Why You Should Validate Your Child’s Feelings

I know, I get it. We adults would all love to back to childhood because it was such a great time. No stress about money, caring for children, or dealing with work. A lot of us have such fond memories of that time. Because of this, we sometimes forget that childhood can still be a difficult time, full of many ups and downs.

Children’s brains aren’t as well equipped to handle big feelings as we are. So while you know that when your child is having a meltdown over their square block not fitting in the triangle hole, isn’t as bad as the stress you’re dealing with, it can be “that bad” in their mind.

It is very important that we validate our children’s feelings and emotions, instead of brushing them off as no big deal. Validation is a way of letting someone know we understand them. Being understood is really important to allow us to feel connected and supported. Children need to learn that it is okay to feel whatever they feel

When our little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it is our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.

LR Knost

Validation is the act of letting someone else know that their experience is real. And that based on the circumstances of the moment, their feelings are understandable. While this may sound simple or easy to do, it can be challenging to do as a parent. Parents play many roles in their child’s life. Teacher, caregiver, and protector to name a few. We want the best for them always, and we want to see them grow up to be happy and healthy.

Unfortunately, there can be a conflict between these parental roles, and validating feelings. We will try to jump in to “make things better” instead of taking a step back and thinking about what our child is experiencing emotionally. Sometimes we just want the crying to stop. Other times, we can have a hard time validating our child’s feelings when we feel like they are being disrespectful, or behaving poorly.

So, how can we validate our child’s feelings? Or anyone’s feelings for that matter.

  • Listen. Like, actually listen, without waiting for your turn to speak
  • Be curious. Try and figure out all the factors that played a part in this emotional moment.
  • Let them know you understand. You can do this by restating what your child has told you, or telling them how you believe they are feeling and why. They will correct you if you’re wrong, which will give you further insight into what is going on, and let your child know you are trying to hear them.

Here are some examples of ways you can change your words to help your child feel validated:

Instead of “Calm down, blocks fall over all the time! I’ll fix it for you, OK see, now it’s fine!”

Try saying “It’s so frustrating that your awesome block tower fell over. It’s ok to feel that way. How about this, when you’re ready, we can try building it up again!”

Instead of “Stop crying! I’m going to count to three. 1…..2….”

Try Saying “You’re really upset that we have to turn off the TV right now. It’s OK to feel upset. You can cry it out and then we can do some colouring.”

Instead of “I said no, now stop whining”

Try Saying “I can’t let you try climbing that tree because it’s not safe and I don’t want you to get hurt. I understand that makes you upset, and you’re allowed to be upset with me right now, but it won’t stop me from loving you and wanting you to be safe.”

Instead of “No you don’t hate your baby brother. You love him.”

Try Saying “I can see that you are very upset with your baby brother right now.”

While we navigate this crazy parenting journey, we need to remember that our children will become adults one day. These adults can change the world. If you would love to see your child turn into an assertive and confident adult, you shouldn’t expect complete obedience and compliance through their childhood. They will learn a lot by testing your boundaries, and you can teach them a lot in your response.

We help children understand their feelings and deal with them effectively by taking them seriously. Helping them work it out or allowing them to work things out after they feel validated makes it safe for them to understand themselves and then be open to learning and growing. It is amazing how often children can work out solutions to their problems when they are simply allowed to do so in a loving, supportive environment.

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