28 Aug The Importance of Validation
Validation is key to building a strong relationship with your child. When children experience invalidation, their self-esteem decreases, as does their trust in you. Many parents, teachers and professionals in a child’s life don’t realize the tremendous power their words have. “You should do ….” “Why didn’t you….” “You should be more like…”, are all roadblocks in learning and connecting with your child. When we practice validation skills, we show children that emotions matter and that we are here for them.
Validating means giving your child or teen the message that “Your feelings make sense. You can feel what you feel, and I am welcoming and accepting of your feelings in a non-judgmental way.” Validating your child conveys deep empathy and helps them feel understood.
When we actively listen and show that we care, often by just being present, we are using validation. Have you ever gone to your spouse or a friend just wanting to vent and they interrupt you with “Have you tried _____?” or “You should ____.” It’s infuriating right? It’s likely their intentions are to help you, but they are really sending the message that your feelings aren’t as important as their advice. Your children feel this way too and it’s one of the number one mistakes parents make.
How To Validate Your Child
1. The first step is to be present and listen to the feelings. Turn off the TV, put the phone down, or stop washing the dishes. Lean forward and show you are paying attention and fully listening. Hear them out, nod your head and ask questions.
2. Then help them process their words and try to understand the feelings behind them (from their perspective). Repeating their feelings back to them shows that you hear them and are paying attention. You might rephrase their words, or infer how they must be feeling. If you get it wrong, let them correct you, and try again.
“So you’re frustrated that the teacher gave you a warning.”
“That must have been hard.”
“Tell me if I’ve got this right: you felt hurt when the teacher was stern with you in front of the other kids. What else were you feeling?”
3. Soothe and nurture them. Nurturing shouldn’t necessarily provide the “answer” or the “fix” to their problem or concern. Nurturing means providing them a safe space in which to express themselves. It allows them to see that they have a right to those feelings and that you love them regardless of what occurred.
For example, you get a call from the school that your child yelled at the teacher. Of course you don’t agree that yelling at their teacher was appropriate and you can understand that they must have been really upset. Ask them what happened and how they felt. “Can you remember what happened?” Avoid asking “why.” It is accusatory and they will likely get defensive. Remember, Your role in validation is only to listen, process and nurture. To validate is to acknowledge and accept a person. Invalidation, on the other hand, is to reject, ignore, or judge.
4. Remember that validation does not mean approval. You can validate the feeling without approving of the action. If you think about the example above, you can absolutely validate that your child was upset and focus on that, asking questions and trying to understand. There can also be some problem solving about how to avoid this in the future. The key is to validate your child’s emotions. If you can do that, you may be surprised to see how your child opens up to you more.
It’s important to validate yourself, too. Don’t beat yourself up for invalidating in the past. This is a challenging skill and one that is hard to practice. Try to add validation to small moments in each day to make it a habit. This can be with a co-worker, spouse, friend or your child. You’ll notice a huge improvement in all your relationships.
Authored By: Emily Roberts, MA, LPC