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Caution—Rough Road Ahead—Parenting Teens with Trauma & FASD

Parenting teens with trauma—especially those prenatally exposed to alcohol or other substances—can be a rough road. The journey is often filled with speed bumps and pot holes. This pretty much describes my last few months.

We had an incident involving my 17 year-old son, Slava, which caused a rupture in a close family relationship. My broken heart desires reconciliation and repair but that hasn’t happened yet. I’m struggling. My son is struggling. We’ve addressed the situation with his counselor and daily teach and re-teach what is acceptable behavior vs. what is inappropriate. He’s even begun medication for his anxiety which was always off the charts but has worsened due to the shame and guilt he feels combined with the unresolved conflict.

Relationships are challenging, especially when you have adult bio kids, grandchildren,

and you're raising teens with trauma and FASD. Can you relate?

If your parenting journey has taken you down a rutty road, here are some things I’ve learned while navigating the ruts and bumps, and occasional sink hole.

• Be Creative

• Be Curious

• Be Connected

Be Creative

Second mothers need soul care and we have to be creative in finding ways to nurture

ourselves. Our kids have a host of needs requiring our support. It’s ok to ask for help.

Slava, is homeschooled but attends a skills class at the high school everyday. Typically,

I spend the afternoons working on my ministry responsibilities for JFO. I’m grateful my

son has the opportunity to attend this class because he needs peer interaction and skill

building, but I was overwhelmed by the thought of running him to school for one hour

every day—which would chew up two hours of work time. I feared late nights at my

desk knowing my brain would be too tired to fully function.

While asking the Lord how I’d ever survive this schedule, the idea of a personal assistant came to mind. After some prayer I felt led to reach out to see if anyone in my community was interested in the job for a reasonable rate. My cousin responded right away. Now, three days a week, she picks my son up, drops him off at his class, runs some errands for me, picks him back up, brings him home, and then does a couple hours of organizing for me. This arrangement has lightened my load significantly.

Slava also started a small job working for our family business. We’ve dubbed it “Slava’s Shredding Services.” One day a week, he goes to the office, blares KLOVE, and shreds his heart out—something he can do for hours! There are two secretaries in the office (who are now FASD informed). They watch over him and I use this valuable time for in-person meetings or mani-pedi’s.

The above arrangements are creative ways I’ve found to build some self-care into my week. And it comes with an added benefit—my son’s support community is expanding. While he still prefers me as his primary support person, these outside opportunities are safely expanding his world. I’d say it’s a win-win!

Be Curious

As parents and caregivers, we need to be curious and learn everything we can about the impacts of childhood trauma and prenatal exposure to alcohol and other substances. One thing I’ve learned in my 33 years of parenting—we don’t know what we don’t know. We need to make it our mission to gain knowledge about our children’s histories and harms before coming to us.

Be curious. Devour books and podcasts, trainings and support groups. Dig into topics relevant to your child. Become trauma and FASD informed and equipped. I invite you to check out my Adoption & Foster Care Journey podcast—it’s a great place to start.

I’ve heard it said, when we know better we do better. Continuing to learn all we can will better equip us for this road we’re on.

Be Connected

I cannot stress enough about the importance of being connected to God and a community of fellow foster and adoptive parents. Trusting in the Lord, no matter what is going on around us, is foundational to surviving this parenting journey.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to Him

and He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

No one understands this unique journey unless they too are caring for kids with trauma histories and/or prenatal exposure to alcohol. We need each other. That’s one of the reasons fellow FASD adoptive mom, Natalie Vecchione of the FASD Hope podcast, and I started the Hope for the FASD Journey virtual support community. Together we have a combined 40 years of FASD experience. We know how isolating it can be. We’re both still on this road with teens at home—navigating the ruts and bumps everyday.

Staying connected to the Lord and a core group of fellow sojourners is key to surviving this ride.

Be creative, be curious, and be connected. I hope these 3 C’s will help you navigate

the rough and rutty road of parenting kids from hard places.

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