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How to Love Kids Who Have Been Through Trauma

I can’t sleep.

So I’m writing. Much too late. But I saw a child today who is losing his voice…and I failed to help him.

I was sitting on the row behind them. There to watch my son rock out a pretty amazing acrobatics performance. He has hypotonic muscles due to his severe malnourishment in his first years of life. Although he came home just before he turned one–as a baby–there are layers and layers to my sweet love that we have slowly peeled off with a whole lot of listening…a whole lot of patience…and a whole lot of love. It hasn’t been easy. In fact–it’s been the hardest parenting I have ever done. But I signed up for this part too. Not just the rewarding parts of seeing my son heal. But the super hard parts too.

And tonight–I sat behind someone who was super frustrated and probably in the middle of a super hard parts.

I have learned never to judge someone until you walk a mile in their shoes–only…it doesn’t and can never apply to how we think we “get” to react to children who have been through trauma. Our past, our stuff, our layers–what we think we deserve…doesn’t make it okay to react out of our flesh…no matter how hard it is. Because when we sign up to love kids who have been through trauma–we sign up to walk through hell for their behalf…with them—to see the experience healing and to focus more on their hearts then how their actions make us feel.

I get it.

I get your frustration.

I’ve been there. Tired. At my wit’s end. And if I’m honest–just flat out annoyed. Hurting people–HURT PEOPLE. So I don’t expect my hurting children to make me feel good. It’s not fun to pour out and never receive anything back. But this…I signed up for too. And you do too.

So while my son twirled on his his head in a pretty amazing break-dance performance…while he defied the odds everyone gave him–right there on stage in front of hundreds…I was completely distracted…for that sweet boy sitting boy sitting in between you and your husband tonight. With all the lights off–no one else could see…but the Lord allowed me to sit there–behind you…and my heart broke. I tried to watch my son…but I couldn’t.

His hands held down and with hands wrapped around his precious lips that the Lord fearfully and wonderfully made…you whispered…

“Stop. Shut-up right now. Stop touching me. Put your hands down…”

I looked beside me and my husband…chest bowed up…my hands pushed his chest back in his seat. He has a passion for the voiceless when he sees them. I leaned forward…to let you know we heard those words. Words that would tear up my children without trauma…but completely steal the soul of a child who has been let down over and over again.

His beautiful dark skin in complete contrast with yours. I don’t know the story–whether foster or adoption…but seeing the little girl you were their watching being dark too–let me know a year’s with of ballet means these loves have been with you awhile.

And then…as I leaned forward to keep listening…because some times when someone is voiceless…some times strangers are their only hope. And then…our eyes met.

Me and you.

Parent to parent.

And you knew I heard those words spoken. And instead of looking away–my eyes locked with yours until you looked away…because I wasn’t going any where. Even with my precious son dancing in front of me–I couldn’t part my eyes or my hearts…because I know he is okay…he has a voice now. He is thriving. But my heart was breaking…for the little boy beside you. And—I didn’t know what to do. So I looked at him until he looked at me…and I smiled. I waved. And I wanted to tell him what I hope you tell him every day and night and a million times throughout the day…

You sweet boy–are worth it. You are worth listening to. You are valued. You are loved. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. And nothing–nothing–nothing you can do can change God’s great big love for you…you are can and will change the world if you just open your hands and trust Him to write the rest of your story. It won’t be easy…and you won’t always love your mom and dad–and you will do things to see if we will push you away…but we won’t. Because we are committed. We are forever. And no matter what you do–we are here and we love you.

Kids who have been through trauma are at higher risks for having sensory disorders and chemical brain imbalances. If you haven’t spent a lot of time with a sensory child–come to my house;). I can’t pass down the parenting my parents did for me–mostly because I didn’t go through trauma…so “no”, “because I said so”, and “obey right away” will not work the same. In fact–it will usually trigger an out of control melt down OR trigger a zone/check out reaction (fight or flight). Everything must be processed through trauma or with trauma in mind as you parent kids from the hard places…and no matter how many buttons they push–because these kiddos love to push them to see your reaction–we can never, ever, ever do more damage with our actions and words.

They need to feel control. They need to know they are heard. Then need to have someone go to the hard places WITH them…not be sent away to time our or their rooms to work it out or cool down on their own. Alone. Because alone is how they have always processed things–and not they are no longer alone. They don’t have to do it alone. And our reactions and words should always be TOGETHER WORDS–because we are in this together.

The beautiful thing is this…tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it and any trauma we have caused on top of trauma—can be healed. Maybe you panicked because the show was starting…so the words shut up were just said in desperation. We all make mistakes. Maybe you were at your wits end after cleaning up a clogged toilet, a raided pantry and art done with feces…I’ve been there;)…and when he kept talking–restraining felt okay and the only way to make him be quiet. But from one mommy to another…I just want you to know…that you are loved too. I see your tired. I see your frustration. El Roi SEES YOU TOO. Rest. Get whatever rest you need so you can pour out and love big. And praise Him. That your boy–STILL has a voice. Do whatever you can to help him keep it. When he talks at the next performance…praise the Lord that his voice is still there. When he pats you on the back instead of wiping his hand away over and over…praise the Lord that he wants to touch you. Not every foster or adoptive mom ever has a child want to love them back–so praise Him…embrace it…and maybe even grab his hand offering touch…healing hands…right back.

When we feel called to grow through foster and adoption…we are ultimately called to grow by loving kids who have been through trauma. It won’t be easy–for you to love always…and it won’t be easy for traumatized children to accept love. But each word spoken, each touch…each child–is such a miracle. We can take away more of their voices…or help them learn to use them.

No matter how hard it gets…don’t give up. These kids…are so worth fighting for. And until they know it–we must tell them…and fight for them. I wish I had done more tonight…but I’m not sure what to do…so I lay awake and think of you sweet boy…praying for your voice…your heart…and that you know you are loved.