How to Survive When It’s Really Hard

Adoptive and foster families often find themselves barely functioning and just trying to survive when caring for children with hard behaviors.
I just finished hanging out in Nehemiah (as in the book of the Bible) with the She Reads Truth community. Nehemiah was the guy who rebuilt the temple after it was destroyed by the Babylonians.

The parallel of rebuilding something after (and even during) a period of crisis and brokenness was not lost on me.

For a lot of adoptive families, trauma has left a trail of devastation not unlike what Nehemiah found when he returned to Jerusalem.

But just like the temple was rebuilt, so can we rebuild our hearts and our families.


“When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of the heavens.” Nehemiah 1:4, CSB
You are not crazy. You are not alone. And what your family has lost is real. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to consider the cost you’ve paid for parenting a child from a hard place. But trust me. There is hope. This season will not last forever. My experience was that I couldn’t move forward until I accepted the state of our family and grieved it properly.


“I said, ‘LORD, the God of the heavens, the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps his gracious covenant with those who love him and keep his commands, let your eyes be open and your ears be attentive to hear your servant’s prayer that I now pray to you day and night for your servants, the Israelites.” Nehemiah 1:5-6a, CSB
Understanding our kids’ behaviors and having connected parenting tools are imperative in this journey, but really, healing is a God-sized job. A job for the one who created not just our kids, but our whole world. No one understands like he does. Pray day and night (and all the moments in between) for your family as Nehemiah prayed for Israel.

Change what you CAN control.

“I confess the sins we have committed against you. Both I and my father’s family have sinned.” Nehemiah 1:6b, CSB
I know the word “sin” may sound harsh, and I believe you are a GOOD MOM doing hard, but GOOD WORK. But can we all at least agree that we’re not perfect? It’s so tempting to put everything we have into changing and healing our kids. Unfortunately, while sometimes we can influence them, we cannot change them. The only person we really have control over is ourselves. Take it from someone who has tried this both ways–working on yourself is hard work, but way more satisfying!

Find your people.

In Chapter 3, we read about all the people who helped rebuild each section of the wall. They are not always easy to find, but having friends and professionals who are on your side make all the difference in the world. When you download 5 Tips to Save Your Summer over at the The Adoption Connection, you’ll also receive an invitation to join our private Facebook group. This is a great place to start building that community.

Be persistent.

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious. He mocked the Jews before his colleagues and the powerful men of Samaria‚ĶSo we rebuilt the wall until the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had the will to keep working.” Nehemiah 4:1,6, CSB (emphasis mine)
Parenting kids from hard places is a marathon, not a sprint. Actually it’s like running a marathon into the wind. What you’re doing is NOT easy. It’s going to take some grit and persistence. Be persistent in both prayer AND action.
“So we prayed to our God and stationed a guard because of [the mockers] day and night.” Nehemiah 4:9, CSB (emphasis mine.)

Stay singularly focused.

“I am doing important work and cannot come down.” Nehemiah 6:3, CSB
This task we’ve undertaken is important. More important than all of the other pulls in life–for now. In this season, give yourself permission to sit the next meal train out and bow out of volunteering at school and church. Besides, you need to conserve your energy so you can be persistent.

Remember the truth.

“Then I replied to him, ‘There is nothing to these rumors you are spreading; you are inventing them in your own mind.’ For they were all trying to intimidate us, saying, ‘They will drop their hands from the work, and it will never be finished.’ But now, my God, strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah 6:8-9, CSB
Whether it’s your own doubts or external voices bouncing around in your head, remember the truths that you are a GOOD mom, and that, with God, healing is possible. You can do this!

Write the things you know to be true on index cards and place them in strategic places where you will see them.

As an adoptive mom, I needed these reminders today. #adoption Click To Tweet

What do you need to remember?

Posted in Adoption and Orphan Care and tagged , .


  1. Wow, this is so good, and not just for adoptive families, but for anyone! I love how you used Nehemiah’s situation to show how we, too, can pray and realize that God is in control. It’s good to realize that we need to acknowledge and grieve certain situations. It is healthy to do that and pour out our hearts to God, and ask Him to help through those hard times. Blessings to you! I’m your neighbor at #porchstories.

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