispair, and made me cry uncontrollably, and made me remember with incredible intensity the pain of that time….. and how much I yearn to recover from it still today. If she looks sad and frustrated all the time – if she has lost the ability to put on the smile for show – it is sooooooooo much worse than you can even imagine. And that mom needs help very badly.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      I agree, Deborah, I think this family needs help. I suggested immediate respite and encouraged the friend to see if the parents could attend The Refresh Conference in February. A weekend away would be good, with or without the conference.

      Reply
    2. Sandy
      November 6, 2013

      I so agree with Deborah.
      I love your number 8. I can not tell you the number of times either by actions or words I was let to know all I really needed to do was spank my son or at the very least be consistent in his discipline. HA! They had no idea, non at all. We were going through hell, doing the best we could. No one ever told me that they were believing the best or that they were praying. It was hard. Praise God, He got us through and now have two awesome pre teen and teen kids.

      Reply
      1. Lisa Qualls
        November 6, 2013

        Sandy, I am so encouraged by your last sentence! Thank you.

        Reply
  4. Tracy
    November 4, 2013

    http://www.mealtrain.com is GREAT. when we hit an adoption "crisis" this summer my friends sprung into action and fed us nightly for a month and a half! 😉 it was a Blessing!!!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      Those are some seriously good friends, Tracy! Thanks for the tip about the website.

      Reply
  5. Diane Wheeler
    November 4, 2013

    I love your ideas, Lisa. One other thing I would add is to keep on being involved. The issues you are discussing are long term ones. There are no simple solutions. Sometimes things get a lot worse before they get better (if they do get better.) I think we need to be there for months and years, to the best of our ability, rather than just responding when the cry goes out and then forget. I know in times of crisis in my life, I get tired of asking. We need to remember the needs even when the cry is hushed by shame or fatigue.

    Thank you for your honesty here on your blog. I have learned so much and appreciate you!

    Di

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      Dianne, you are so right. This is not a short term need, but long term for many families. Our children have been home for 6 1/2 years and we are still very much in the thick of things, although with Dimples in treatment right now, we are having a time with more rest. I look ahead to the next year, and I know that we'll be heading into a more challenging season again.

      Reply
  6. Kathy in WA
    November 4, 2013

    This is a wonderful post. I'm going to include a link to it on our church's FB page, if you don't mind. It was Orphan Sunday and the congregation was very challenged to think of ways we can help . These are great practical ideas!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      I'm glad you found it helpful, Kathy. Please feel free to share it.

      Reply
  7. Julie
    November 4, 2013

    Oh how I wish my child could some place once a week through dinner. He is so rude to adults I wouldn't dare.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      Maybe you could find a couple with no children (or older children) that would not be easily ruffled by his rudeness. Having a peaceful meal once a week is such a gift to the family. If all else fails, hire a teenager to take him out for fast food and then to do an activity once a week.

      Reply
  8. fasdfighter
    November 4, 2013

    This hits it right on the head. The practical help is probably the biggest. I used to clean my house when my daughter was at school. Now that she's home 24/7, it's always in disarray. I can't vacuum when she's home because the noise bothers her greatly and the dust aggravates her asthma. Having someone I trust take her for an outing would be HUGE! When someone says" can I do anything?", while I know they mean well, it's frustrating. I often think " look around, and take your pick". Or "you should take a nap while she's sleeping" if someone picked up some of the slack, I could. It's depressing, to take a nap, only to wake to the same or bigger mess. Don't tell me she has too much stuff. I know how much she has, I also know that she has very little fun, so what's the big deal? I almost never cook any more. She doesn't eat much orally, and it seems pointless to cook just for me. A home cooked meal dropped off, would be amazing. Offer to sit with her so I can take a shower on days without a nurse. Come sit in on her OT, PT, ST sessions. Learn what she can or can't do. Learn about her challenges.
    Ok, that's the end of my "vent" for now. Sorry!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      I really loved reading this and hearing your needs…my prayer is that you'll have a chance to share them with somebody who lives near you.

      Reply
  9. LeAnn
    November 4, 2013

    I love this list! It is very helpful! I have several friends that are foster/adoptive parents that are really struggling, and I have often wondered what I can do. Do you have any practical advice on how to help a long-distance friend? What can I do when I live several hours away?

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      Great question, LeAnn. Quick answers: prayer, restaurant gift cards, a card of encouragement sent via snail mail, one-time professional cleaning (if you can afford it), an offer to visit and help her with a project that is hanging over her head. Hopefully others will add more ideas.

      Reply
  10. Dana
    November 4, 2013

    I appreciated a friend who made an effort to get to know my new child, at a time when most people were scared off by the language barrier and his sometimes unpredictable behavior. She told me, " I want to get to know him so that he will eventually feel comfortable around me, and then, you can go out for an evening, and I can babysit." She asked if she could bring a little snack for him when she saw us at my other kids' soccer practice. She was so excited the first time he spoke to her without her initiating it. She wasn't overbearing, and she never gave him anything without asking me first. It gave me hope.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      That's so gentle and lovely, Dana. What a special friend.

      Reply
  11. Chris
    November 4, 2013

    I so know the feeling of "she looks sad and frustrated all the time" there seems to be no end to the crises that we are going thru, daily, and after 2 years, I am SPENT!!!!
    we have had meals brought in,and some relief on Friday mornings, but 4 with cognitive issues has me empty and hopeless, and then throw in the time change, an almost 16 yr old who informed us today she is mad at God for bringing her here from China, she says she wanted to stay there, not to mention, she is mad at us, all the time-
    UGH!!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      I'm so sorry, Chris! You need a break – even an hour might help, although I know you probably wish you could run away for a week. Get some sleep, eat good food, and take care of yourself.

      Reply
  12. Claire
    November 4, 2013

    This was such an amazing post. I wish we would have had even a couple friends that knew to do these things for us. I remember a day soon after adopting our three that a distant neighbor who had heard about our adoption dropped off cookies at our door. I was on the back porch sitting on a swing, crying. My husband brought me this big plate of cookies out of the blue. It was like a gift from God to me. It reminded me that He hadn’t forgotten about me. Little did that neighbor know how much that simple plate of cookies meant to me that day. That was 12 years ago and I am still touched by it today.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      Thanks for sharing that story, Claire. It's so true – it doesn't take much to let somebody know that they are not alone. We just have to dare to come close ( and bring cookies).

      Reply
  13. Mary
    November 4, 2013

    Wow! Great list, Lisa. Thanks for sharing. I will pass on for sure.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      I appreciate that, Mary. Thanks!

      Reply
  14. Bev
    November 4, 2013

    Thank you, Lisa! I haven't commented before, but I am finding your blog gives me much greater understanding of the needs and struggles of my triends who hsve adopted. This post, and the Tuesday Topic you linked to, have really touched my heart. Everything you listed also applies to those who are caregivers for ill, elderly parents, something my husband and I have been doing for 5 years. May I adapt this for friends who want to know how to help?

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2013

      Bev, I hadn't thought of that application, but you are so right. Yes, feel free to share any parts of this you like, or use it as a "jumping off" point for your own post.

      Reply
  15. MomNoMatterWhat
    November 4, 2013

    I really like your list and especially the focus on committing to do something regularly. The first four years of our life with our three children adopted from foster care were the loneliest time I've ever faced. We were so isolated by our children's issues. It was then that we finally got enough services in place to make real progress, rather than just keeping our noses out of the water. While one child has healed a lot and another has healed some, we still have one child who is melts down numerous times every day. I will remember with gratitude until the day I die the woman from our church who prayed for us every single day. There were so many days when the fact that I knew she was praying for us was the lifeline that got me through. I was way too exhausted and stressed to be able to pray meaningfully for myself and our family at that point and that woman really stood in the gap for us. I would have loved the practical help, too, but our children's behavior was consistently so far over the top that people felt frightened by it and stayed away. I'm afraid that I still look tired and stressed, but hope I don't look as sad anymore. My husband and I love our children and this is a very hard road most of the time.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 5, 2013

      That is beautiful – just knowing your friend was praying sustained you. The regular commitments definitely have helped the most. As we look toward Dimples coming home, I know we're going to need some of that help again. It scares me to think of asking and needing….but we're going to need a plan to help her be successful.

      Reply
  16. SLN
    November 4, 2013

    I agree with all of this. However, you made a statement that your bio children lost your attention when the adopted children arrived. That is SO wrong! If you couldn't give equal attention then you just turned their home upside down. I have one special needs kid (bio) and he turns us upside down. I have two other older neuro typical children. I didn't CHOOSE to add to the chaos like you did. Shame on you. You're probably a Christian who was "called by God" to hoard kids and will continue doing it.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Davis
      November 5, 2013

      Lisa… and other families here reading this comment: It is OK to sacrifice for others. It is OK for our kids to have to sacrifice for their siblings. It is NOT wrong, though it IS hard.
      Secondly, nobody intentionally jumps into situations that are so difficult that they are harmful. And the need of orphans is great enough that it is worth the risk to adopt without knowing for sure if it is "too" hard or not. People like Lisa who share practical insight on what's going on in their (not unusual situation for "hard case" adoptions) family are exemplary of what to do and how to protect your family and all your children when you're in over your head.
      I appreciate you, Lisa!

      Reply
      1. Lisa Qualls
        November 5, 2013

        Thank you, Rachel, I appreciate that. We definitely expected this to be hard, but we did not anticipate it would be so unsafe for our children. Perhaps we should have known, but we made the best decision we could with the information we had. While we grieve for the suffering our children have experienced, we are at peace with the knowledge that God is sovereign and we trust Him completely.

        Reply
    2. Lisa Qualls
      November 5, 2013

      Regardless of the "shame on you" comment, and the "hoarding" reference, you've given me an opportunity to explain something that many people may not know. When a child is adopted internationally, there is very little information available about history, medical needs, mental health, abuse, neglect, etc. At the time that we adopted our children from Ethiopia, the case went through court and they legally became our children before we ever traveled to Ethiopia and met them for the first time. Based on the reports that we had, we could never have anticipated the severity of our child's needs. Thankfully, we have a deep faith, a strong marriage, and a loving community, all of which have held and sustained us over the years.

      Reply
  17. Rachel Davis
    November 5, 2013

    Some things you can ship to a family when you aren't local: (think amazon)
    Toilet paper, diapers, wipes, kleenex, rice, peanut butter, pasta, underwear, socks, laundry detergent…
    Or gift cards to: barber shops, pizza joints, gas stations, oil change places, Home Depot/Lowes, and grocery stores.

    (I created this list from a conversation going on at His Hands His Feet Today, an adoptive family's facebook page 🙂

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 5, 2013

      Great suggestions, Rachel. Thanks for sharing them.

      Reply
  18. myra
    November 5, 2013

    This actually brings me to terars…we have been sadly shocked and hurt by the response of family and friends to our crisis. I have tried to prayerfully handle my pain and relize many just dont know what to do. This is sooooo helpful and really nailed our families needs when things where the most challenging!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 5, 2013

      Myra, I hope you can share this with your family and friends. So often people just don't know how to help, but it's not that they don't want to. I hope you can get the support you need.

      Reply
  19. Claire R
    November 5, 2013

    This is wonderful. I got much-needed help in her situation and it made it possible to survive.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 5, 2013

      I'm so glad you got the help you needed, Claire.

      Reply
  20. Cecelia
    November 5, 2013

    I cried when I read this….There are times when this would have really helped me. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 5, 2013

      I understand; I nearly cried writing it.

      Reply
  21. angela
    November 5, 2013

    Almost impossible to read this without crying…. ! The suggestions are priceless. I am adding one more.

    A friend is texting me to remind me to do the things I need to do to stay mentally healthy to keep going. Sometimes she walks with me, but she also has an adopted child that is not easy and consumes her time. She reminds me to get my Omega 3's (flax, chia, otherwise), and keep exercising and not allow myself to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head, to use my happy light, and other such things and keeps me accountable to do what I need to do for me. We had 8 hours of raging and screaming on Sunday…. the child made herself literally sick and vomitting…. in the middle of it, it was important for me to be able to text her and say this is what is happening…. As helpless as I know she felt on the other end of a text, her words back were needed. Basically she said, hang in there. Jesus is there with you. I'm praying for you. – simple, but helpful anyway.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 5, 2013

      My friend, Kathleen, has done that for me and you are so right, it is invaluable – especially in the middle of a rage when you feel so alone. We need to support one another.

      Reply
  22. Anonomous
    November 5, 2013

    I was thinking the same thing about special needs kids and seriously ill kids. This can also apply to military wives, when their husbands are on deployment, and so many other stressful situations. These are such practical and helpful ideas. I have experienced the help of others in stressful times, both as a child and as a parent, and can say first hand that it can be the difference between disaster and hope. I agree wholeheartedly with the part about not judging. Sometimes well meaning people will make you feel like it must be something you are doing wrong that has made things so hard. I like to call these people "the friends of Job." 🙂 It's easy to armchair quarterback situations you've never actually experienced. I believe this type of help is ministry in it's truest sense.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 5, 2013

      Thank you for the encouraging words. It's very hard for people to comprehend how difficult life is for some families when they "appear" to be okay in public. Life at home can be a completely different story.

      Reply
    2. kristy
      November 6, 2013

      LOL "the friends of Job" I love this reminder, as that is exactly who those people are. A wonderful woman told me that she doesn't listen to what others say about her anymore, she only contemplates what God has to say about her. (she's older, and obviously more the wiser) 🙂

      Reply
  23. anon
    November 5, 2013

    Just tell your friend that you believe them about what is happening in your home! Our child was so superficially charming that most people couldn't grasp the reality of what was going on! Just having people acknowledge that what we were saying was true would have been fabulous! Instead most people tried to relate it to their strong willed bio child or their rowdy boy, Or they thought we were being too structured. Anyone that lives with a severely attachment disordered child knows that there is no such thing as too much structure, right?! Your friend needs support! But the kind of support that I am talking about probably will only be able to be given by another person that has been in these specific trenches. Sometimes the dad doesn't even see it. Blessings to each person walking this path.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 6, 2013

      I agree, it is so important to know that your friends and family believe you. Attachment disorders are very difficult to understand if you haven't educated yourself and witnessed it in person. Great thought.

      Reply
  24. Mom to my RADish
    November 6, 2013

    Wow!! Lisa, I love this article. So practical. I was finding myself agreeing with all these suggestions.
    If only I had had someone to sit in my home through the summer so I could get a shower…It has been a long year and I only get a break tonight because "my RADish" was arrested today because of his assault on kiddos at recess. My "friends" are few and far between and either do not see the same child I do or don't want him around their "normal" kiddos.
    My husband & I have not had a date night in months as we are unable to find anyone who is willing to take him for a few hours…
    But as this journey worth it? A resounding YES! I can only imagine what his life would have been like or not been if we hadn't said "Yes". I AM his mother and will continue to grow closer to God as I lean on Him for my strength.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 6, 2013

      I love your perspective on the journey and hope you can find somebody who can watch your son so you can have break. You may need to train somebody, or hire a more professional person, but of course, that can be expensive. Have you looked in to mental health services in your community? We were able to find a wonderful respite provider through a name given to us by a case manager. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  25. Shalom
    November 6, 2013

    I wish I had had this list when our last two came home. It sent our family into a major tailspin that we are STILL trying to recover from. I still could use help with some of these, but to explain it is so difficult.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 6, 2013

      It is hard to explain, I know. Maybe you could share this post with some friends or family; sometimes people really just don't know how to help, and since they rarely see the challenges you are living with, it's hard for them to grasp the depth of your need. Thanks for joining the conversation.

      Reply
  26. Cindy Ann
    November 6, 2013

    Wow, number 8! We have been quite isolated in raising our RAD, and our other "normal" adopted kiddo. The one friend who rose up to help with the older, really didn't understand her special needs and special fears. They were very subtle. While we were overwhelmed helping the one, he was "mentoring" the other, but at the same time, undermining us as parents, telling me in particular that I was a bad mother and that he had all the answers. When things finally calmed down a bit with my younger…with her getting the help she needed, they imploded with the older. What I would have given for unconditional help, comfort, conversation…what I would still give for that as we now try to undo some of the damage to our relationship with our older.
    But what I also like about this article, is that it is a reminder to me of how, when my family finally settles, to be aware that there may be others who are silently suffering, and that I CAN be that person who brings the coffee.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 6, 2013

      I'm sorry to hear about that damaging situation. It must have been so disheartening. I hope your family is healing now, Cindy Ann.

      Reply
  27. Rod
    November 15, 2013

    Wow!! As I read your letter and alot of these comments, I sit here and wish this would happen for my wife. I get my "breaks"(so called breaks) through my job. I work 12hr rotating shifts. I feel like I have to be a referee between my wife and adopted daughter when I come home from work. We have a child who has severe medical and mental issues. On top of that, she is severe RAD. I feel and totally understand the "Mom to my RADish" comment. My wife and I have only had 3 dates in the past 4yrs. We have pretty much lost all our, so called, friends. Keeping our faith in GOD, is pretty much how are surviving. I would just love it if someone would make just 1or2 of these offers to my wife. If I hadto do this all over again, I still wouldn't change a thing. She is our daughter and we love her very much.

    Reply
  28. catully
    November 15, 2013

    Thank you for taking the time to write such a supportive article. We can all learn from the example and your suggestions. Sometimes we don't want to interfere, but that is exactly what we need to do. Offer our willingness to be supportive and lighten the burden. regardless of what is being said, times are extremely tough for too many, and too many are disenfranchised. Yours, Lisa, is the compassionate American Spirit. Bless you

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 15, 2013

      Thank you, Catully. I appreciate your encouraging words.

      Reply
  29. Stacy
    December 3, 2013

    This is a great article! I have a friend, a saint really, that has adopted several children and fosters a few others – some young, some older and she does this as a single parent (with the help of her saints-in-training teenagers :-)). I always wonder how I can help and this has given me plenty of ideas. Thank you and Go Vandals!!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 3, 2013

      Thank you for the encouraging comment, Stacy. I'm so glad the article is helpful to you – and yes, Go Vandals! We'll have four UI grads by this spring.

      Reply
  30. Ann
    March 9, 2016

    I realize this post is very old and probably no one will see this but thank you. My three children are all biological. The oldest is 14 and has oppositional defiance disorder. We are doing everything we can do to keep her in the home but we are struggling badly. My other two children get minimal attention due to the conflict. This, coupled with a military spouse, full time work and my own medical issues leave me in tears nightly. No one knows but because of this we've accumulated $45,000 in debt. We are now a little more secure but debt payments keep us locked in a vicious cycle. We don't have family or friends who can help us but I know it would have been the biggest blessing if we did. I hope you inspired many people to be there for struggling mothers around the world. Even a kind word recharges our batteries. God bless.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 10, 2016

      I see this, Ann, I hear you. Do you have a church, the kind where you can be honest, and needy, and they will still love you? I want you to get help and support. Parenting challenging kids is the hardest, and we really can't do it alone. I am praying for you now.

      Reply

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