An Invitation To Look Beyond Your Child’s Trauma.

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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When you're in the thick of dealing with tantrums, meltdowns, outbursts, or aggression, it's hard to see the heart of your child. But look deeper and your perspective, and own heart, may change...

I sit in the bland, cold waiting room of the latest residential treatment facility my child is a resident in. Clutching my legs just above my knees tightly, I listen to other residents and their parents receive instructions on a pending off-campus visit, in the waiting area next to where I sit. “Make sure he doesn’t have access to a cell phone, or social media, or email. You need to be back by 4pm sharp, no exceptions. Please stay within 10 miles of the facility. Absolutely no visits to home. If he tries to run here is the number you call. Have a nice visit!”

I’ve heard this before. In fact, I’ve been given this list before. Many times.

I watch as the family disappears around the corner of the entrance. I hope they have a good visit, I think to myself. How did we get here? I begin to wonder. This is not what we planned back in college when we dreamed of having a family. Never in a million, billion years did we envision visiting our child in a place other than our home! However, here we are. We’ve tried everything to this point, and nothing has worked. This facility wasn’t even our choice. A judge ordered it.

I gulp as I grapple with the reality of this.

For the first 15 minutes of our visit, my mind is spent. Nearly to the point of breaking down. My child berates me with question after question after question.

“When am I getting out of here?”
“I don’t know son. I judge makes this decision!”

“Why can’t I have my belt, or my hat, or my Kindle?”
“Because it’s the facility rules!”

“Why won’t you let me have an iPhone? My sisters have iPhones! I never get anything! You only care about them!”
“That’s not true.” 

“You want me in here. You are keeping me here. You could call the judge and tell him to let me come home. You just don’t want too!”
“Also not true. We love you. But we can’t keep you safe.” 

“That’s bullshit dad. I wish I had a new family! You guys are assholes and this staff hates everybody.” 
“Well I love you and I am glad you’re my son and that I get to be your dad.” 

On and on and on. I’m about to lose it. I can’t take the mind game, or the verbal abuse. It’s been the way of things for the past decade, or more, now.

The room falls silent. I’m already frustrated and we’re only 15 minutes into the visit. Kristin is tearing up. She can’t take it either. We all sit in silence for what seems like an eternity. The only sound to be heard is the ticking clock, locked safe behind a cage on the wall.

And that’s when I see it. The heart of my child. He looks up at me with a genuine glow in his eyes. “I’m sorry mom and dad. I didn’t mean that. I’m just tired of this….all of this! I love you. Let’s have a good visit.” We smile in return and spend the next hour shooting baskets on the 3-Point Challenge game tucked in the corner of the room.

For years I missed it- When I was neck deep in 3 or 4 hour tantrums. When I was dealing with a frustrated neighbor because my child had no concept of boundaries and had played a little rough with their son. When I laid awake worrying about the safety of my other children in our home. I missed the heart that beat in his chest. I saw only the exterior- the aggression, the verbal abuse, the defiance. I thought I was staring at a bad kid, behaving badly. But I wasn’t.

He was a scared kid, speaking from his fear, his past trauma, and his fight to stay alive. It took years before I could see who my child really was- a human being just like me. A person with hope and a future, in-spite of his traumatic past. I thought his diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder was a death sentence (for him and for us!). But that’s simply because I was fixated on the behavior, not the heart. Truth is, he has a heart of gold once you look past the trauma.

Once I saw this my entire perspective changed. My heart for him changed too.

That’s why I can spend the first 5 minutes of visits dealing with the barrage of questions. Questions that have the same answers as the ones he asked me a few days earlier. That’s why I refuse to give up on my belief that he has a bright future. Fact is, his past trauma, his FASD diagnosis, and all the times he’s acted out in aggression do not….I repeat, DO NOT….define his future.

His past trauma, his FASD diagnosis, and all the times he’s acted out do not, I repeat, DO NOT, define his future.

He’s defined by grace…by hope…by this truth that every human being can change….can grow….can be redeemed!

When I accepted this invitation to look beyond his trauma, and into his heart, I fell deeply in love with him. Nothing in this world can change the deep love I feel for him. Not his behavior, not a judge’s order, not the words he says (but doesn’t mean), nothing!

So I invite you. I invite you to also look deeper. You’re invited to look beyond your child’s trauma and see their heart. See that their behavior does not define them. See that their past doesn’t either. Nor does their diagnosis. It’s hard at times….extremely hard, in fact. But when you look closely, you see their humanity. You see see that they are speaking from a place of brokenness. A place you and I know very little, if nothing, about.

Take some time…this morning…this afternoon…or tonight. Look deeper. See that what’s on the exterior is not necessarily what’s in the heart. It will change you and your relationship with your child!

Have you struggled to see your child’s heart, in the midst of tantrums, outbursts, or meltdowns? Share your story with us in the comment section below.

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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.