“If You Would Just Try…”


I’ve spent the past six years searching for answers to parenting my children with early trauma histories. There are lectures, books, CBT, DBT, EMDR, play therapy, occupational therapy, equine therapy, medications, neurological reorganization, biofeedback, supplements, special diets, acupuncture, conferences, retreats, camps, respite, prayer formulas, and the list goes on (and on).

It seems to me that no single thing is going to work for every child because each and every child is different, and each and every parent is different. The dynamics in families vary wildly. Is your struggling child the youngest, oldest, a twin, or artificially twinned with a sibling? Does she have cognitive challenges? Does your child have a diagnosed mental illness? Did he come to you by birth, through adoption, through foster care? Did she have prenatal exposure?

Many of us are parenting children who have mental illness. Can I say that out loud here? The stigma is huge, but let’s be honest, Complex Developmental Trauma, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, and Depression are all diagnosed conditions.

I get emails and calls nearly every day from desperate parents who have tried many treatments and this morning I feel frustrated and sad for all of us. I feel the weight of judgement from people looking in from the outside, as well as from people who have had success from a method and are sure we will have the same success if we just “do it right.”

Do we judge parents whose children have cancer, asthma, or diabetes? No, of course not. Do we try to figure out just what they may have done to cause their children to have these illnesses? No. Would it help my friend whose child has cancer if I quizzed her about early diet, exposure to substances, or other things she may have done (or failed to do) that caused this? I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t. Would I judge the treatments she seeks for her child, question her doctor’s advice, or the cost to the rest of the family? I think I would know that she is doing her very best to help her child heal.

I wish I could say there is a perfect formula for healing our kids, but there is not. There are tools and treatments, some of which are very powerful, and others I personally would avoid. God made our children;  He knows every detail of their minds and bodies. Let’s extend grace to one another as we work hard to find the right help for our children.





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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.


  1. Shannon Duncan Rotenberry
    September 30, 2013


  2. RussAnita Olson
    September 30, 2013

    yes…some days figuring out what to try, who to see, how to pay for it, and where the time is at, is as hard as dealing with the behavior…

  3. Katie Hanson Nyblom
    September 30, 2013

    Yes !!!!

  4. Tricia Sayre
    September 30, 2013

    Amen and amen!!! Thank you!

  5. Barb Horst
    September 30, 2013

    Yes, this is so true! Having had a son with many medical issues, a son with PTSD and now a daughter with a diagnosed mental illness, I have often ran into this. I do find the mental health field much more difficult to navigate then the medical field, though. So not fun! Praying for courage and wisdom for the many families trying to find their way through the maze…..

  6. Marlene White
    September 30, 2013

    I love that you write about the things that I am thinking about but don’t or can’t seem to say out loud.

  7. Katie Szotkiewicz Patel
    September 30, 2013

    So heartily agree, Lisa! Our whole culture looks for the ‘one fix’ for everything, and that extends to our trauma kids as well. ” Have you tried (fill in the blank)? “Have you heard of (fill in persons name) ‘s methods?” It gets so discouraging and so tempting to think that we just haven’t discovered or heard about that majic fix-it-all-make-them-perfect pill/diagnosis/method or whatever. Its so freeing to realize that THERE IS NO ONE FIX for every kid…..its just do the best you can, stay close to the Lord, and hang on to His promises and expect him to cover all the missteps….And that is hard enough!!!

  8. Paula Miles Spears
    September 30, 2013

    Oh, Lisa… thank you for writing this. Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.

  9. AngelaandMark Day
    September 30, 2013

    We found that our son with RAD has been a gift from God. We didn’t rescue him, he rescued us! Through seeking answers for him, The Lord is setting us free from our own traumatic childhoods! Most people don’t understand and yet they have plenty of advice that isn’t helpful!

  10. Bev Regier
    September 30, 2013

    I began to hate the word ‘just’ because it made it seem like the fix was something easy that I should have thought of. I try not to use that word anymore unless I’m speaking of justice. And for our kids, sometimes nothing works, and the goal becomes to love them as well as we possibly can whether or not it ‘works’. They are still worthy of love, even if we never find the key to what will make them successful.

  11. Jennifer DeeAnn Parish Rochelle
    September 30, 2013

    We have been filling out the stipend paperwork for our third and fourth adoptions from foster care this week. It is almost laughable how we are supposed to guess what therapies etc. our children may or may not need and affix a monetary amount. And we know from our first two that it is a long never ending road… We love these children and want the best for them. We will fight for them and we will try everything to give them a normal for them life. But it is sad and it is exhausting and most of the time I just want people to hear me…really hear me…their Mama.

  12. Amy McManus
    September 30, 2013

    Well said, Lisa!!

  13. Doris Mae
    September 30, 2013

    🙂 What a sweet picture of your two little ones!

  14. sleepyknitter
    October 1, 2013

    Wonderful post. Thank you!

  15. Julie Beem
    October 1, 2013

    Totally agree Lisa!! The road to healing for our kids has so many distractions and detractors. And so many ready to armchair quarterback. Not to mention how hard it is to find or afford the treatments. Totally with you — we all need grace (and wisdom) to get us through this minefield!

  16. Erika
    October 1, 2013

    Amen…amen…and did I say…amen!?

  17. Mary (Owlhaven)
    October 1, 2013

    Sometimes its us judging ourselves too. After watching Girl, Adopted, I said something to John about the parents in the film being so much more chill about food etc than I felt like I had been with our older girls at first, and John reminded me that they are different parents and our kids are different than Winchette. You never know what's going to work, so we really aren't blessing ourselves at all by second-guessing how we handled things in the past. All we can do is our best today.
    Thanks for writing

  18. Isabelle
    October 1, 2013

    Thank you for voicing the judgement and stigma so many of us feel when our children are dealing with mental illness. It is so hard dealing with comments from other parents who often mean well but leave us feeling even more alone and judged.

  19. Cindy
    October 1, 2013

    Oh Lisa… We all needed to hear this. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are so precious and your insight is so helpful.
    Much love to you and many prayers for you and your family.
    Cindy Mc

  20. AmyE
    October 1, 2013

    Amen! Thank you for this.

  21. Kathy
    October 1, 2013

    Thank you Lisa for speaking up for those of us who struggle daily with the emotional pain mental illness brings to our families. Or lives are consumed with bringing healing to our children and trying to make life beautiful for our other children who don't suffer in the same way.

  22. Dianne
    October 1, 2013

    Knowing we are not alone is a blessing. Praying for the day when people consider the brain part of the body and understand that an illness is an illness no matter where it occurs in the body. One day we will better understand the brain and we will all benefit. Until then, thank you for writing what so many of us want to say.

  23. Lori
    October 1, 2013

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. And AMEN!! The struggle is hard enough without other people (who do not live in our world/house everyday) offering their advice or judgment. I used to accept the advice with a smile because I knew they just don't get it, but it gets old. It helps to have a community where there are other parents that get it. They may not completely get our individual situation, but they understand.

  24. Lindsey
    October 1, 2013


  25. Dianne
    October 1, 2013

    Beautifully expressed! Many people equate advice with caring. Look at it this way: if they didn't care about helping, they wouldn't bother to give you advice, right? And who knows? The advice may actually be good once in a while! Simply thank them for caring enough to give you advice and ask them to keep your family in their prayers. Sending prayers for all!

  26. Tricia
    October 1, 2013

    Amen – that's all.

  27. Julie
    October 9, 2013

    just the other day, I said something similar to someone who still doesn't understand us. we have a friend whose sweet daughter has cancer. she's only 4, and has battled cancer for half her life.she recently had a short remission, and now is back to the battle. at the age of four. she is a courageous little thing. the only question people ask is of God: " why?". why does little Charlie have cancer, and how can we help her family? I never begrudge them that, because their battle will likely not end well for their family in terms of loss and grief. oh, and she is also domestically adopted. biracial. that never comes up…

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