Vulnerability in Parenting: Gospel Encouragement to Know and Be Known 

One whole year. That is the length of time it took me to tell someone in my life that I was struggling with an eating disorder as a teenager. Although I was surrounded by people, I isolated myself in my pain. I felt paralyzed when it came to asking for help, fearful of the possibility of disappointing others, and ashamed for struggling with something I could not fix on my own. 

Now as a parent of adolescents, I worry about my children similarly holding in something as significant as I did. I wonder what they might wrestle with that goes unspoken. These thoughts can take me down some scary rabbit trails. I am tempted to parent out of fear of my child’s isolation instead of parenting out of the freedom I have been given in my restoration in Christ. The gospel reminds us that we are not alone, giving parents the hope and security we need as we share life with our teenagers. 

Vulnerability and the Gospel 

God’s Word confronts us with the truth that God is all-knowing. In Psalm 139, David describes the inescapable reality of being known by the God who is “acquainted with all [his] ways.” There is a vulnerability we cannot escape because the one who made us knows us completely. The comfort in this is not merely that he knows every part of us, but that, in Christ, he loves us still.

The gospel gives us the ultimate vulnerability success story: through Christ we are fully known and fully loved! And Christ invites us into the fullness of loving and knowing him. Instead of choosing a distant vantage point of our humanity, God entered into the vulnerabilities of being a human through the life of Jesus. He came as a little baby who needed care. He gave his life as a ransom for many because he cares for his children (Matt. 20:28). Jesus was without blemish, yet made himself vulnerable on the cross. He put himself in a position to be wounded when he died for our sins, including the guilt we try to hide.

We stand secure in his grace (Rom. 5:2). This security is our starting point for relational vulnerability with our children. Because he loved us first, we can then love securely, free from fear (1 John 4:18). We can shape our parenting by this same secure love from a God who knows our children better even better than their parents do. 

Vulnerability and Our Teens 

Perhaps vulnerability is a tender topic or a prolonged prayer request for you as a parent. It can feel excruciating to watch a teenager struggle. We ache when our children face rejection. We long for the day when our families will no longer experience suffering. But when we faithfully come alongside our children in their heartaches, we are giving them a picture of how Jesus entered into our pain with us. If you desire for your child to open up and have meaningful, Christ-centered relationships, then be encouraged! The fact that you even have these longings for your teenager is a reminder of your deep love for your child. Remember that this love is secure in Christ. Out of this security, we can pray for trusted leaders, listeners, and life-giving friendships for our teenagers with hope. 


Parents of teenagers can still readily recall what it was like when we ourselves were teenagers. I vividly remember how terrified I felt to open up about my eating disorder. It’s important to note that my parents were not the first people to whom I voiced my struggle. I turned to my youth pastor first. I will never forget his tender response when I told him. He encouraged me to share my struggle with a trusted friend, my Bible study leader, and my loving parents. His words to me set me on a path to healing. 

Perhaps my parents wished that I had told them sooner. I can imagine wanting the same thing now that I am a parent of a teenager. Yet parents are not meant to be the only helpful voices in our children’s lives. Part of the vulnerability we experience as a parent is allowing other people to come alongside our families in our messes, shepherding and shaping our sons and daughters. We must value and advocate for wise voices and trusted leaders to help our children grow.  


Throughout years of working in college ministry, it became apparent that many students lacked the tools needed to cultivate deep friendships. Out of response to this, my husband began leading small groups called, “Listening Groups.” The premise was that the same four students and their leader would gather to discuss one question each week. The leader would ask questions like, What is something that most people do not know about you? What was something from your childhood that was (or still is) hard for you? What has been weighing on your mind lately and why? 

When it was a person’s turn to share, the requirement of the other students was to listen and follow-up with a question for that friend. There was no one-upping or dismissing. Rather, their vulnerability was met with compassionate curiosity.  

Teenagers need to learn to listen. And they need to be listened to. As parents, we have the privilege of being primary listeners in their lives, looking for opportunities to nurture their attempts at openness with us. If our aim is to have the last word or be the loudest voice, we may miss opportunities to extend a listening ear. We can tune our ears to God to help us better turn our ears to our child. A quickness to listen and a slowness to speak (James 1:19) is a gift we can give to our teens. 

Life-giving Friendships

Over time, we saw tremendous growth in student vulnerability through these Listening Groups. Teenagers can learn to be vulnerable not out of desire to be liked by a person, but out of their security of already being loved by their Savior. Leaders and listeners help highlight this gospel reality for a teenager when they love them through their felt risk of vulnerability. When a Christ-follower responds graciously to another’s vulnerability, the grace of Jesus becomes more tangible. God can use the regular repetition of meeting together in safe small groups to facilitate healthy sharing. 

This was, I believe, how God worked in my life to give me the courage to confess my struggle with eating. I have outgrown my eating disorder, but I will never outgrow my need for loving leaders, listeners, and life-giving friendships.

Parents, we are not beyond the relational needs we long for our teenagers to have. We, too, need intentional relationships, and we need to be the listeners, leaders, and friends to the dear ones in our midst. If we expect our children to lean into trusted people and be a trusted person, then they need to see us demonstrating this level of vulnerability in our own relationships. Our shared need for a Savior who will always fully know us and never stop loving us helps families build a culture of open and honest sharing in our homes.

For more gospel-centered parenting resources, check out our family discipleship video courses on Rooted Reservoir.  

Chrissy Trapp studied Human and Child Development at Vanderbilt University and then went on to graduate with her Masters of Arts in Christian Counseling from Houston Baptist University. Chrissy and her husband, John, spent many years working in college ministry with RUF and now reside in Houston, Texas where John serves as the Senior Pastor at Christ the King Presbyterian Church. She enjoys being alongside him in ministry as well as mothering their five children. In her spare time, she loves reading, writing, counseling and running.

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