You are in a War
You may not have realized this, but the moment you said yes to fostering or adopting a child, you entered a war. At first, it may have been difficult to recognize that you were thrust into battle. When you completed your homestudy, you were not assigned to a platoon or given a uniform or weapons with which to fight. Because you wanted to give your love to a child and grow your family, you simply completed the legal requirements, attended the trainings, and carefully prepared the room. With the extra space in your house and heart, you obeyed the Lord’s call and brought a child or sibling group into your home. You had no idea that you were entering into combat.
War: verb- “A struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end.” Merriam-Webster.com (2017)
At some point though, it felt like you were fighting a battle. Your child started exhibiting difficult and challenging behavior, you and your spouse began arguing and disagreeing over how to parent, the finalization paperwork took too long to complete, or friends and family started criticizing you and the way you discipline. Life continued with times of victory and success, followed by losses, difficulties, and setbacks.
The ups and downs of adoptive and foster parenting can really take a toll on a family unless the family recognizes they are engaged in a conflict, learns who the real enemy is, takes steps to engage the battle from both a spiritual and earthly perspective, and stands firm through trials.
Know the Real Enemy You Are Fighting
Your child’s behavior is not the enemy. If your child experienced early trauma, the traumatic effects on their brain, body, and beliefs will manifest themselves in confusing and difficult behavior. When triggered, adrenalin and cortisol will surge through their system and their fight, flight or freeze response will be directed at you or someone in your family. The dysregulation, rages, lies, manipulation and other strategies they used for survival, will appear on a daily basis and exhaust you. This is an automatic response, and your child will need help processing their past and overcoming their false views of themselves, people, and relationships. They will also need help developing strategies to deal with triggers. You will need plenty of rest, grace and nurturing in your life to help you survive the attacks.
Your friends and family are not the enemy. Those close to you are familiar with traditional parenting techniques that can be used effectively to discipline children who have not experienced trauma and neglect. Spankings, timeouts, and removal of privileges are not effective discipline strategies for foster and adoptive children. To make sense of your child’s behavior, your closest friends and family members may start to blame you and your discipline. They will give you well-meaning suggestions and parenting tips that will not work. Sometimes education will help them understand what is happening, but sometimes they will not understand.
The real enemy is Satan, the prince of darkness! He wants to keep your child in bondage and he does not want them to overcome the pain of their past. Since your child joined your family, Satan’s attacks are now launched at you. He knows your weaknesses and the areas where you will get down and feel defeated. His goal is to cause chaos, confusion, and a sense of frustration, anger and hopelessness. The battle will rage in your family and home, but most of all in your mind. You will question if you are doing a good job, if you are loved and supported, and if your child will ever heal and make it on their own.
To win the war, you must recognize the true enemy of God and ask for grace, patience, and help forgiving the people who come against you and hurt you.
Make a Battle Plan
It is very important to understand that God has given you spiritual authority over your child. He has enlisted you to fight the battle on your child’s behalf. You are engaged in a war that is being fought on two levels- the seen world and the unseen world. To fight for your child in the unseen world, you will need to use heavenly weapons. Pray as a couple, pray over your child while they are sleeping, pray scripture, enlist a prayer team, play praise music and infuse prayer and the word of God into your family. Stand up to the devil’s lies. When he plays with your mind, speak truth and surround yourself with those who will tell you His truths.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:11-12
In addition to fighting the battle in the spiritual realm, utilize all of the resources the Lord has provided for the seen world. Take breaks. Pray and ask the Lord to give you a community that will support you. Find a hobby. Nurture and give yourself grace. Build your marriage up. Love and encourage your spouse, go out on dates, find activities to do together. Educate yourself; learn all you can about trauma, abuse, neglect, and issues related to adoption. Get professional help.
Expect Trials and Stand Firm
Healing for your child will not occur in a linear fashion. The road to freedom is filled with twists, turns, obstacles, barriers and delays. It takes time to win the battle. If you know there are going to be difficulties, you will not be caught off guard. You can suit up, enlist help and try a different tactic to get through times of testing.
What are strategies you can take to stand firm? First, look back to see what God has already done. Praise him. Praise him in the trials and difficulty because he is there to help you and help you grow. Talk to him and tell him this trial is hard. He is right there with you, leading you, holding your hand or carrying you through.
Remember your calling. In difficult times, you have to remember the initial call, the tug on your heart, and how everything did eventually fall into place to lead you down this road of fostering or adopting. You did not arrive here by accident, you were led here and you are not alone. Do not forget that.
If things do not turn out the way you planned, take heart and know that God selected you to take part in the healing process for your child. You may be surprised by the role you are playing in your child’s life, but God is not. If your child ends up in residential treatment, living with another family member, making poor choices or if your adoption dissolves, God is still in control. He loves your child, he grieves with you but he is still at work. He never gives up on anyone.
God loves you, your child and your family more than you can even imagine. He grieves over sin and the way it affects individuals and families. Recognize the battle you are in, know the enemy, make a plan, expect trials and stand firm. God knows Satan and his schemes, and although He allows evil to be at work in this world, take heart, you are doing a good job, healing will happen but most of all He will overcome!
Renee works as a life coach for foster and adoptive parents. She helps families identify areas of concern, provides training to help them understand the root cause of their struggles and through coaching, helps families apply proven tools and techniques needed to address their underlying difficulties. You can find more information about her services at http://empoweredcalling.com or you may contact Renee at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/empoweredcalling/
War. (2017). In Merriam-Webster.com Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/war