There are times in our lives as adoptive parents that we feel completely deflated and depleted because of our children’s extreme behaviors. In the past, we have witnessed a small issue become a large issue in our children’s minds, whereby they chose to destroy their lives and future because of it; so….. we get scared. We get scared when we see our child go downhill quickly because ultimately, it’s up to them to turn it around. Most of the time, however, no matter how bad a situation looks in the moment, we can use it as a teaching moment – an opportunity to use as a lesson.

We have raised a couple of ‘opportunists’- children who continuously look for opportunities to do wrong, illegal and/or immoral things. If we lock the medicine cabinet every day, but forget to lock it one morning until noon, the child will have already noticed as if he checks it every minute of every day. If I bring my purse everywhere I go, but choose one day to leave it hidden in my room, the child will know this even if he wasn’t home when I made the decision and money will be taken. In the same way, we can be opportunists. We can be opportunists of good; and as parents, we can be opportunists of life lessons. Our children do not always have the ability to process the world around them and it’s up to us to spell it out for them. They often lack social skills, people skills, and global skills. In short, they need to be taught everything. I remember as a kid doing and saying some dumb things, because I did not know any better. With a traumatized child from a background of abuse and/or neglect, this can be much worse.

Parents don’t always say or do the right thing when under fire. I come from a long line of people who react. I have to continuously fight that tendency, but the greatest lesson I learned from our neighbor with seven children was:

“you will make mistakes but it’s what you do with them that matters.”

Everything can be a teaching moment.

The other day my 10 year old and our foster puppy broke a large window. My son was amazed that I did not get mad. I told him that I was so happy that no one was hurt that I couldn’t get mad. It spoke volumes to him about the value of stuff compared to the value of human life.

We are a Christian family and unapologetically so. We fear our older teenage son is headed for a life behind bars because he enjoys the quick money, the fast life, gangs, and the thrill of stealing. Yesterday I was furious at him for going through my room and taking the cell phones that I did not want him to have. I felt violated and I was furious at his blatant disrespect. I did what many parents would have done, for good or for bad, and I told him that I wanted them returned to me or I would make his life miserable. The next day after school, they were sitting on the table and he told me the entire truth of when and how he stole it. I stood in amazement. He has never told me the truth before, nor did I ever expect to get them both back – and I knew I had no recourse to do so.

A few minutes later, he asked, “Did you pray?” I said, “Yes.” With wide eyes, he said that every time he went to do the wrong thing that day at school, he got a bloody nose. With wider eyes, he said, “I don’t ever get bloody noses but the first time I figured it was just allergies or something but the second time I knew something was up, so I knew I had to return them to you.” I took this opportunity to remind him that I always pray for him and that we truly care about where he is headed. I said, “You didn’t come this far in life to be mediocre, nor did you come this far in life to sit behind bars or live a life of crime – God has so much more for you.”

I thank God now for stressful situations and situations that normally would look hopeless. I plan to use these times as opportunities for a much needed breakthrough. Don’t let sad times, difficult times or crazy times get you down –

Stand up above the flames, peer through the smoke and look for the opportunities!

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