Parenting Older Children With Trauma – Part 2

This is the second part of my talk, “Parenting Older Children with Trauma”. Following the video is the transcript of the talk.

Secondary Trauma

I’ve touched on all the areas for the child. But now I want to come to the parents and to the other family members. One of the areas that I got hit in. And I was later on looking and searching and finding is secondary trauma. And that often happens to caregivers, not just with adopted kids, but even those who have to care-give anyone for a longer time. So secondary trauma in parents and caregivers is quite important to look into. It can also be a secondary trauma for other children in the family. You may have other bio children or even other adopted children who get affected by the child who has come with severe trauma that can manifest itself.

Most likely is the emotional side where you have anxiety. You end up depressed, lonely. This journey is lonely. Often you have to stay away. You have to take care of a child. You put those protective barriers around your child or you don’t want people criticizing and condemning your child and so you separate. And it’s a lonely journey, and so that can cause you to have emotional problems. Physically it can manifest itself in headaches, stomach aches, lack of energy. You know, you might feel so tired that you just want to rest all the time because you often don’t want to deal with these things. You don’t feel like you want to get up another day and go through this again. And then mentally, you’re not able to concentrate. Even inability to make decisions and, you know, you might just find it hard to learn new things. You might just want to shut down. Then behaviorally you could end up with increased drinking and smoking. You may even look towards things like painkillers, you might avoid others. You know what? This is where Satan can really come in and be destructive. Remember, Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus said “I come to give life and to give it abundantly”. So it’s not that we are without hope. If you’re there I understand, and I want you to know God sees you, He loves you, and there is hope. And I would encourage you to talk to your spouse, talk to the pastor of your church, talk to a counselor, and find support groups which can help you. Many adoptive parents go through this, especially those of older kids. So do talk, and there is hope, there is help.

Take Good Care Of Yourself

So take good care of yourself. We hear the term self-care. I didn’t want to put it here because it’s so misused in the world. It’s a word that is used for selfishness, often. You know, “I need to self-care”. And adoption is sacrifice. It is giving up of yourself. It is stepping into the life of a child in need, and so sacrifices important. But along with that goes self-care, we are the temple of the living God, so we do need to take care.

And I know in myself I did not, especially being an Indian mom, I just thought, “Okay, sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice”. Your children come first, then your husband comes next, and only then you. But no! The order is completely wrong. God comes first, then your spouse, then your children. And even among your children it’s not just the one in need. All the children should be given equal time. And often it’s the one with the greatest need who eats up our time and eats up the time from everything else. So it is important to prioritize, to be accountable to people, so that you can walk this journey in a good manner, which is beneficial to you and to your children,because of when we break down. We’re of no use to our children. And that did happen to me. And actually in this 22 year journey, it’s only this past year. Honestly, COVID-19 is being in a huge blessing to me, and God has really helped care for me through this time, and I’ve been able to overcome secondary trauma.

Spend Time With The Lord

The biggest takeaways from me and this is: spend time daily with a Lord. It is your lifeline. The harder the journey, the more the time you need to spend with the Lord. Prioritize and do that. Get up earlier. Do what you need to do. Find those moments in-between when your child is sleeping or, you know, when someone else could take care of the child, to spend time with the Lord. Think of Jesus. He came with such a big task. He was God in the flesh, and yet he always took time to spend time with the Father. Alone-time with Him, and that is important. And when you find yourself falling away or you are breaking down, you know you need more time with the Lord.

Look at Scripture not to see Scripture affirming you, but rather to give you a bigger picture of who God is. Because when you have that bigger picture, you know you can trust your God who carries you through this journey. If you’re married, commit to rest full time with your spouse. Make that time. If someone else can take care of your children for a period of time, take vacations or at least take an evening off and go on a date. Just spend time with each other. It is important and that is an area we neglect a lot because the needs are so huge and we feel we cannot. But it is important at times. And important also to pray with each other as spouses. And sometimes just that prayer, the husband particularly caring for the wife, can make a huge difference. Because when the wife is felt cared for, she is able to pour out more on the children, especially the children who are hurting and who need more care.

Commit to seeing and hearing your other children who may need less attention. In our case our youngest is our bio child and because she didn’t have any of the trauma and separation and attachment problems, we just thought, “Oh you know, she’s there, she is going to be loved, she doesn’t need that much care”. The other two did need a lot of care. And so she would often say that she had to shout louder and louder to even get our attention because we were so focused on the other two and she felt invisible. And that has affected her, and we are really sad about that. And I’m sure the same way it affected Sneha when we get so much for Sandeep. So each of the children need us to see them, they need us to hear them, and they need us to give them that one-on-one attention. So commit to that. See all the takes deliberate commitment. It is not going to come naturally. So take it. Take time to keep up with hobbies, go to see a friend. All this helps you relax and help you feel more normal.

And then, if you cannot handle your child’s trauma, seek professional help. And if that help means counseling, then do it. If it means accountability with an accountability partner or someone in your church, you can mentor you, have that happen. Be honest and share your struggles and get the help that you need. Sometimes that might also mean medication, and that’s okay. Under the care of a doctor, take medication for your anxiety and depression, and it might help lighten the mood and help you deal with life. So that could be helpful  because parenting a traumatized child can truly be difficult, and it can affect all your other relationships. And people might look at you as this awful person or so angry all the time, who is so depressed, and they might think, “Okay, I don’t want to be near that person”. That is sad because, yes, you are carrying a really heavy load. But you know, other people and how they treat you – that is up to them. They need to deal with God. You are doing God’s business. That is between them and God. He will deal with them if they don’t show kindness and compassion towards you. But what can you do to help yourself and take some of these steps to really help yourself and be, you know, sure, that in Christ there is abundance of life, and that there can be joy because, Jesus does say we can find joy in all circumstances. And we can trust him with our problems.

My Family

This is my family. Sandeep is our oldest, and he came to us when he was six years old. He had dealt with a lot of trauma. His birth mother took her life in front of him by setting herself on fire, and he witnessed that. He had to go with his father to the hospital carrying her body – she was still alive at that time, but in so much agony and pain, of course. And then, you know, left her in the hospital and then without any further ado, the next day he knew she was gone, and he and his two siblings will left.  And they were roaming the streets without any care, because their father was a severe alcoholic. And he was moved around, and so faced a lot of pain and trauma. Sneha was given up is a baby to an orphanage, and God brought her to our family when she was 10 months old. And yes, we thought “love and fresh air and it’ll all be okay and she’s a baby. It’s okay”. But not only did she come with her own trauma of that separation as a child, but here she was under Sandeep’s severe trauma. We had to deal with him a lot, and she was exposed to that constantly. Additionally, he knew his family she did not. Hers was a closed adoption. So that was another part of the trauma and it was hard. And then Rachna was born six years later, and she struggled in a big way because she, from the time off her birth, she was under her two siblings’ trauma, which was pretty severe. In the middle of that. We also had my grandmother who loved these three children, and they loved her. And then when she passed away, because off cancer, it was very, very painful for them. She was 92 but they absolutely loved her. They learned to empathize, they learned to care. And especially Sneha really took care of her even as a 12-13 year old. And when she died, it devastated her. We did not know that the death of a loved one is so devastating. The older couple on the side are my parents, and they were very gracious. They knew how severe the trauma was, how difficult the pain was, and they graciously came to help us. And we are very grateful to the Lord for their love and care, and for their support over the years. Sandeep is standing next to his wife, Shirley, and she is an amazing young woman. Who, has come in with her own form of trauma because her father had a stroke in a very young age. And yet, you know, God has been the mainstay over here, and God helped Sandeep and Shirley understand each other, because both of them had faced trauma. And yet God brought such healing to Sandeep over the years, and we are still praying for God to bring healing to both our daughters. In May 2002, just four years after we adopted them, and I was just broken, not able to take another breath, I was crying out to the Lord. I was angry. My husband Peter and I were doing this work, and you see Peter behind there, patient, loving and caring for us. And he, he himself had had – we didn’t realize it at that time – but there had been a lot of spiritual abuse and his family. So we’ve all faced a lot of things. And there was a lot that we’re trying to put together, a lot trying to understand. And yet, you know, are the only thing I can tell you today is that God has been our only hope.

God’s Promise To Me

And the promise he gave me was from Isaiah 54. And that’s the confidence with which I stand before you today. Not that our lives are okay, not that things have turned out great, but it’s because I have a God who is so great. And it is his promise that I hold on to. “Oh, afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted … All your children shall be taught by the Lord and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established. No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. And their vindication from me, declares the Lord” (Isa 54:11, Isa 54:13, Isa 54:17). And this is what God declared over us because we belong to him and I have clung to this promise. Are we seeing it all? No. But we know that we have a God who is a promise keeper. And one day we will see – and that one day might be in eternity – that His plan was perfect.

Why Should I Adopt an Older Child?

So listening to all this, you are probably asking yourself, “Should I even adopt an older child? Why in the world would I do that”? in India it is a very sad thing that less than 2% of families will look at the “Immediate Placement” category on Kara, which is the category for children who are older, three and up, or who have special needs. Everyone wants the little baby, assuming that a baby is going to be the perfect child for them, and that they are going to live happily ever after, and everything is going to be okay. But who are we trusting? Isn’t that child worth it? Isn’t that child as valuable as you and me, and if we were given that safety and security, shouldn’t we consider that for a child who may not get that opportunity?

God Adopted Us Into His Family

If we feel Look at it. God adopts us into his divine family without a thought for our background. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8), and he chose adoption even before the foundation of the world to adopt us into his family (Eph 1:5). And if we are his adopted children messed up and sinful compared to His perfect son, Jesus, What are we complaining about? Why are we looking for perfection when we are not in perfect ourselves? So should we not follow in His footsteps? Has He not called us to take up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23)? Did he say Take up your comfort, your bed of roses, and follow Him? No! He says. Go, go to the brokenhearted. Go to those who are in need. Go to the prisons, go to the streets. That is what He came for. That is what the Gospel is for.

How do we know who the child should be? Spending time, abiding in the Lord through studying His word and in prayer is so important. This is not charity. This is not us being saviors. It’s not. We are just partnering with the Lord in the work that He is doing these children. He is giving us the privilege of caring for them. We step into the trenches with them. We walk with them in humility, in love, in care, just the way Jesus did for us. He stepped down from heaven to Earth. He came down to our trenches. He walked in humility, in love, and cared for us. And we’re just doing the same thing. So the best way to do that is for Him to show us how , So the more we spend time with him, the more He will reveal it to us. Ask Him to lead you to the child who will bring you closest to Jesus. Isn’t that ultimate goal as Christians? To become more like Jesus?

Step Out Of Your Boat

And I think parents, when we step into the trenches when we step out of the boat like Peter did, we get to see a glimpse off our God in greater beauty in greater confidence. We are gonna be amazed that this God who controls the wind and the water is there with us, and we get to see him face to face. You know, Peter was the only one who stepped off the boat. The other disciples sat and then they did not get to see and experience Jesus that way. And the people on the shore definitely did not. They were not even in the boat with them. Peter stepped out. Yeah, he might have looked like an impulsive failure. And I’m sure many of you might feel that way at times. But you know, he got to see his savior and he got to hold His hand and be held by Him. And that’s okay. God used all these experiences to build Peter’s faith. Peter became the pillar off the New Testament church. So becoming like Jesus, getting close to Him is our biggest goal. So don’t ask God to bring you a child who will give you the greatest happiness, or give you the greatest comfort and ease in life. Instead – and it is not just in this but in everything – ask him to take you into situations, bring a child into your life, who will draw you and bring you closest to Jesus. Get the advice of trusted believers who are rooted in the truths of Scripture. Don’t go to nay-sayers who are not rooted in Scripture. If people give you advice, let them back it up with Scripture. Let them be godly men and women who trust the Lord. Those who have reasons and who care for your well-being. Don’t go to “prophets” because that is not from the Lord. Don’t just go to get a prediction for your future. That’s not from the Lord. God will give strength for you to do what you have to do, and he will give you the grace if you choose to step out of the boat. And if you choose to adopt, so trust him.

Jesus Is Our Only Hope In Life and In Death

Adopted parents, Jesus is our only hope in life and in death. So keep your chin up. You can do this. And there are some things that we can do, which are far more important than all the other therapies, and all the other help,and teaching and training that we can give our children. And the reason I say that He is our only hope is because on the cross 2000 years ago, He paid the ultimate price to save us, to love us, to give us worth, to care for us, and to adopt us into his family. And when He died that day, He said “It is finished” (John 19:30). All the pain and suffering that we go through – It was finished. He took it on Himself. People who have hurt us, He took that on himself. He took the pain of our  children. Victory was won that day on that cross. We get to enjoy that victory. We get to rest in Him knowing that He loves us and He cares for us. And He will do anything if He was willing to give up his own Son for us (Rom 8:32). And so we get to trust this God and we get to learn about this God on this journey. And even more exciting, our children get to learn about Him and to walk with Him.

So What Should We Do?

We immerse our child in the Word of God so important because the Word of God never comes back void (isa 55:11). We pray for them continually. We do family devotions with them every day don’t neglect that. I know busy-ness takes over, work, takes over. But try at least to kneel down and pray with them. Take them to church and Sunday school regularly. Let them develop that habit from a young age. Take them to Bible studies like BSF. BSF started from the time they’re infants and definitely my two girls got to go from the age of two. Play Christian songs for them throughout the day. You know, often that calms them down, and it gives them a feeling of relaxation and trust. Again, Christian songs with the Word of God is, especially with Scripture, is very powerful. We know that music is powerful. David played the harp for Saul when he was troubled in heart and mind. So play songs for them, sing to them. Play good Bible based movies for them to watch. You know there is so much of garbage entertainment. Let them watch good Christian movies, especially the ones that are based on the Word of God. I remember youngest daughter, even memorizing the whole of John’s gospel as she watched it. She would watch it pretty much every day, and that’s not even an animated movie, it is just people acting it out. And you know, the Story of Jesus for Children that is so powerful. These are good movies, and there are a lot of others. There’s some animated ones, too, but let them watch. Good Bible based movies, good. Movies, which will give them will build them up rather than tear them down. And the world is full of entertainment, which is going to be destructive in the name of entertainment. You know, we are causing them to be mindless so do as much as you can. I’m not saying you can do it perfectly. As much as you can, help them to be rooted this way. Play the audio bible for them as they fall asleep. There are many online, and even the Children’s Bible, you can play for them. Read missionary stories to them. You know, our children are heroes in a different way, and those who go and serve – and when I say missionaries, I’m not thing just also go and just are out there, you know, preaching the gospel – it is those who are sacrificing their lives. I think a lot of adoptive parents, our sacrificially serving and caring. A lot of people in different areas, even in workplaces, are sacrificial living and giving. Help them to see these stories. We have a lot of them on YouTube. And so, when I say missionaries, I am talking of those who are living out the gospel in their lives. Surround your children with godly role models. People who who you trust, who trust you, and who could direct your child in the right way, along with you, partner with you in that, Have a trusted prayer team around your child and update them often. I cannot tell you the importance of this. Having prayer warriors will faithfully pray, especially older people are so sweet and so loving and they have the time and they have the heart to pray. Ask them. Get them to pray around you, and update them often and so that they can play meaningfully. The next one is such an important point and something we failed in so much.

Protect your child from judgmental people. These children have had their attachment broken and they cannot trust adults. So when people around you judge you, maybe they don’t find your parenting style acceptable and they criticize you, what are they really doing? Their acting on behalf of Satan. Because this child who has been pulled from the dredges of hurt and pain and suffering has been brought into your family, and they need to trust you for them to be well and whole. The people who criticize and condemn you as a parent, are actually hurting that child because they’re telling their child, “See, your mother, your father, are not trustworthy. Don’t trust them”. Satan can use these people to destroy a child because if that child does not develop attachment, it is going to destroy the rest of their life. So it is important. And that’s not talked about often, but especially in line of attachment. It is important. And then I say, Love your child with a love of Jesus. And doing all these things is loving them with the love of Jesus. You are called to take them to teach them to train them. Morning, afternoon night, you are called to do that. To write God’s laws on their hearts and to constantly coach them in His ways. Lead them by example, protect them spiritually, protect them from those who can hurt them. This is loving them with the love of Jesus.

and be more concerned about their love for Jesus than for any other accomplishment. It is okay if they feel in so many other ways in this world. Maybe they’ve never reached the mark. That’s okay. Let them love Jesus with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. Because there is an eternity that is coming. And that’s worth far more then what they accomplished in this world.

Don’t Get Discouraged, The Lord is With You

And finally, for those who are in the trenches, don’t get discouraged. The journey is hard. Parents, truly the journeys hard. You did step out into the water, and the water seems to be pulling you down, and you feel like you are drowning, and there’s no help. But God is with you. This battle belongs to Him, so rest in Him. The best advice I was given this year was be still and know that he is God (Isa 46:10). Know that your adoption reflects the gospel. So of course Satan is going to attack. He hates it. This is spiritual warfare. You are fighting for the life of this child? It’s spiritual warfare.

Remember, God looks for faithfulness and obedience. He’s not asking for results. So how your child turns out is not your problem, that’s God’s problem. And if anyone criticizes you for that, tell them to go talk to God. God has given you this mission. He is looking for faithfulness. He looks for obedience. Looked at Hebrews. 11. God wants faithfulness. He puts people in the Hall of faith in Hebrews 11. Not because they were perfect, not because they did everything good, but because He is faithful and He carries him through. So trust Him. It is a huge privilege to partner with him in caring for your child. Trust him through it.

Don’t compare a child with others. Each child is so uniquely created He gives them for the purposes He has for their life. You know, our daughter is nothing like us. We are both in the scientific field. We’re not very creative. She just has such creativity in her. She’s a beautiful singer. She does this beautiful photography on art, and she is just creative all around. You know, even our website when we did it. I could give the basic outline. My husband did all the hard work of programming Sandeep was helping him in putting it together. And even Rachna has more of a bent of mind where she was able to do the work, And Shirley was helping with that, and Sneha just came in and said, You know, it has to have the right look. And she started giving us ideas. She so quickly create a logo for us. So she’s creative. Sandeep on the other hand, he couldn’t even open his mouth and talk, talk to even a person one-on-one, leave alone could answer in school. And yet today, God has given them the ability to stand up between thousands of people to share story, to speak out. He’s gone all the way to the U. S Senate and has testified over there. He stood on the platform with some of our national leaders of the U. S. And talked about virtual education, things that we couldn’t have imagined. You know, God gifted him with unique abilities. I cannot do that. My husband cannot do that, but God gave him those abilities. Rachna is uniquely gifted in her ability to study and to do Math and Science, and we’re watching and seeing what God wants her to do in her life. So don’t despair There are so many different forms of gifting, so many different ways God uses people, and it doesn’t matter what level we are. He says. We are “the Body of Christ” (1 Cor 12:27). Just like the body has different parts, so too with our children He will have a unique calling their life and everybody is equally worth it. Why are we worth it? Because one, we were created by the Lord, and two because God has redeemed us for his purposes. He redeemed us with his blood (Eph 1:7), and so it is worth it.

And then when we are feeling down, we’re so burdened, when we’re so isolated, we’ve got secondly trauma, we lose our significance because in this world we feel we lost out. I was an engineer. I have two Master’s, in Engineering and Management. And then I was the Senior Business Analyst at Merck. And yet when I adopted my son particularly, and then my daughter came in within six months, I gave up my job and I stayed home. And for the next 11 years it was hearing from my kids, “You are not my mother”, “I don’t love you”, “I hate you”, “I hate your God”, “I don’t want this”. We have isolated because we couldn’t take him out into the public very often. Most of things we couldn’t do. We got a lot of criticism from people and judgment from others who didn’t understand our journey. And we were feeling so down, I had lost my significance. And yet you know what God told me, you could be uninvited by the world, but your significance and value comes from Me. He formed us. He created, He called us by name, He died for us. And He has given us the value of the Himalayas. And you know what? All the people around us, even our children, our spouses, our family members, our friends, our society – they give you a little rocks off value. Think of it. Think of the magnitude of the value he gives you on the magnitude of those rocks. Those an insignificant in comparison. Focus on the value God has given you, even when the storm of adoption rages around you. It’s okay because you are still loved by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And remember, you answer to the Lord alone. You are his child. He has given you this task. And He is your heavenly father, He is your master, He is your lord. You will answer to Him alone.

Look Forward to Your Reward

So look forward. As long as you are faithful do the best you can. And where you fail, ask for forgiveness. Repent. He covers you. That’s what He died for. And pick yourself up and go again. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). So we move forward with knowing we’re going to get a “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:23) because we’re covered by Christ’s righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). Live with anticipation, because the victory was won the cross. Trust Him. The Bible is full of promises. Ask Him to give you a bigger picture of Himself. Not even a bigger picture of who you are, or not to fix your child, but to give you a bigger picture of Himself. The bigger He gets, the smaller your problems become, the smaller you and your child become. And you know what? He carries you through. You can trust him. He is a good God, He is a loving father, and He has a good and perfect plan. for you, a, perfect plan for your life, your child, and a plan for your family. Trust Him with that plan. He will carry you through.

And remember, life on earth is like four seconds compared to an eternity which is infinite – millions and billions of years. And you know, we can’t even count, where we’re going to be in the presence of our heavenly Father, enjoying life in its fullness, where there’ll be no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering. Isn’t it worth giving up this life dying to self so that we can have rewards and eternity? Isn’t it worth stepping into the water where you can hold your Savior’s hand rather than sitting in the boat, or sitting on the show where we miss him completely? That’s why it’s worth taking an older child. And that’s why it’s worth for families in the church to step out and support those who’ve taken older children. You are doing. Gods. So do it.

You know, families who are in the trenches need your loving care, Church. Step out and give that love and care, give the support. Just send notes of encouragement, call them often and just pray with them. Commit to praying for these families and these children. It’s worth it. We’re all on mission together. Everybody can do something. Let’s link arms for the Kingdom of God. And let’s make sure in our cities, in our places, that there are no more orphans.

And lastly that’s my contact number. My husband has beautifully put together – his name is Peter and he along with our children Sandeep, Shirley, Rachna and Sneha – have put together this website. We have some of my Mom’s resources too in there. We have it in different languages. We have from prayer resources, to adoption resources, – all kinds of good things. So I encourage you to go there and see what you can, and be filled with hope, and peace and joy of the Lord as you go there. And I hope that you’ll also get some practical resources as you navigate through that website.

Thank you. God bless you.

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