We have adopted children. My older two are siblings and were adopted at the ages of seven and five. Their early years were full of abuse, abandonment, violence and fear.

They both still deal with trust issues and continue to operate most consistently from anger. It seems to be the only emotion they are truly comfortable with and will attempt to rearrange their lives and outcomes so they can become the victims again, possibly to feel justified in their anger. My son (the oldest) is now an adult and has moved out of our home. My daughter (now mid-teens) seems to “trigger” from any word of her brother, calls from him or visits to our home. When he comes into the picture she reverts back to her earlier years quickly and wants nothing to do with us, her friends, or at times, reasonable thinking. After a short jail time resulting in mental health counselor involvement she has been prescribed a low dosage of medication for depression/anxiety. So, without detailing more of the issues we have dealt with, my questions are as follows:

  • What is your opinion of mood-stabilizing drugs?
  • Should we discontinue any relationship with our oldest son to help our daughter? (We are trying to “be there on the other side” for our son)
  • Does the adoption factor play a different role in how we should respond? In other words, to what degree does that truly affect a child?
  • Our Christian family counselor believes both of our older children have RAD (reactive attachment disorder). I am one of those that believes God can heal any and all diseases. To what degree should this diagnosis change my parenting, if any?

After reading your articles, we felt as if we were offering some of what you mention in Jumping Ship. We have a ministry where most of the work happens in warm weather. Our daughter and youngest son love working with the ministry and both display such loving servant hearts. We have offered some opportunities during this time for her. She likes them as long as everything is okay with her that day. Her days are often as unpredictable as the wind. Some of the triggers I have discovered, others seem so elusive that often it feels like walking on egg shells.

I greatly appreciate your taking the time to read this and for your effort in helping families.

Michael answers:

The issues you lay out are complex. I do not doubt that if three different counselors had access to your family, they would come up with three different diagnoses and three different approaches to treating her. I have one page to work with. There is no way I could give you a 1-2-3 answer. Even if I spent a week with your family, I would not be able to accurately define her condition. The soul is a complex mingling of mind, will, and emotions, all influenced by the spirit world, environment, relationships, guilt, insecurity, passions, pride, and perception of reality that may or may not be accurate. The clinicians try to give certain patterns of behavior a name and treat it like it has one cause—physical or mental—and a prescribed cure. Spiritual/mental/emotional problems are not a disease against which one can be inoculated. Drugs are not a cure. They are the partial execution of the mind, so as to prevent it from thinking and feeling. You asked me what I though about drugs. When a “patient” is not in an environment where natural healing can occur, and their actions are destructive or harmful, then drugs should be used on a par with physical restraints. It is not a cure. It does not treat the problem, but it makes life easier for those who have to relate to the emotionally disturbed. And drugs will allow the “patient” to survive until another time when she or he may be more equipped to face personal issues and deal with them.

However, there is a way to sanity and stability. This child can be normal. There are many physical maladies that doctors cannot define other than by symptoms, and cannot prescribe a cure, but all disease can be treated with one prescription—the pursuit of good health. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Lyme’s disease, can all be treated by feeding the body a good balance of nutrients, enzymes, and minerals. Add to that a proper pH balance with good sleep and exercise and one will see improvement of any condition and a cure of most diseases.

That said, your daughter needs what we all need. Give attention to providing a loving, laughing, happy, industrious life of accomplishment and benevolence. Your daughter cannot love God and trust him until she believes that such values exist in the universe. If everything and everybody she knows spells hypocrite, anger, lust, complaining, selfishness, she will never heal. Healing emotionally is living in a healing environment, which means an environment that is stable and consistent in love and laughter. In short, you don’t need to define her condition, don’t need to give it a name. It doesn’t matter what the particular manifestations are or who sets her off or why. What matters is that she is given the opportunity to be a whole person in a secure environment. If she can come to understand the love of God that is found in Christ, it will greatly facilitate her healing. But understand, you cannot cosign a child to hell all day long and expect her to believe in heaven. You must show her some of heaven in your own soul and share it with her. Her door to God will come through someone whom she trusts. Her rebellious brother is her door to hell. He has obviously provided a more direct access to hell than anyone else has provided an access to heaven. Don’t fight the door to hell; provide a wider door to heaven, one easier to enter and more inviting. Let me know how it works out. I have prayed for you and your daughter.

– Michael Pearl