Children have an image of adults as being these old, strong, knowledgeable , brave beings. But we are not are we. We are weak and often afraid. We worry, we cry, we get frustrated and we don’t listen. We are often trying to always be a perception of this child’s image and we fail. Every day.
But not all is lost. This isn’t a bad thing. I think we need to stop trying to be everything and more for our children and show them that, actually, some things are hard. Adults struggle just as much as children. Sometimes we cry too when we watch something sad or hurt ourselves. And that is ok.
We should be showing our vulnerability to our children because otherwise this perception of brave, strong adulthood is shattered when they realise that it’s not like that at all. Questions arise like, “why can’t I manage this if my father could?” “Why do I struggle? What is wrong with me?”
Yes our children need to depend on us. We need to step up. We need to model but we can make moments of worry, stress and sadness (anything that exposes our vulnerability) something they can see us working through. “Mummy is sad because…”, “Daddy feels worried about…but he is going to do…and that might help”.
One of the most powerful things we can say to our children that shows our vulnerability is “I don’t know”. Children get this, right? My son knows when he is being fobbed off on an answer to a question and this frustrates him. He knows now that, just because we’ve lived longer in the world, adults cant always answer his questions and that is ok. What we do do though, is make sure we find out. “I don’t actually know why…but let’s find out together.”
Another powerful way to show our vulnerability is to say ‘sorry’. As parents we mess up sometimes. Perhaps we’ve shouted or not handled a situation in the best way for our children and it is important for them to see that we all have bad days, bad moods and that we can apologise for our behaviour. When things have calmed down, a hug and a “sorry” are a simple way to model apologies and to show our children that adults don’t always get it right.
I think resilience is built in children who see their parents struggle and show their vulnerability. Who see this but also witness the other side, the resolve, the reconciliation and understanding that it is ok to find life hard; because it is!