Am I lovable? That’s a tough one to hear, huh? But creating intimacy and deeper relationships is a skill — and one we can learn. 

As difficult as this conversation has been, the discussion about intimacy and relationships is definitely the hardest for me. It pains me to think that because of childhood trauma, ongoing internal dialogue, fears, guilt, shame, etc. that my child may have difficulties in the future establishing strong intimate relationships. We all want our children to thrive – to love and be loved. Isn’t that the greatest gift in life? Research shows that good relationships are the key to happiness. So we must be intentional about creating deeper, more fulfilling connections with others in our lives.

From my original post … “Multiple and ongoing losses in adoption, along with feelings of rejection, shame, grief, and confusion about their identity, most likely affect the development of strong relationships and intimacy for adopted children. At a minimum, those feelings may impact the quality of relationships and intimacy an adopted child will have in their lifetime. Adoptees often report that they are aware of holding back part of themselves in relationships. Some even admit that they have never truly felt close to anyone. Many report a lifetime of emptiness, which they relate to a longing for the birthparent they may have never seen.”

Again, another tough one. Letting yourself be vulnerable is not easy and helping someone else learn to be more vulnerable is even harder. The main reason being vulnerable is difficult for most people is because we don’t feel worthy.

Brené Brown, a researcher who studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame, explained in her TED Talk, “There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy. … What they had in common was a sense of courage. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word “cor,” meaning “heart” — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

So it all boils back down to connection – which is what I’ve been talking about this entire series. In last week’s newsletter I outlined several effective methods to make immediate changes in your ability to connect with your child. If you’d like to reflect on those, here is the link to Attachment and bonding – Do I belong here?

But my goal for today is to help you help your child be more vulnerable. And for that, I need to tap into my coaching skills. I read an amazing article on Transformational Leadership recently and in particular on being a Vulnerable Leader. When you can lead from a position of vulnerability it shows great strength and helps those you are leading become more self-aware, and in turn, have more self-worth. As Brené Brown says, ‘worth is the key to vulnerability’. Take the time to read the Transformational Leadership article if you like, it’s really good, but I’ll summarize some of the most important points:

  1. Become self-aware – Practicing mindfulness, journaling and reflecting on your day and your behaviors. By becoming more aware of yourself, you will be a better leader.
  2. Reveal something – Share some about yourself with your child. When you have an opportunity, tell them a story about a failure. Opening up in this way models vulnerability and helps you connect with your child on a deeper level.
  3. Declare how you feel in the moment – When you feel uncertain, embarrassed, afraid, declare it! Talking about it openly allows you to be more authentic and builds trust with your child.
  4. Admit when you’re wrong – When you admit your mistakes, it creates an environment where your children will be more apt to take responsibility for theirs. When we accept responsibility for our mistakes, we can learn from them and move on. Another asset; admitting a mistake creates a culture where risk-taking is acceptable. Without failure, risk isn’t tolerated. We already know that stepping outside our comfort zone and taking calculated risks, builds self-esteem. Greater self-esteem/self-worth leads to the ability to build deeper connections with other people. So learn to say you’re sorry!
  5. Admit your weaknesses – As parents, we are not perfect – just ask your kids! But the best parents are ones who can admit their weaknesses and ask for help. When we tell our children that we aren’t good at something it creates an aura of learning and acceptance, which again, creates the opportunity for building deeper connections.
  6. Recognize others for their ability to be vulnerable – When someone has stepped outside of their comfort zone to be vulnerable, authentic, and honest, take a moment to recognize them. This is huge! Acknowledge those moments and you’ve taken the biggest step toward encouraging your child to be more vulnerable.

Bottom line, being vulnerable is the best way to teach someone else how to be vulnerable – modeling the behavior we want to see in our child. When we are vulnerable it gives others permission to be vulnerable, it creates greater connection, allows for more honest conversations and builds trust.

But the most important thing to remember; the behaviors that we model for our children will help them in all future relationships. If we want our child to be open to intimacy and connecting deeply with other people, then teach them to be open and vulnerable with you by being open and vulnerable with them.

This is the last article in the series entitled How Does Being Adopted Impact Our Children. If you want to go back and reflect on some of the other articles in that series, check out my blogs beginning in April!

Whew, these have been tough for me because it makes me reflect on my own parenting. I hope reading these has also been helpful to you and in turn, will help you better parent your adopted child. Let’s all commit to building deeper more fulfilling relationships in our lives! Thanks so much for hanging in there with me! If you’d like to comment on any of the blog posts, I’d love to hear from you. Or just reply to my email, I see those too!

And when you are ready to explore the world with your family, please schedule a 30-minute Discovery Session with me at I’d LOVE to help you learn how to build deeper connections with your family while you travel!

All my best to each of you,

Bambi Wineland is the mother of two internationally adopted children, a traveler, a Certified Professional Coach, and the Founder and CEO of Motherland Travel. Motherland Travel began by designing Heritage Journeys for families with internationally adopted children. The emphasis of those Heritage Journeys has always been on deepening family connections, building self-esteem and cultivating pride in a family’s multi-cultural heritage. Motherland Travel also uses the philosophies of transformative Travel for designing family trips with purpose – building rich connections, with each other and the world! Read more about her here >>

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