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What Can I Do When My Kids Are Struggling?

Mom hugging her son who is leaving for Bolivia

This is 10 months ago. The last time I saw my son.

He is in Bolivia today.

If you haven't heard, Bolivia is in a state of civil unrest.

There is a huge disagreement about who is going to govern the country right now and the different sides are rioting, vying to be heard and acknowledged.

Can I just tell you how helpless that can feel as a mother knowing that my son who is 19 years old is completely away from my protection?

I spent the first 18 years of his life making sure this kid lived to see the next day. He climbed 20 feet into a tree....naked I might add, when he was 2.

He and his brother were the reasons I had to lock my knitting needles in the gun safe, couldn't take naps for the first 12 years of his life for fear of waking to them playing tag with bows and arrows and throwing yard implements at hornets nests.


And now I'm relying on others to keep this precious boy of mine safe.

Something I wouldn't trust even a babysitter to do back in the day.

As a coach, in the last 2 weeks I have heard from 5 moms coping with the same issues as each other.

Their kids are struggling.

These moms are terrified that their precious children that they have poured every ounce of love, blood, sweat, and tears into are beyond their help.

I've heard it....suicide, failing school, sleeping with strangers, self-injury, self-hate, depression, eating disorders and my heart fills up for them.

What kind of an out-of-control feeling is that??


And moms often take the responsibility and guilt and weight just to feel like it may spare their children some of the agony that is coming at them.

I know that having a child in another country is not the same thing as having a suicidal child, but I have found myself coaching my way to a mindset that I need in order to be a mom that is at the ready.

Ready to help my child the second I can.

And don't get me wrong.

I am THAT mom that would strap on a parachute to lead an operation to infiltrate an enemy facility if it meant freeing my son, but for now that isn't what is needed.

Right now I don't know what is needed.


The minute I allow my mind to begin doubting my son, myself, or the world I have lost the ability to be aware of creative and inspired solutions.

Something I think is critical if I want to show up as a mom.

I want to be the mom who takes care of her own stuff.

I want to be the mom who will approach a problem with inspiration and intuition.

I want to be the mom who can be creative in a crisis.

I want to be the mom who is AT THE READY the second I hear God whisper in my ear.

I can't do that if I am completely engulfed in fear.

Fear cuts off my outlets to creativity.

When we are afraid we go into default mode. Safe mode. The way we deal with danger in the fight-or-flight mode.

In our minds we have two camps.

We have the one that can think creatively and analyze scenarios.

It is intuitive and observes details closely.

It is governed by the pre-frontal cortex with gives us judgement.

The other camp is our primal brain that is meant to keep us alive.

When our kids are in danger it will automatically assume we are in danger and put us into fight-or-flight mode.

We will act like we always do, or our parents did, to ensure survival.

It will pull out the stops to be as effective as possible regardless of harm to things like relationships and communication and modeling healthy behavior.

This is survival! War!

When we strive to have peace in our hearts and our minds when our kids are struggling or in danger...

Our minds are on fire.

The two camps are rioting, vying for attention and acknowledgement and the preference to be heard.

If we aren't intentional about what we choose to think...we go to default mode.


Often winning the battle to lose the war.


As I struggle to be intentional, and I assure you it is a struggle. (Feeling panicked sometimes FEELS VERY important) I have noticed how important it is to focus on these three beliefs.

We are raised to believe that "belief" means "truth". But a belief is simply a thought we have thought over and over and over.

I can change that by thinking something different over and over and over that helps me show up as the mom I know I need to be to actually be of some use in this situation.

I must have a strong belief in myself.

I must have a strong belief in my son.

I must have a strong belief in the world/my God and His plan.

From a distance, this looks like I am disconnecting myself from my child.

I'm not rushing into change anything (yet).

I'm not urging him to do anything.

And I'm not working the environment to shunt my child in the direction I actually think is best for him to go.

This can FEEL like essentially doing nothing.


If I could give my child ANYTHING in a moment of crisis, I would give him this:

A belief in himself.

A belief in me.

A belief in the world/God and His plan

And I can't give something that I don't have.

And so when it feels like I can't do anything...THIS is what I CAN DO.


Let's get to the how-to.

1. I can build my belief in myself by creating and collecting evidence to support that belief.

I ask myself, "What do I need to believe in order to show up as a mom that believes in herself?"

Here's how I answer myself.

I believe that my job is to love my child, protect my child, and teach my child

I believe that I have handled some very challenging things in my successfully. And I will list every one of them that I can think of until I am convinced.

I believe in my ability to always come out on top.

I tell myself things like, "I'm a corker"

I tell myself, "Remember that one time you were so calm when boy #2 threw powdered sugar all over the table while boy #1 threw ice cubes into it and while you were getting boy #1, boy #2 put butter all over his face, and while you got boy #2 away from the butter boy #1 started rethrowing powered sugar all over and while you got boy #1 away from the powdered sugar boy #2 picked up your family heirloom teacup with his buttery hands and dropped it on the floor? And when boy #2 cried for shattering your prized possession you told him HE was your most prized treasure? Dang, girl. You did good."

I realize that other thoughts are going to riot for control. They will be the ones that remind me of the time I didn't handle things well. Not at all. And I could believe that I'm a crappy mom.

But how will I show up for my son today with that thought?

With hope? Confidence? Strength?

I need to be laser-focused on being calm. That will put me next to meltdown and I AM the mom I am today BECAUSE of the days I frankly did a pretty crappy job.

2. I can build my belief in my son.

Because here is a fact.

If I am thinking that my son is incapable of handling life in all of its WILL come across in my behavior.

I'll bail him out more.

I'll communicate non-verbally that he is not strong.

I'll try to move his environment to accommodate his insecurities.

I'll focus more on saving than enabling and trusting him.

This is NOT saying that I will never bail my son out, or make changes, or remind him to buckle his seat belt. It is saying that my actions are driven by love rather than fear. I feel strong about my decisions and allow him to struggle while he is in my care so that he has a strong support when it all comes down.

Because it will.

The fact is...I have a son that could climb the cupboards at age 1.

He fought me HARD about chores. That kid will go toe-to-toe at a perceived injustice.

He earned his own money to pay for the mission he is serving and bought a dirt bike on top of that.

He is tough.

And I want him to know that with every mode of communication I possess.

3. I believe that the world is good and that God's plan is for our good

I could blame and hate and rue the day tragedy has hit my life.

Because it has.


But how would I show up?

I choose to believe that Every. Single. Hard thing that happens in my life is an opportunity that God and the world is giving me to create something miraculous. Because that's what God does.

He is a creator and he takes anything that is thrown in the form of a disaster and creates something stronger.

Maybe this isn't true.

But here is another fact.

If I believe that it is random, that I may be blindsided at any moment with a challenge I will never recover will I shop up?

I know because I've tried this one on.

I become a victim. I don't care. I don't take care of myself. I don't watch out for others. I live in fear and depression and I hide.

My kids need a mom who can stand.

Because some days they will not be sure if they can.

If I can't do it for myself....I'll be darned if I can't pull it out for my kids.

For you moms whose kids are in trouble.

You aren't alone.

There is something you can do.

Govern your mind in a way that helps you show up as the mom who has qualities that they need in order to make it through the wars and chaos in their lives and then you can be ready to ACT the second you get your green light.

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