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How to validate children`s feelings and emotions ?

Updated: Sep 26, 2021

Being a parent is probably one of the most rewarding, meaningful, and scary experiences one may have in life. However, the wonder of watching your little child growing up to become an adult can be hindered by feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, and worries. "Am I doing it right as a parent?" "Why is my child always misbehaving or pushing boundaries?" "Are these tantrums ever going to end?" "Am I failing?" No, you are not failing!

The fact you are taking the time to read articles about parenting speaks about how much you care and love your child. But love entails understanding, and this is the point where most of us struggle when we relate to kids. Sometimes, we forget how challenging it was to navigate this world as a little one. Occasionally, we fail to see what children want to express with their tantrums, outbursts, crying, hiding or acting out. This post will explore the value of validating children's feelings and some practical tips to put this knowledge into practice.

What Is Validation? And Why Is It Important?

As social beings, we all want to feel understood by others. Children are no exception. Yet, as adults, we tend to underestimate how complex, intense, and unpredictable a child's world is. Even though we take time to schedule our children's daily activities, that does not mean they see the world through our lens of a to-do list. Instead, they live each day wholeheartedly. Any experience -no matter how big or small-, can become the best or worst thing happening in their lives. A simple game like playing with bubbles may be the most joyful experience ever, but watching someone taking the bubbles' bottle away may feel like a catastrophe.

Children live intensely! Sometimes, they lack the language or the right coping skills to express all those overwhelming feelings and emotions inside them. Tantrums, outbursts, throwing things to the floor, or running away can all be a cry for help. But, in a child's world, it may be a way to say, "Please, look at me! I am scared, or sad, or frustrated, or angry." In those moments, validating your child's feelings lets them know that you understand them, and it is okay to have those feelings.

Validation does not mean agreeing with how your child is reacting (i.e., screaming at you) but acknowledging the emotions triggering that reaction (i.e., anger, frustration). Validation is a way of saying, "Hey, I can see that you're feeling X. I'm here to listen." For any person, including children, feeling heard and understood is in itself therapeutic.

5 Ways to Validate Your Child’s Feelings and Emotions

If you are wondering, what may be some ways to validate your child's feelings? Here are some tips:

  1. Listen attentively. This is perhaps the most essential yet difficult strategy to implement. Listen attentively means dedicating your full attention to your child. That means no texting while you listen, no shouting or interrupting your child, and no thinking about your work while your child is talking to you. Sit with your child, be calm, and listen.

  2. Do not judge. No one likes to be called "stupid", "silly", or "weak" for showing their emotions. Do not minimize your child's feelings by calling them names.

  3. Help your child to identify their emotions. Many children do not know how to put what they are feeling into words, so they act out. Naming your child's feelings and emotions allows them to recognize them. It also teaches them that talking can be a healthy coping skill to deal with overwhelming feelings. In those moments, you can say things like: "I see that you are feeling frustrated/disappointed", or "I understand that you are feeling sad."

  4. You don't have to "fix" the situation. As parents or adults, we often believe that our role is to "fix" whatever wrong thing is happening in a child's life. But let's be honest, some situations are not under our control. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is not to fix it but to be with your child during a difficult moment.

  5. Share your feelings. Children learn by observing their parents, carers actions. When children watch that we are open to sharing our feelings with them or others, they may start feeling more comfortable engaging in the same behaviour.

Encouraging Your Child to Develop Positive Change

Validating your child's feelings is essential. But letting them know that you believe in their power to change it is equally significant. Children's brains are more malleable than adults' brains, which means they have a greater capacity for change if given the opportunity and the support to do it. So rather than focusing solely on "fixing" the negative, try to acknowledge the progress your child is making even if that progress seems too small. Baby steps can take your child far along the way.

Finally, give yourself a little pat on the back for all your hard work parenting your child! Take some time to rest, relax, and enjoy the parenting journey!

Dorota Perkins

#validation #emotions #feelings

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