Fight the Fear

A sure fire way for me to slip into ineffective parenting is to parent out of fear.  My older kids recognize it and sometimes they’ll even point it out, which I don’t really like, but I’m glad they do it.

I’ve written about this in the past and apparently I still have a long way to go.

All week I’ve struggled with fear over some of Eby’s behaviors.  I’ve written of his Sensory Processing challenges in the past. For a long time we thought his behaviors were attachment related, then a professional recognized his sensory problems and we did some work with an OT.  Once we had eyes to see the sensory issues, we were able to calm ourselves down and focus on helping him cope.  It gave us an entirely new paradigm.

The sensory problems seem to be growing, and despite our efforts to meet Eby’s needs, life is hard for him.  I wish we could have worked harder with him these last few years, but most of our energy was focused on Dimples and trying to hold our family together.  I made some calls yesterday and hope to not only continue our OT work, but have a more comprehensive evaluation.  Sadly, the waiting list is 6 – 8 months, but at least we are on the list.

The issue of my heart this morning is that Eby’s behaviors trigger fear in me.  I start thinking, “Oh no, we’re going down another long, horrible path,” or “I can’t handle another really hard child.  What am I going to do?”  Those are both legitimate fears and questions, but I need to stay present with Eby and not let the fear wash over me. When I do, I become dysregulated, if not externally, internally, and I become significantly less capable of helping Eby regulate himself.

This morning I was able to get Eby to sit next to, as long as I didn’t touch him, and give me enough eye contact to tell him that I’m sorry he had a hard morning and that I love him.   Then I sent him get his backpack and coat.  Three minutes later, with tears on his cheeks,  he came and asked me to help him with the strap on his backpack.  I got down and knelt in front of him to get the strap, I spoke softly and told him I was glad that he wanted my help and that I love helping him.  Then I lightly touched his cheek, and he didn’t flinch or pull away.

There is no fear in love, friends, and we need to work hard not to let it creep into our parenting.  Keeping my find focused on God and his plan for our family helps me.  Knowing that he trusted me enough to let me be Eby’s mother gives me confidence that he is going to show us how to meet Eby’s needs.

Question: Do you struggle with fear as you parent your children?  Can you share anything you’ve found to be helpful?

Lisa

 

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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.

18 Comments

  1. Mary
    January 30, 2013

    Oh man. You put words to it!

    Our little guy comes with a family history of mental disorder. Recently, he went into several days of absolute lethargy. He didn't have any symptoms of a sickness and so I was so fearful. I spoke to my husband and some close friends and reminded myself over and over that if we go down this road, it is a road we were meant to go down. But I was still on edge and cranky with my entire crew. Finally, I took him to the pediatrician. They cultured him for strep as a precaution and then I had a chat with our doctor about my fears about family history. She was amazing about it: realistic and encouraging. Then she left to check the culture–bingo. He had raging strep! I was giddy that entire day. Even when the rest of my crew dropped like flies over the course of the day and we made another trip back for another culture and then the long wait for the antibiotics at the pharmacy with sick kids. It didn't matter. He had strep throat!
    We may have more days ahead where emotional instability rears its head. But, as my pediatrician reminded me, we are not alone. And it is a path we CAN walk down.
    That helped me. It helped me to remember that my natural place to go is blown up, out of proportion fear. It helped me to remember that we take real steps on a real life road with real people and a real God. Reality can sooth my fear. On a daily and hourly basis.
    I liked your emphasis on love. Perfect love casts out all fear.

    Reply
  2. mamitaj
    January 30, 2013

    Oh YES! I struggle against this every time. It is so easy to be washed over with fear. It helps to focus on the Scriptures: Perfect love casts out fear. For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power, and love, and self-control. I, also, understand that He trusted me to be Cupcake's mom, so that helps. But, in the moment, OH, it is SO hard to focus on that. If I can take a deep breath and remember that relationship is primary and that I am the grown-up, then I can meet her needs and correct her behavior.

    Thank you again, for putting words to my struggles.

    Reply
  3. Beth Templeton
    January 30, 2013

    Yes I do struggle with fear in my parenting. I find I have to wrest my eyes away from the problem at hand, which is really hard to do since the issues are so very compelling with a few of our adopted children. If I don't make a firm choice to not focus there, my emotions (and therefore my actions!) quickly begin to mirror the problem = fear, anxiety, anger, disappointment etc. But when I get my eyes focused on the Lord and His goodness and His promises, remembering all He has done in the past, then I find myself lighter, hope rising in me, feeling more positive toward my child, able to parent in love, etc. In other words, I become what I behold!! May we all keep our eyes on the Lord in this parenting journey!!

    Reply
  4. linedancergal
    January 30, 2013

    I totally understand. Our younger son (now 12) is autistic so I know what it's like to have a hard work child! We've been through the 'what if we have another one?' (the odds are greater once you have one autistic child) but the other real problem I have is the 'what will happen to him?' question. He is so sweet but so vulnerable. The only answer I have found to any of it is to run to God. So long as I try to get rid of it myself I just seem to fall deeper into it. I just go sit on the end of my bed and tell Jesus, "I trust You!" I often don't feel like saying that but somehow hearing it out loud makes it more true. As soon as my focus is right I remember that I can indeed trust Him, to give me the strength to get through the day, and to look after Benny. We truly have a good God and I have no idea how anyone gets through life without Him!

    Reply
  5. Tricia
    January 30, 2013

    Lisa, I certainly do. For me, giving myself permission to say it/admit the fear to myself and giving it a little space, but then turning to deep breathing and my prayer mantra help. I truly believe that when we parent children like this, we develop a form of PTSD and can become hypervigilant. Becky Bailey in Conscious Discipline suggests this – "don't try to drown out the fear CD rom in our head, but over lay it. Say to yourself I am safe, I can handle this". I have also noticed that when there has been an intense time with one child, then others feel the freedom to "act out" and get their needs met. I am sure that is happening at your house. They all need the chance to work through their stuff. You are a thoughtful mom.

    Reply
  6. FosterCareQandA
    January 30, 2013

    "There is no fear in love" What a powerful reminder!

    Reply
  7. Jacqueline
    January 30, 2013

    Yesterday, listening to a story tape with my children, the message concluded with the following verse which encouraged me
    Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe
    PROVERBS 29:25

    Reply
  8. Cathy
    January 30, 2013

    I have struggled with fear when our younger daughter has been in a season of violence/hostility/anxiety. The fear that she will have a meltdown, the fear of being assaulted, the fear of destruction, the fear that I wouldn't be strong enough to restrain her, that she would hurt the dog, etc. etc. It has been really hard and during two seasons of this I went through a period of not being able to eat very much and lost overall about 25 pounds (I have gained some back — it wasn't a healthy weight for me). Obviously that wasn't a helpful response! Breathing has helped, praying has helped, keeping things simple, working in partnership with my husband and our therapist, and finally, one awful night this past October, we did call the police who came and spoke to her and things have actually been much better since. I don't know if that was a firm "line in the sand" that was a helpful boundary for her, or if she was on her way to being better anyway, but we have seen such growth in the last 3+ months. So though we will likely cycle through hard seasons again, it has been a really wonderful time and we are very grateful.

    Reply
  9. angela
    January 30, 2013

    Definitely can relate…. there are times when I react out of fear and it never works!

    Reply
  10. SleepyKnitter
    January 30, 2013

    Definitely struggle with fear, every day! We have one who comes from a family background of mental abuse, and I fear this all the time — definitely what what I was expecting when we started into adopting. We have another whose attachment issues seem to be calming down but, as you said of Ebby, whose sensory processing issues seem to be heating up. We have another who is having serious, potentially debilitating, learning issues. I worry about my children’s future and about ours as a family. Other than daily deliberately placing my hope in God, I have not found any “trick” or “mindset” that helps me work through the fear. My husband has written a blessing for each child, which we read aloud to them each night, and our son’s includes the wonderful words from Philippians 4:7-8, “Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything, and in everything give thanks, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (half paraphrase, half NIV, I think), and I can read that verse aloud to him night after night and still worry as if our lives were falling apart tomorrow.

    Reply
  11. Emily
    January 30, 2013

    I have a close friend whose daughter has severe sensory processing issues. They've been in OT for over six years, and she has started to struggle even more just this past year (she's in 3rd grade). It can be discouraging, for sure, but her daughter is also wonderfully caring and sensitive. I will pray the LORD fills your heart with compassion for Eby in a new and profound way, and that he would help you live without fear.

    Reply
  12. daysofwonderandgrace
    January 30, 2013

    I have to say AMEN! to what Tricia said: "I truly believe that when we parent children like this, we develop a form of PTSD and can become hypervigilant….. – "don't try to drown out the fear CD rom in our head, but over lay it. Say to yourself I am safe, I can handle this". I'm working on it a couple of ways, EMDR (Tricia's 'over lay' statements), and an anti-anxiety rx –super-helpful. PTSD seems like a pretty common reaction to living with someone else's chronic PTSD ….

    Reply
  13. kristine
    January 30, 2013

    My greatest fear is that I may not be enough for my children. That I might not have the skill to parent them in a way that allows their truly spectacular talent be unfolded and developed fully. I fear that our youngest child will never feel completely, securely loved. I fear that he will always hurt. This post has reminded me of something an Aunt who was Christian Science used to tell me. She would say, "there is no pain in the Kingdom of God." I always had trouble with that as pain simply seems necessary in life. However, for me, I think "there is no fear in the Kingdom of God" perhaps that is right. No fear. We should not fear. It is all divine.

    Reply
  14. Coffeemom
    January 31, 2013

    I so get this. The worries and fears….I have to try hard to not let that fear direct my responses and choices. To not project not the (scary) future for him….it's hard. Leaning on prayer for sure, in thinking outside the box, and honestly…today is the feast day of St. John Bosco…..a very holy happy priest who taught and raised orphans and boys who came from hard places. He was,ind and gentle and fun. And he had them in vo-tech education (consider the era) and one of his great quotes is "Enjoy yourselves as much as you like, if only you keep away from sin."
    – Don Bosco
    This is helpful to remind me to let my boys be their wild selves w/out my task oriented self always curtailing it…..too soon.

    From today's liturgy of the hours:
    "John Bosco’s theory of education could well be used in today’s schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with one’s work, study and play.

    Encouraged during his youth to become a priest so he could work with young boys, John was ordained in 1841. His service to young people started when he met a poor orphan and instructed him in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. He then gathered young apprentices and taught them catechism.

    After serving as chaplain in a hospice for working girls, John opened the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales for boys. Several wealthy and powerful patrons contributed money, enabling him to provide two workshops for the boys, shoemaking and tailoring.

    By 1856, the institution had grown to 150 boys and had added a printing press for publication of religious and catechetical pamphlets. His interest in vocational education and publishing justify him as patron of young apprentices and Catholic publishers.

    John’s preaching fame spread and by 1850 he had trained his own helpers because of difficulties in retaining young priests. In 1854 he and his followers informally banded together under Francis de Sales.

    With Pope Pius IX’s encouragement, John gathered 17 men and founded the Salesians in 1859. Their activity concentrated on education and mission work. Later, he organized a group of Salesian Sisters to assist girls.

    Reply
  15. Eleanor
    January 31, 2013

    One of the biggest lessons that I've learned as a new adoptive parent in the last year is just how much our own fear-based reactions affect our children. I'm afraid I'm not enough. I'm mostly afraid healing won't come in this lifetime. I'm afraid they will reject me, won't need me. Stupid, stupid fear. I consistently try to remind myself that perfect loves drives out fear. I try to breathe deeply, to connect to myself, my Father, my husband. And ultimately I try to remember that I'm never enough, but He is always enough.

    Reply
  16. karrie
    January 31, 2013

    have you ever looked into http://www.icando.org/

    we will be taking one of our adopted twins to be evaluated in a couple of weeks. our friend has been taking their son for the past 3 years and have seen progress to the point that they will only be going once a year now instead 3-4 times a year. we are looking forward to meeting the staff and seeing what they have to say about our son and how we can help him. if you have any questions, please feel free to email at kaschmidt15@gmail.com

    Reply
  17. SarahB
    February 1, 2013

    Fear has been a terrible struggle for me:)

    However, In recent years I have discovered a new approach that REALLY helps! It's called Healing Prayer and in its simplest form goes like this…

    I ask God to "Show me the lie/lies that I believe about this situation or about Him, that is opening the door for fear to come in?" The enemy is ALWAYS lying to us:)

    Then I –
    Confess/repent of believing the lies
    Ask for cleansing
    Ask God to tell me THE TRUTH

    His truth, and meditating on it, drives out fear. And I pray this way with my kids all the time, over other issues, and when God shows us the lies we operate out of, and then tells us the truth, it's pretty amazing.

    I can share more on this if you're interested.

    Blessings
    Sarah

    Reply
  18. Melissa P.
    February 1, 2013

    These comments resonated all too much with me. Today, in fact, the fear crept in and things went south. In case anyone is interested, we have been doing some "brain work," if you will, with our daughter that we adopted from Ethiopia 2 1/2 years ago and even our son we adopted from Ethiopia as a baby. Anyway, it is called Brain Highways and you can do it remotely- no need for travel or anything. I suggest looking on the website.. .www.brainhighways.com. It is an intense commitment but we have seen growth with it. It is amazing what the brain can be re-trained to do! Thanks, Lisa, for sharing your life with us. Melissa

    Reply

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