8 Ways To Help A Struggling Family.

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*Editor's Note- This is a guest post by our good friend Lisa Qualls. She is a writer, speaker, mom of 12, and the creator of Thankful Moms, where she writes about motherhood, adoption, faith, and grief. Lisa is a mom by birth and adoption. Along with her husband Russ, their adoption journey has been marked by joy as well as challenges of trauma and attachment. You can visit her blog here, and connect with her on Facebook here.

Even through our own difficult life circumstances, we often have the ability to help others who are struggling on this journey. But where do you begin, and how do you know what to do for someone in great need?

Last week I heard from a woman whose friend adopted a child and the family is struggling. Her heartfelt note asked what she could do to help. She wrote, “The mom looks sad and frustrated all of the time.”

She closed her email with, “What can I do to help? What can our church family do to help?”Let me offer a few thoughts…

1. Ask Her What She Needs.

*Go to her home.

Arrive with two lattes in hand, give her a hug, and listen. She may not know what she needs, but ask her, and if she isn’t sure, make some suggestions. She is likely isolated and will be thankful for a few moments with an adult. I remember standing on my porch and bursting into tears. The compassion on my friend’s face still comes to mind. Parenting a very difficult child is a lonely business.

*Her needs may surprise you.

Maybe she hasn’t had a haircut (or gone to the dentist, attended church, had an uninterrupted conversation with her husband, taken a nap) because she has nobody to care for her child from “hard places.”

2. Feed Them.

Everybody needs to eat, even in the midst of crisis. Invite other folks to join you in this simple task.

*Bring dinner once a week.
*Organize a cooking day and fill her freezer.
*Go grocery shopping each week.

Pick up her list (and debit card) and take one of her children along as your helper – he’ll feel special and your friend will have a break.

*Give restaurant gift cards.

Cards for kid-friendly restaurants, especially places that deliver, are perfect. These are also easy to gather from other friends.

3. Drive.

When life gets very hard, it’s difficult to leave the house. Things are left undone, and everyone grows frayed around the edges.

*Do weekly errands.

When our life was being lived moment-by-moment, many things fell through the cracks. Wardrobes grew smaller simply because I couldn’t get to the store to replace jeans with holes in the knees. Library books were overdue, prescriptions weren’t pick up – you get the picture.

Years later, this brings tears to my eyes; I felt overwhelmed and inadequate.

*Take her children to an activity on a regular basis.

In our isolation, the other children grew sad, stressed, and lonely. We never knew what kind of chaos an evening might hold, and we were exhausted; our default was to simply say “no” to everything. Sports and after-school activities were nearly impossible. If you’re signing your child up for basketball, youth group, or Boy Scouts, ask if her child would like to go too, and commit to all driving.

4. Clean.

*Simply show up.

She may be embarrassed by the state of her home. If she is spending hours with a high-need child, cleaning bathrooms, changing sheets, and mopping will slip down the list. One friend often stopped by, made tea, and as we talked, she swept my kitchen floor and washed the dishes alongside me, almost without me noticing.

*Fold laundry.

Call her in the morning to say you are stopping by that afternoon to fold laundry. She’ll keep the machines running if she knows you’re coming. Be sure to help her put it away. Once a friend picked up our dirty laundry and returned it clean and folded – a miracle.

*If you have more money than time, hire somebody to clean.

5. Respite and Babysitting.

Babysitting and respite can take a variety of forms.

*Babysit while your friend is home.

She can take a nap or work through the unending pile of paperwork that accompanies children with special needs.

*Babysit the other children.
*Babysit the child from “hard places.”

Your friend needs time with her other children too – and they are probably desperate for time with her.

*Offer weekend help.

Weekends are often difficult for kids from “hard places;” the helpful structure of school doesn’t transfer to long Saturdays stretching before them.

*Commit to predictable, scheduled help.

This is a tremendous relief for families. A friend picked Kalkidan up from school every Wednesday. I scheduled appointments for other children, or simply caught my breath. We counted on a calm family dinner once a week.

*Offer respite care.

Families quickly become exhausted when there is constant raging, arguing, and destructive behavior. A friend who understands children from “hard places” and gives the family a 24-hour break will make a significant impact on their well-being.

6. Don’t Forget the Siblings.

When four new children joined the family, our original kids struggled with our inability to give them attention and time. They lost us as we struggled to figure out how to live this new life.

*Give practical help.

One friend homeschooled Annarose after our new children arrived which took a huge weight off me.

*Offer support to the kids.

Isaiah and Annarose joined a youth group where they found support from other adults. It was so meaningful, we eventually made the church our new church home.

*Remember they need to have fun.

If the children have a sibling who is raging or crying for hours, the kids need relief from the stress. They may be shouldering extra responsibilities as the parents struggle to meet the needs in the family.

7. Be Dependable.

It is very important to be clear about your commitment and follow through. Let me repeat that…. It is very important to be clear about your commitment and follow through.

Don’t commit to something only to quit a few weeks later. Take on what is reasonable and sustainable. Your help is a greater lifeline than you can imagine.

[shareable]It is very important to be clear about your commitment and follow through.[/shareable]

8. Don’t Judge, Just Love.

*Your friends may feel shame.

They are trying to hold their family together. Remind them of God’s love for them, and yours too. They need to know they are not alone – you don’t have the answers, but you’re sticking by them while they sort it out.

*Assure them you are praying for them – and really do it.

Write their names on a post-it and put it above your kitchen sink. Don’t forget them; they may be hanging by a thread.
Your friends and their child from “hard places” are doing the best they can, and yet they suffer.

Love them through it.

Do you know someone who is struggling? In what ways are you able to reach out to them and help?

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.