The Importance of Validating Our Children's Emotions
When I speak to groups of parents and educators, I put a lot of emphasis on validating a child's emotions. Validation is a term that refers to acknowledging and communicating that you understand the reason for another person's emotions. When we validate a child's emotions, we show them that we care without being judgmental.
As caretakers, we often want to jump in and "fix" the tough emotions or make them "go away." However, this does not help the child and it can actually cause them greater stress. Helping a child fully process their emotions by validating what they are expressing, is a necessary step in the problem-solving and healing process.
Steps to show a child you validate their emotions:
- Stay calm
- Focus on your child without distractions
- Physically get on their level
- Actively listen to what they are sharing with you
- Use a warm tone of voice
- Use simple language to help process events
- Use non-verbal cues (ie: nodding)
- Stay away from over dramatizing or victimizing
- Stray from disregarding or disagreeing. Remember, these are their feelings and they are very real to them.
"Acknowledging isn't agreeing with or condoning our child's actions; it's validating the feeling behind them." Janet Lansbury
This practice allows our children to feel seen, heard, and accepted for all they are expressing. When we validate our child's emotions it builds up their confidence and emotional resilience; empowering them to process and respond to life's events. When our children see that they can overcome the tough stuff, navigate the ups and downs in life, and bounce back, they are gaining faith in their own abilities to struggle and overcome. Isn't that a beautiful thing? So, as difficult as it might be to see our children fail or struggle, we want to be there to walk beside them by listening and validating, not be there to fix it all.
When the tough stuff arises, and we show up to validate and connect with our children, we are acknowledging that their feelings are okay. Experiencing our emotions should not feel scary; emotions are not "bad" or "good", they are a natural part of human existence. Do not try to spare them from the tough emotions by suppressing them. Validation will support your child in moving through the tough stuff, processing it, problem-solving, then moving on.
Validating our children's emotions shows them that we value them under all circumstances. We also need to be teaching them about their emotions so that they are able to fully recognize, understand, and express them. FeelLinks resources support children in noticing body cues, learning broader emotional vocabulary, expressing feelings, and managing all kinds of emotions. Grab a set of emotion plush dolls and feelings journal to support your child at home or in the classroom.
"By acknowledging our children's emotions, we are helping them learn skills for soothing themselves, skills that will serve them well for a lifetime." Dr. John Gottman