Healing from the Inside Out
16 November 2020
As we wrap up our series on the importance of STOP (Structure, Talking and Time, Organized Play, and Parental Support) during this season of the pandemic, we see how to incorporate Parental Support into the child’s life. As you will see, using all four of these elements together is vital to the successful healing of a child, all while incorporating prayer and the Lord’s leading. Please contact CCTI at firstname.lastname@example.org if you ever need additional resources.
In my quiet times with the Lord, I often sense His still, small voice saying, “Wait. I want you to understand the importance of learning to listen, to be patient, and to understand others. Don’t get this confused with procrastination or indifference. There are times where you need to learn not to be in such a hurry.” For any parent, this is true too. But it is especially true in caring for traumatized children. Healing for them is a process that happens slowly. Isaiah 30:18 states, “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” The role of a caregiver to a vulnerable child requires Christ’s daily wisdom, love, and patient endurance. The damage done to the child originated from the outside in; whether by a natural disaster, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or war. The actions of the caregiver can set into motion the healing of the child from the inside out.
As Phyllis Kilburn and Crisis Care Training International have stated, caring for and nurturing children who have been traumatized requires giving them a sense of structure and stability, predictability, affirmation and value, normal expectations, spiritual nurturing, and love. It also involves patience and understanding. For caregivers, the home and parental relationship set the stage to “reverse engineer” these traumatic experiences in order to create a new outside-in for the hurting child. A child who has not received or has lost foundational needs such as love, value, and identity will be hard-pressed to heal from trauma. The trauma may be manifested in the inability to love others, manage stress, forgive, and make godly choices as well as to recognize ungodly situations.
When Mandy came to live with my family and me, she was a tough, closed-off 16-year-old who had lived in Latin America and had run away from familial abuse and neglect. She had been raped by an older man and was pregnant. Now, back in her home country, the United States, she had a chance to end the cycle of violence and begin healing in foster care. But the process was slow and required an infinite amount of understanding. As a foster parent, how were we to provide stability, predictability, a sense of control, affirmation, and value, much less love and spiritual nurturing to a teenager who had little of those growing up and did not want them? Amazingly, our breakthrough and subsequent bonding came in the form of food. Being the eldest of five siblings in our home for foster care, Mandy had been a parent-child for years, and prior to running away from her home in Central America, she was responsible for making food at mealtime.
Through God’s wisdom and compassion, He gave us enough sense to make two of Mandy’s household chores accompanying me on the weekly shopping trip and planning and cooking one of our weekend meals. She was my much-needed helper on those grocery expeditions, and I was her helper in the kitchen when she was cooking. We made a great team.
Mandy shared many stories of her life prior to coming into our care: tales of sadness, fear, danger, confusion, anger and frustration. Listening was a skill I was learning to develop; so was patience. During those moments of buying, planning and preparing food, Mandy regained her sense of control, value, stability and affirmation.
There were also many conversations about her view of God and where He was in her life, in the past, and at that time. Even the baby growing inside of her, and later his birth, provided opportunities to show Mandy where God was in her past and at that moment. I believe we even learned to love each other. Mandy is all grown up now and one Christmas, a few years back, Mandy wrote to thank us for caring for her and showing her how to parent her son. She added that her version of a good parent was from what she experienced in our home. Thank you, Lord, for showing us that what we set into motion helped heal a child from the inside out.
About the Author: Don Burger and Kathy Dow-Burger live in the DC/Baltimore Metro area. They have five children, Jordan, Brittany, Eddie, Jeremy, and Luke whose ages range from 11 to 22 years old. Through their years of experience as foster care and adoptive parents, working on short-term mission trips, and leading youth/children ministries, they have been led by Jesus to care for vulnerable children as well as children in crisis. They have worked with local churches and mission organizations to sponsor Crisis Care Training International seminars.