How to Validate your Child’s Feelings

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Validation is a way of letting someone know we understand them. Children especially require this from adults to know that their feelings are real and help find positive ways to manage them. Unfortunately, many adults try to ‘fix’ or deny feelings altogether. For example, if a child feels left out of their peer group, it is often an impulse to say, “you have other friends” or “your family loves you anyway.” Or, when a child is feeling angry and throwing a tantrum, a parent might yell at them and call them a brat or call them ungrateful. Loneliness and anger are both valid feelings. So are grief, joy, hatred, disappointment, pride, and everything else you feel like an adult. Children can feel all of those as well but may not have the emotional tools to articulate why they feel that way. Often, parents confuse validation with not holding children accountable for poor behavior- you can set hard boundaries while permitting your child to feel whatever they are feeling.

The simplest way of validation is being present; send a clear message to your child that you will be around even when they are feeling frustrated or sad. That there is nothing wrong with feeling a certain way. Let them formulate their solutions. Another addition to this is reflection. Mirror what they say to you and acknowledge their process. Saying things like “you’re so lucky, you have no reason to be sad” will send the message that when they are sad, they should not come to you because it is wrong for them to be sad in front of you. Simply acknowledging – “I can see that you’re upset” is a better response. You can ask them what would make them feel better or if they would like your help at any point. An important aspect of this exercise is also to clarify that feeling something and doing something are two entirely different acts. They can feel anger towards a sibling, but they are not allowed to hit them. They can find solutions that do not damage anyone else. Feeling grief over an event (such as a friend moving to another city) is normal, but it is not practical to go there after them. Help them understand that feelings are temporary. They tell us about our needs and wants and our expectations.

We live in a world full of adults disconnected with their feelings because they have been told repeatedly “don’t cry like a sissy” or “you don’t get to be angry at your elders” instead of being told, “it has been a bad day, but it will pass” or “help me understand what makes you upset.” Try to be more understanding. It can go a long way, trust me

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