Parenting a child with mental health issues is the hardest thing I’ve had to do. Parenting techniques don’t apply, and trying to reason with a child who is convinced a shark will attack her while she sleeps means sleepless nights for the parents, too.
I hear friends say, “My son used to do that too! We gave him melatonin and that helped settle him down.” Or, “My daughter used to have illogical fears too, she grew out of it.” The thing is, mental illness is not fixed with melatonin or time.
For us, mental health issues stem from trauma. We adopted our daughter before her fourth birthday from a Ukrainian orphanage. We know she endured abuse, we know there was trauma, and not just one traumatic event, the essence of her situation is surrounded by trauma.
Holidays are a time of celebration and cheer, but for our family these times seem to bring out more anxieties and emotions that are too big to control. She can go from crying to laughing within minutes, unable to explain what she is feeling, or why she is feeling it.
Where do we find the joy of Christmas?
Our joy is not found on the presents – although that is a pretty great part of the season – or the traditional Christmas events. Our joy is found in knowing that Christ is with us now. In these moments, in the middle of our circumstances.
Christ is in the middle of the hard. He is the middle of the messy. I can cling to Him and know that He will handle things for me. And there is no greater joy than to know I don’t have to do life alone, I do life with the One that became flesh to save me.
This is the joy of the Holidays, to know Him, to have Him, to know His great love for me, and for my hurting child.
Ellen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her atellenstumbo.com