Updated: Feb 16, 2021
Do you know that by being vulnerable you empower your teenager?
This might sound like a paradox and before you say "NOOO Way Jose am I being vulnerable to anyone",
please note being vulnerable is not the same as weakness.
Vulnerable doesn’t mean you tell your whole deep dark secrets.
It’s not just for a certain calibre of people
It’s not a way to compare and compete with others about who's had it worse.
Being vulnerable is not so that people feel sorry for you and favour you.
Being vulnerable enables you to have more meaningful relationships.
By the end of this, you will know 7 benefits of being vulnerable.
How being vulnerable can empower your teenager.
I want you to imagine the stories that inspire you.
Are these not stories of people who share their hearts out?
People who tell you the challenges they have had to go through or are going through some of which they have overcome and and some of which they are still contending with ?
In this vulnerability they are willing to risk exposing who they really are, share their mistakes and emotions and this is what inspires us as humans.
In fact research evidence shows that leaders (parents) who show and share their vulnerability are more trusted and this leads to deeper connection with their teens.
"As parents of teens, we must be willing to be strong enough to be vulnerable because that is a sure way to inspire our teens". Angela Karanja
How might you as a parent of teen show your vulnerability?
I have found that accepting, admitting and apologising for mistakes and being accountable to your family especially your teenagers can enhance relationships. In fact in restoring respect with teens, I have found these 3As to be massively powerful and impactful.
How do you be vulnerability yet you want to be seen in the best light by your family and especially your teens?
That's the challenge.
Many of us parents of teens want to be seen in the best light by our teenagers. Unfortunately, for most of us, in the effort to be seen in the best light, we go to great strength to show how great we are and how we have never done anything wrong or failed at anything. We pretend that nothing goes wrong in our world,
Even when it is clearly visible that things are going wrong we stand stoic, ignore and pretend not to feel the pain. In essence we position ourselves as perfect.
Whilst this may be what media and society propagate (only show your best side), when we as parents of teens behave in this manner, we are sending a strong but destructive message to our teens, the message that we are perfect.
Let's remember we are our teens’ number one influencers.
When they look at us and think we have got everything figured out and all together, this can lead to them having that feeling of a bulldose burden; a burden that this similar perfection is being expected of them. Unfortunately, leads to feelings of incapability of ever attaining this level of perfection; consequently, shredding and stripping their self-esteem.
On the other hand teens may see all the glory which is admirable. However, if we are not vulnerable enough to share the details of the story behind the glory, we do them a disservice. Why? Because we don’t make them aware of the actual mountains and valleys that make the picturesque scene.
There is magnificent value in telling the story behind the glory and most often this involves being vulnerable.
Sharing our vulnerability can empower our teenagers and young people.
The courage to be vulnerable is what makes us better parents, because “vulnerability is the core, the heart, the centre of meaningful human experiences” says Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly
Do you know how inspiring your scars can be?
As I write this I am reminded of the many parents I have met whose teens have committed suicide and many others whose teens are suffering under the mammoth weight of mental health problems.
Do you think that we as parents or indeed those in the vicinity of these teens can help by being vulnerable enough to share our lived experiences?
Do you think if we were strong enough to be vulnerable these teens would identified with us and feel that they too can overcome what they are going through?
Do you think by letting teens know that, we too have and still make mistakes, we too have been rejected, we too have felt not good enough, we too have been bullied, we too have been discriminated against would help relieve them of those foul feelings of loneliness and the feeling that no one understands and no one else has been through this?
Do you think by being vulnerable you would be a buffer for them to not get to the overwhelming boiling point where they feel there’s no way out and therefore tip?
Let us learn that sharing our vulnerability unapologetically and empower our teenagers.
Parents of teens, let’s learn to share or messes unapologetically and present this as a gift to our teens. This is a strong way our teens can identify with us. It’s in vulnerability that humans connect at a deeper level and it’s in these connections that life lessons are learnt.
See in teenage years, our kids are trying to make out who they are and what they are capable of. They are sensitive to outside suggestions. If no one, especially an influential person such as you and I as their parents take time to tell them that failing and falling is part of succeeding, we risk them not making any attempts to try and/or when they try and fail their self-worth is scathed.
Sometimes this self-esteem scathing is irreparable leading to deterioration of mental health and tipping suicide.
Now let’s even assume that you as a parent has never failed at anything, which is unlikely for as Albert Einstein says
"A person who have never failed has never tried anything new"
But let’s even pretend you are a person who has never failed. You live in this world and have sure seen people fail and you know it is part of life. Why not get in the habit and attitude of immersing your young person with stories of people who have overcome great struggles and have gone on to succeed? Telling these encounters can help your young person focus and realise that they have the strength within them to overcome any challenging circumstances they may be encountering and those that they will encounter, for such is life.
The good news book (bible) says, nothing is new under the sun…what does that mean? Whatever questions or challenges your teen is going through, someone else somewhere in the world has been through that or are going through that.
This not only assures them that they are not alone but gives them hope. All it needs is the story of one person who has overcome.
Let’s discuss with our teenagers these great people and their stories.
Most of them learn these in school. Let's take the discussion from the book and bring it to life. Imagine the feelings of Thomas Edison when he failed all those times yetv when asked he said
I have not failed I just found 10000 ways how not to do something
Let's talk with our teens about Colonel Sanders, his KFC recipe rejected hundreds of times before he got a yes.
Vulnerability makes us authentic to our teenagers, they feel us, they connect. This is why vulnerability is strength, valour, courage.
Although society has conditioned us to believe that vulnerability is a negative trait, the opposite is in fact true. When we try to hide our mistakes and emotions which are the very basic nature of being human, we come out as arrogant, distant and dismissing which breaks the connection. The fear of being vulnerable ultimately leads to being alone and defeated.
As parents of teens, in order to influence our teens this deep human connection is necessary and we can get too that by sharing ourselves as humans. Sharing our fears, hopes and true feelings and by doing this we model to them how to be real and opens any emotional prison doors that our teenagers may be as they learn to be free and to be human.
Strong bonds between parent and teenagers are formed in moments of vulnerability, trust is established we become more influential.
And this is not just fluff; there is actual neuroscience evidence that trust which can only result from parents being vulnerable or authentic can lead to positive outcomes.
I often say to parents and educators that;
To restore respect you need to Admit, Apologise and Amend
To effectively engage in this process requires being vulnerable.
When was the last time you were vulnerable with your family?
When was the last time you shared something that was challenging even scary, you showed your true emotions only to discover it inspired them more than you ever thought?
I can tell from experience that I feel more authentic when I am real and share about some of my challenges and vulnerabilities. Those happening now and those from the past. It’s such a relief. I feel lighter compared to times when I have tried hard to hide and pretend who I truly am.
Vulnerability is valour (boldness).
Every time we honour and embrace our vulnerability, we gain self confidence, we build a wholesome character and this makes our kids and young people feel us, trust us, feel at one with us; and it’s only from this point we can inspire our teens.
As you know I always propose parenting to be leadership
The other day I was reading researcher Emma Seppala’s findings and from her report i gleaned the following benefits of being vulnerable.
7 benefits of being vulnerable.
Vulnerability creates emotional bonds. One thing I know for sure and you probably know as a parent too is, when you and your teen are connected they are more motivated and willing to cooperate.
Vulnerability inspires. Teens who are inspired are in the flow and their creativity and cooperation is heightened.
Vulnerability relieves tension and stress. There is calm, peace and harmony in homes where parents share and allow dialogue and expression of emotions.
Vulnerability eradicates the fear of making mistakes. where making mistakes is normalised as a way of learning fear dissipates.
Vulnerability humanises us. We are human beings living and breathing beings when we are human we model being human to our teens.
Vulnerability encourages risk taking and this opens up our natural creativity and it also models, mentors and motivates out teens to do the same.
Vulnerability sets us free. We know we don’t know it all, we don't hold all the answers and that spirit that flows in all of us can provide answers through any of us including our teens.
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