When the Going Gets Tough

carlalinkphotoToday’s guest post is from Carla Link. Carla and her husband, Joey have served with an international parenting ministry for over 20 years and Carla’s degree is in social work.

Joey and Carla have written a book that has just been published titled, “Why Can’t I Get My Kids to Behave?” It is available at amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and www.parentingmadepractical.com, where you can find out more about the parenting ministry of the Link’s.carlalinkbookpic

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Jill recently shared they are going through a dark tunnel with their adopted son right now. As she can readily testify, when a member of the family is going through a difficult circumstance, everyone in the family goes through it with him.

If you are traveling a rough road right now – a tough time in your marriage, dealing with a divorce, financial strain, unemployment, long-term illness (you or a child), and so forth–it is hard to imagine anyone else can relate to the pain you are in. I have learned, however, your children can relate, for your pain becomes their pain. Even young children sense something is not right, and they will sometimes show this through inappropriate behavior.

It has been almost nine years since we were in a horrific car accident. Even though I was wearing a seat belt, I was thrown from the vehicle and suffered major injuries, including pain on a daily basis which I still deal with today. Within the context of our full-time ministry to families, many parents have come to us asking for help when dealing with children who suffer.

We have learned that the darker your path, the more people pay attention to your journey. Therefore, you have the opportunity to allow God’s glory to shine brightly through your painful circumstances. How do you do this, especially when it is your child who is suffering?

Here’s what we have learned on our journey:

 Define a new normal – Don’t live in a state of limbo. Your lives may never be what they once were. It will look different, and that is okay. The new normal will become the identity of your family. Everyone will adjust if you do. One of our daughters has been chronically ill her entire life. Although we tried to find ways for our other children to retain “normalcy” in their lives, when she was going through a bad spell, the family revolved around her. My children are grown now, and their sense of compassion and mercy for those in pain is remarkable, showing what they chose to take away from growing up with our family’s ‘normalcy’ is positive, not negative.

Be a champion, not a victim –You (and your child) can choose to live your life as a champion or as a victim. The victim mentality always looks at what is lost, not at what is gained. Victims whine, complain, are angry, bitter and always depressed. Champions look at what they have, and are positive and grateful for little things. They focus on the victories in their life, not the failures. After the accident, people would often say they could not believe God would allow this to happen to us. We responded by saying, “Why not?” As Christians, we are promised in the Bible that we will go through trials and testing. Learn to be grateful for what you and your family have, instead of being in despair about what you don’t have. Your children will follow your lead.

Allow no timetable, no limits – Everyone in the family will need to heal from this journey of pain and suffering. The healing process will look different for each person in your family. Don’t limit any of them with your expectations of what this process should look like. Give them the freedom to heal on their own timetable. When a child is suffering physically, mentally, or emotionally, let him tell you what he needs.

Keep moving – If you let those who are suffering in your family, including yourself, lie around and do nothing when they are in pain, they will quickly become lethargic and depressed. Even if it is 3am in the morning, when my pain is bad I get up and do something. Friends and acquaintances are used to getting emails from me in the predawn hours. Keeping a book(s) nearby that can be read if he wakes up in pain in the middle of the night is a good idea. Also, give your suffering child the freedom to do what he can do, no matter how difficult the task is. Please don’t take away what shreds of independence he has left.

Grow a thankful heart – When I get down because of my limitations, I take out a journal and write down three things I am grateful for. I start a new list every month. I read through the entire list every time I add things to it, and by the time I am finished, I am at peace and have a smile in my heart. Taking time to be thankful  is the most therapeutic thing you can do when you are going through a tough time. When working with children going through a hard time, this is what many of them have told me was the most helpful to them.

Does God get the glory when the going gets tough in your home? If not, what can you do to change that?

(By the way, if you have a child with special needs, a great website to check out is bev@special-heart.com.)

“Count it all joy my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”

James 1:2-4 (NIV)

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