When Letting Others Help Raise Your Child is the Best Thing You Can Do for Him (guest post)

I already knew I wanted Vanessa to share with my readers here, but when she
wrote on her own blog about getting help for our children when they need it,
it was clearly time! I am so thankful she sat down in the middle of 
everything else and poured out her heart for us. This is long (even though 
I edited), so go heat up your coffee (or whatever) and then "listen" to 
Vanessa for a few minutes.

The first few times I said special needs, Autism or something similar, I brawled, I sobbed, I cried. I grieved actively (by which I mean I cried every day) for several months, then on and off. I’d be fine for awhile but then the grief would hit me for a few weeks, and I’d be a weepy mess again, just able to do the day to day things, and nothing more.

But since then I’ve been—and am still—broken. I’ve allowed God to do what He wishes in my life. In other words, I accept what has happened. I’m not fighting, and I’m not running in the opposite direction.

I’ve also been restored and refreshed and held in loving hands. He has walked with me and watched me…and He knows.

Three years ago, our son was diagnosed with Autism. He was 3 years old.

Before the diagnosis, he had already had speech therapy at home, then with our school district. They transferred him to the Early Childhood Program for the Autistic Preschool, where he received his diagnosis. When we received approval from the insurance, we transferred him to home ABA therapy (Applied Behavior Analysis) for 30-35 hours a week, and after being on the waiting list for a year and a half, we transferred him to a center-based ABA therapy.

This has been a long three-year process for all four of us. My husband and I have struggled and survived and thrived. My daughter has learned to live with a brother who constantly needs us and requires a lot of attention. She has matured and grown and knows how to ask for her needs and for attention from us.

Our little boy has a fun personality and a great sense of humor. Even with his rigidity and obsessions, he’s adaptable and easy going. I promise you that is not an oxymoron!

I struggled with my identity through all the changes and have slowly and reluctantly let go of what I expected to do and be for my son. I’m his mother, and love him to bits, and I’d go through fire and storm to keep him safe, but… BUT. Sometimes I don’t know how to help him. Sometimes I have no idea of what he wants or what he is trying to communicate. Sometimes I don’t know how to deal with him.

At such times, it’s annoying and embarrassing to know that others (who are not his mother) know better. Therapists who knew what to do walked in and out of my door daily for the two years we did home therapy. Most of the time (99.9%), they were younger than me. Frequently (90%) they did not have kids. And they still knew what to do.

Therapists have firmly and gently let me know that they will deal with his meltdowns (they did not want my son to run and hide behind me every time they asked him to do something). Therapists have explained what they did that worked (which I wouldn’t have know to try). When I was baffled, therapists told me “I think he’s feeling…,” and they were right.

Through this journey, I’ve learned to let them do what they are good at while I tried to step back. I’ve learned my boy still needs me as his Mom (He runs to me for comfort and security.), but I’m not necessarily the best person to help him with challenging behaviors. I’ve also learned that my daughter needs me as much as her brother, and so when there was a therapist at home to focus on my son, I’ve spent with her. I had to let go of my expectation of doing everything for both kids.

Right now, my son is at a center. I drop him off in the mornings and pick him up in the evenings like I was dropping him off at school. During the day he’s in the very good hands of several therapists. I get updates when I pick him up, but I’m not watching every minute of his therapy. I have options to go to the center and watch (with permission) a couple days a week, but so far I’ve only done that once!

Here’s where I think the therapists are helping to raise him. Children “catch” things and are not really “taught” everything. Do you remember telling your child a carrot was orange and an apple red? I didn’t for my daughter and she still knows the difference, but we had to teach my son such facts with pictures and 3-D objects, and it took several years. For him, everything needs to be taught: from body parts, to being kind, to looking when his name is called, to a myriad of things that make a child successful in society. He has taught himself things he is interested in, including alphabets, spelling complex words, numbers up to 1000 or more, and now colors and numbers in Spanish.

Everything he learns at therapy is designed to make him successful in society. When my daughter was five and six, she received stickers or a “good color” on the chart for listening, for obeying, for being quiet when she asked to be, or for sitting still/doing her work while the teacher helped someone else. She did not really receive stickers for her academic knowledge. It was her behavior that made her “a lovely child to have in class.” My son, her younger brother, will beat her for knowledge (he’s reading at a 3rd grade level and math is quite high as well), but for behavior he’s far behind.

He’s not the only one who’s been learning for the past three years.

  • I have learned it is all right to accept help from these (younger) therapists.
  • I have learned to let them teach him and me what to do, without it affecting my ego and my pride.
  • I have learned to be his mom and only his mom, while I am still my daughter’s mother and teacher in so many ways.
  • I have learned this is a season in which God has us for His Glory, as always.
    • It’s a season (even if it lasts all my life) in which He refines me and breaks me and molds me in His image.
    • It’s a season in which I take the comfort I have received, and I reach out to comfort those going through something similar.
    • It’s a season to mourn, yes, but also to rejoice.
    • It’s a season to acknowledge my weakness, and to lean completely on His strength.

He who made the heavens and the earth, made me in His image to reflect His Glory (Psalm 8). He made my son as well.

He who has plans and a purpose for me and created me in advance to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). He has a plan and purpose for my son too.

In John 9 the disciples asked Jesus about the man blind from birth. They wanted to know who had sinned, the blind man or his parents. Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3), and then He healed the man. I hold on to this promise for my son. This happened so that the works of God will be manifested in him.

Asking for help, especially for our children in areas where we are deficient, is a blow to our self-esteem, our pride, and our identity. BUT. We need to find our identity in Christ alone. We need to look to Him to pat us on our back and say, “I see you, precious child. I love how hard you’re working. I know your sorrow. Lean into me, Take My strength. Accept help, it’ll be all right.” We don’t have to accept what society expects of us to do for our children.

Sometimes letting others help us raise our children is the best thing we can do for them.

When letting someone else raise your child is the best thing you can do for them. An #IntentionalParenting guest post from @VanessaSamuel85, via @Carole_Sparks. #autismspectrum (click to tweet)

As I told Vanessa when she first sent these words to me, this is one of the most raw and beautiful things I’ve read in a long time. I see her putting her foot down, standing firm on what is true of herself, her son, and our God. Send her a little encouragement in the comments below and/or connect with her via the links in her bio. If you’re willing, we would also love to hear (in the comments) how your life has been affected by Autism.

 

IP - Vanessa SamuelVanessa Samuel is wife to a pediatric specialist and mother to two children, one of whom is on the Autism Spectrum. Her family has lived in three different states for her husband’s work. She’s constantly putting down roots and pulling them up again. Her one Rock through it all, however, has been Her Savior. She loves writing. Through her blog she desires to help people discover the beauty and wonder found in Scripture, and so turn their eyes upon The Author.

Social media connections: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

 

Do My Sins Cause My Child’s Suffering?

We’re not perfect parents—none of us. I’ve made some massive mistakes in the last sixteen years. Some of my mistakes were…

  • accidental, because I wasn’t paying attention to the right things.
  • ignorant, because sometimes I just didn’t know the right thing to do.
  • sinful, because I was being selfish or prideful.

Some of my mistakes were the type I could correct later. But for some of those mistakes, the only thing I could do was ask forgiveness.

Sometimes Satan slips his hand inside the memories of my parenting mistakes as if they were puppets. Then he raises their ugly heads toward me at the worst times, crushing my confidence and/or piling on the guilt.

I know I’m not alone. My friend and her son are in a difficult situation. He’s struggling, and she’s hurting. She said, “I hurt because I know some of the things I did were wrong.”

Me too, friend. Me too. And now it seems my children suffer because of my wrongs.

The same day she said those words to me, I read the beginning of John 9.

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  –John 9:2-3

I’ve written about this Gospel scene before. But this time, I thought of myself in the parents’ role: always wondering if I had done something to cause the son’s blindness. In the same way, I wonder if my actions and decisions over the past sixteen years have caused some of the struggles my kids have now.

Read the Scriptures carefully here. Jesus isn’t saying those parents never sinned. He’s saying their sin didn’t cause their son’s blindness. Think about the relief that unnamed mom and dad must have felt when their son walked in, looked at them, and told them about Jesus!

There are some parental sins that do affect our children (e.g. negligence, substance abuse), and in a sense, every decision we make—good and bad— affects those around us. If you’re reading this blog, however, you’re trying to be a good parent. You’re working on Intentional Parenting. I’m talking to you, to us, who would never intentionally harm our children.

Yet we still throw those regrets up in the air like confetti.

“If I hadn’t done this…”

“If I’d just noticed that thing earlier…”

“If I’d made a different choice when they were younger…”

I imagine the blind man’s parents racked their brains for what sin they had committed to cause their son’s suffering. Or maybe they thought they knew. And maybe they had to live with the walking, talking reminder and the regret every day.

Here’s what we all need to know, need to claim, need to grab tightly when those bad parenting memories rear their ugly heads in the face of our children’s struggles:

It is not God’s pattern to punish us through our children. Instead, God’s pattern is to redeem every situation for His glory. Our children’s problems, whether caused by us or not, create avenues for the works of God to be displayed in them.

How beautiful is this!!

Let go of the guilt. Let go of the self-doubt. Let go of the repetitive beating-yourself-up. Toss that guilt confetti in the air one last time and let the breath of God blow it away!

Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).  –the accidental mistakes

Paul declared, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). –the ignorant mistakes

Through Joel, God told the once-rebellious Israelites, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). –the sinful mistakes

Here’s what I’m telling myself these days:

I’m going to do the best parenting job I can, leaning heavily on the Holy Spirit along the way. Yes, I’ve messed up. Yes, I’ve failed. But…

  • Not every problem my children face is the result of my failures.
  • Not every problem is necessarily the result of poor decision-making in my parenting.
  • None of their problems are designed to destroy me…or them.

“Who sinned?” the disciples asked. Well, we all did, but that’s not why our children suffer. Now let’s back off and let Jesus display the “works of God” in our children’s lives and our own, just like He did for the blind man.

Feel like your parenting mistakes have created problems in your kids’ lives? Know this: It’s not God’s pattern to punish parents through their children. #IntentionalParenting #GodsGlory via @Carole_Sparks (click to tweet)

I want to hear what you think about this. There was so much more I could write, so push in to those parts of the post that intrigue you and let me know what the Lord reveals. Or encourage us all with a short story of how God has used a parenting “fail” for good. I would love to hear it!

Praying Peace Over Our Children

Well, we made it through Halloween, and now “the holiday season” begins in earnest. This is the time of year I simultaneously anticipate and dread, both personally and as a parent. Intentional Parenting through the holidays brings a special set of challenges that include travel, overindulgence (of food and gifts), missed bedtimes, and, as always, The Santa Question. For our family, the concerns have moved past Grandma’s uncovered electrical outlets and into issues of greed (“She got more presents than me!”) and getting along with extended family members (“My cousin hit me!”).

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Praying Peace Over Our Children (c) Carole Sparks

Speaking of cousins, excitement and anxiety are clearly first cousins, and easily confused by those who don’t know them well. This year, I want to keep the excitement in check and the anxiety at bay by using Scripture to pray peace over my children. Even more current, our national elections are a week away (!), and there’s tension throughout the country. If your children are feeling it, use these prayers right away to remind them of Who is in control.

We can be confident that our prayers align with God’s Will when we repeat His Word back to Him…and there’s something about saying Scripture out loud that increases its impact for everyone who hears it. So pray for your children in front of them. Lay hands on them if you’re comfortable with that. Substitute your child’s name for “my child,” if you want. Join me in blessing and encouraging our children through these verses!

Read Philippians 4:4-7, then pray verse 7.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Dear God, I pray that your peace, which we will never completely understand, will guard the heart and mind of my child through the presence of Jesus, our Lord.

I love the active, protective image of peace here—that it shields our emotions and thoughts. Anxiety eats away at our emotional condition, but God’s peace keeps us whole…and wholly His.

Read John 14:26-27, then pray verse 27.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Lord Jesus, we understand that your peace remains with my child, that you have given it to him. Thank you that this gift of peace isn’t given in the way the world gives. Help him guard his heart against trouble and his mind against fear.

What’s notable here is the intentionality of Jesus’ gift. He knew we would feel anxious and afraid, and He doesn’t want that for us! Remember, too, that the world’s idea of peace is a cessation of hostilities, really the negative of fighting or war. Shalom (Hebrew for “peace”), on the other hand, is a sense of safety or well-being, a confidence in God’s sovereignty, and a contentment with our circumstances. So when you pray this over your children, you’re not simply asking God to help them quit fighting or that He’ll calm their anxiety; You’re asking that they will be content and confident in life. (This verse is so rich with meaning! Check out The Power of Peace.)

Read Psalm 4:6-8 (or the whole Psalm), then pray verse 8.

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Heavenly Father, help my child to lie down and sleep now in your peace. You are the One Who keeps us safe, and we have confidence in you.

As king, David had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, not to mention enemies everywhere he turned. Through these next two months, there’s sure to be a lot on your mind and the minds of your children. With David’s words, we turn our focus from our concerns to God’s control, which leads to a better night’s sleep for everyone!

Read and then pray Romans 15:13.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I ask you, God, to fill my child with joy and peace as he increasingly learns to trust You. May the power of the Holy Spirit cause hope to overflow in him.

Look at the progression here. God fills us with joy and peace (two of the most common words of the Christmas season). The Holy Spirit then combines these two, resulting in hope. How’s that work? I don’t know, but isn’t it great?!? We can safely say, however, that there’s no real hope—no active, confidence-building hope—without joy and peace, which come from God.

This verse is also a great one to pray if you’re watching for your children’s readiness to accept Jesus as Savior and “boss of their lives” (a phrase we used instead of “Lord” when ours were little). Thanksgiving and Christmas create a spiritual openness in almost everyone. As your children hear about Jesus’ arrival on earth, be sure to emphasize the purpose of His coming. Talk about His love and faithfulness, leaving space for them to take steps of faith on their own. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in their heart so they accept God’s calling to follow Him.

In the next two months, many things will arise to distract us from the “peace on Earth” that Jesus brought. I hope you can use these simple verses to amplify peace in your children and within your home.

Now, on to the holiday list-making!

4 verses to pray, promoting peace in our children through the holidays. (click to tweet)

Are you like me and you find it difficult to maintain low stress levels during the holidays? What verses help you regain your peace or promote it in your family? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!