The Power of Vulnerability

Andrea FortenberryIndividuals

Power of Vulnerability

Over the past few years, I’ve been learning a lot about vulnerability. I first heard about it at a conference which later led to reading books about it and then being part of a discussion group on vulnerability at my church. I’m learning how vulnerability is such a beautiful and scary part of being human. As a parent, I realize how important it is for us to be vulnerable with our kids and allow them to be vulnerable with us.

Some are quick to think vulnerability is weakness, but I think it’s beautifully brave.

To me, being vulnerable is about being real and authentic. It’s sharing parts of my life that I might usually have a tendency to hide. It’s being truthful about my struggles. It’s empathizing with others’ pain, embarrassment or shame.

I love that when we’re vulnerable with others, it invites them to do the same. I’ll never forget the very first time in conversation one of my mom friends said, “I yelled at the kids today about ….” and it encouraged my heart! Not because she yelled at her kids, but because in that moment, I realized I wasn’t the only one who did! For so long I had shamed myself for it, but with my friend’s comment, I realized I wasn’t alone.

While there are many ways we can teach our kids about vulnerability, here are two major starting points:

1. Allow Them to be Vulnerable: Kids have lots of big emotions that they often aren’t able to express and/or don’t know how to handle. We need to help our kids process their emotions by allowing them to cry or using words that explain how they feel. No matter how silly an issue or their feelings may seem to us sometimes, they are very real to our kids. If we’re quick to write off their emotions, they will assume that we aren’t safe or trustworthy of them. Instead of being vulnerable, they will learn to internalize their emotions or find alternative coping strategies, which isn’t healthy.

It’s always better to talk things out and to verbalize what’s inside. Often, the longer emotions stay inside, the bigger and more manifested they become. Be sure to comfort your kids, be present to talk with them and help them find strategies to process through situations and emotions they face.

2. Be Vulnerable With Your Kids: One of the best ways to do this is through apologizing to them when you mess up. Through apologizing, our kids come to understand that we aren’t perfect and that our emotions sometimes get the best of us too. Admitting your mistakes and taking responsibility for them are very vulnerable and brave.

Kids also need to hear stories from our childhood to which they can relate. When your son’s upset that his team lost the championship game, share a similar story from your life and what you learned from it. When girls at your daughter’s school tease her, tell a tale that communicates how you understand. In life, we truly want to know that we’re not the only ones going through something and it’s so powerful when we can communicate to our kids that we understand by experience. They may not accept or appreciate it now, but as they grow, they’ll remember the stories you shared and how you modeled vulnerability to them.

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