What to Do When You Feel like Giving Up
“I can’t do this anymore!!”
If you’re the parent of a child who’s experienced trauma, chances are you’ve uttered this phrase. If you haven’t, you’ve probably thought it– on more than one occasion.
I know I have.
It’s normal to get overwhelmed amidst the meltdowns, defiance, anxieties, incessant chatter (it’s a real thing!), and having to be on point all.the.time. But “normal” doesn’t make it any easier.
I’ve read recommended trauma books, listened to podcasts by therapists, muddled my way through neuroscience studies, and spent countless hours on my face in prayer. I’ve learned a lot about what works for children who’ve experienced trauma and what doesn’t.
Some days, I even feel like I have this trauma parenting thing figured out pretty well! (ha!)
But even equipped with all of this information, on most days I find myself asking:
“What am I even doing?”
“Am I making any difference at all?”
“Maybe I’m part of the problem and just making things worse!”
I keep on doing the things that are supposed to work. Sometimes they do work!
Other times, it doesn’t seem like any progress has been made, or maybe even like we’ve gone backward! Those are days when everything just feels incredibly impossible! I get so overwhelmed by the enormity of raising this precious child. My child who has been altered by trauma that wasn’t his fault. I *know* it’s not his fault, but sometimes I act like it is! Sometimes, I don’t do the things I know are supposed to work. Instead, I give in to my frustrations and emotions and say things that are less than desirable, and not even remotely helpful.
On those days I just want to crawl into bed, throw the covers over my head, and hope things will miraculously get easier by the time I resurface. There are moments I even wish I could run away from it all! (I’ve never actually given in to these desires, in case you were wondering!)
Do you have these moments too?
I have a feeling you might.
I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but I have learned a few (rather simple) things that help in those moments.
What to do in the moments you feel like giving up:
In especially chaotic moments, this is the about only thing you can do. As we tell our kiddos when they’re having a meltdown: “Just breathe!” Taking a few long, slow breaths really does help to bring some semblance of calm to the overwhelmed mind. (For an explanation of why this works click here.)
2. Step back and look at the progress over extended time.
In the routine of daily life, I don’t always see the amazing changes that have taken place in my child (or myself!). Only when I look back down the long path we’ve come, do I realize all the efforts and hard work are making a difference! It might be two steps forward and one back, but forward progress is indeed happening. When I take time to notice and remember, my perspective shifts and a little of that overwhelmed feeling begins to dissipate.
3. Go on a date with your spouse.
Please don’t neglect the most important relationship you have. Our children take lots of focus and committed time, but we need to remember that they will suffer if we let our marital relationship suffer. Child-free time together is a necessity that shouldn’t be ignored! Chances are, after connecting with your spouse you’ll feel much more able to continue on through the harder parenting moments. (Psst…support people– this kind of help is incredibly valuable!)
4. Find some time to be alone.
Sometimes finding a little bit of time by myself is the only way I can get past that overwhelmed feeling. If I can be 100% alone to pray and sort through my thoughts and emotions without outside noise and input, I can more easily reset. Yes, it can be difficult to find time to be truly alone. Consider trading time with your spouse, or call a friend to come and play with or read to the kids for an hour while you go on a walk or lock yourself in the bedroom to regain some sanity. Please don’t be afraid to ask for this kind of help! (Again– ideas for your supporting friends and family!)
5. Remember, when you are weak (exhausted, overwhelmed, and wanting to run away), His power is made perfect.
The truth is, I can keep on doing this; I will keep on, weak and overwhelmed though I am. God sent His son Jesus down into my own brokenness. He met me in my own chaotic, traumatized places. He’s never given up on me, never stopped helping me heal, never stopped loving me. He is patient with me as I move forward and then fall back again. He has never said, “I can’t do this anymore,” and He has never expected me to parent on my own.
So, in my weakest moments when I just want to run away, I will run– straight into His arms, where His Power will envelop my weakness. When His grace, and HIS power rest upon me, “I can’t do this anymore!” becomes “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)
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