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Vulnerability is your friend

Getting kids to open up means facing your own fears.

I often hear parents and teachers complain that they can't get kids to open up about their feelings. There might be a lot of reasons to this, but one might be a fear of being seen, of being vulnerable in a setting where they don't feel comfortable. And if we don't help kids express feelings, they become bottled up inside, and can sometimes have devastating consequences (i.e., isolation, depression, self-harm, violence to others) So what can we do to inspire vulnerability and openness? Think about the people in your life who trust you - what makes be able to trust you? Chances are you've been vulnerable with them at some point. When we are vulnerable with others, we give them permission to be vulnerable with us. When others see our humanity, our weaknesses, our humility, our hearts, this inspires compassion, connection, and community. So does this mean talking to your kids about your deepest, darkest fears and most initimate secrets? Not necessarily. 

Think of vulnerability not so much as what you're sharing, but more in how you're sharing it. Are you being authentic? Are you sharing your self-talk in realtime? Are you using the phrase "I feel _____" regularly? Are you letting people know the real you? Are you sharing about your personal failures, struggles, mistakes? If the answers to these questions are yes, then great - you're being vulnerable! If they are "no", then ask yourself what's holding you back? Is it fear? Is it insecurity?   Is it burn-out? Depression, anxiety, low energy? Or is is simply habit? Once you find the answer, address this! This is your work as an educator! Put the lesson plan down, and pick up that journal, yoga mat, running shoes, therapist. Go meet up with your friend, take a walk in nature. Get to know yourself, and don't be afraid to let your students know you too. They'll love what they see, and then they'll feel safe to show you their colors too.