Vulnerability & Truth: Talking to our children
by Lynne Bakalyan, LPC 10/11/18
Being a parent (aunt, uncle, grandparent) is so very vulnerable. . . but you are not alone.
I have heard so many stories from aching parents whose child took their lives in a moment of emotional turmoil. They want their experience to make a difference and perhaps change the outcome for other parents – their message is simple. Talk to your child/teenager. Talk with them about their mental health – even if it “appears” that they are doing great.
Dr. Steve Coen with Beacon Health shares: “It strikes me that our children often won’t talk to us (or listen) because we don’t model courage and vulnerability. We pretend that we have it all under control. We are stoic and silent. Can we expect our teens to express themselves openly when we don’t? I also know that teens will sometimes remain silent about their own struggles to “protect” their parents. We need to express that we are strong enough to take it, and we can share the burden together.”
I cannot think of a greater vulnerability than when your child is struggling with their self-esteem, mental illness, being bullied or excluded.
Beacon Health has a campaign to Stamp out Stigma. The way we stamp out stigma is to talk about mental illness. But. . . . we have to deal with our own shame and questions. “What will people think?” “Will people judge me?” “Did I cause this struggle?” Believe me, I have been there.
“Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgement.” Brene Brown
Making a decision to end the silence takes courage. The way we reduce shame is to be vulnerable to share when you, your child, or a family member is struggling. Remember, you are not alone. Choose safe people to share with.
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences—good and bad.’”
This week’s message is simple. Talk with your child about their mental health. Model how to do this by sharing your story with them. Share with safe people if you or your child is struggling. You are not alone.