Validation… What is it and how does it help my child? By: Martha Anderson, LMFT

Jun 23, 2015 by Martha Anderson, LMFT

We all want happiness for our kids, but unfortunately there are times when are kids aren’t filled with giggles and smiles. As parents we want to fix whatever is wrong, but usually it’s not that easy. However, there are little things that you can do right now that can help improve your child’s mental health. There are many strategies that if done well and done together can turn your child’s frown upside down, as they say.  One of these strategies that we will review today is validation.

In the book Power of Validation, the authors Karyn Hall and Melissa Cook define validation as the recognition and acceptance that your child has feelings and thoughts that are true and real to them regardless of logic or whether it makes sense to anyone else. Validation can be demonstrated as simply as using phrases like “I know what you’re saying” or “I understand.”  There are different levels of validation that you can give to your child depending on the situation. There will be some situations where they are expressing feelings that you yourself have never experienced before. In this situation you can only be present and actively listen to what they are saying. You can’t really say, “I know what you mean” because you don’t. Just being there with your child, in support of them, will help. On the other hand, there will be other situations when you connect on a deeper level because your experience aligns more closely with your child’s. In this situation your method of validation can come in a more expanded form, by expressing your understanding and explaining how you felt is similar to how they are currently feeling.

Often validation is confused with providing comfort or praising. Validation is more than than that, validation is telling the truth.   For example, if your child just performed badly in a game instead of saying; “Nice job. You did well” you can say something like, “It’s hard when you don’t play as well as you would have liked.” You should also not validate what is not valid. For example, the feeling of not wanting to go to school is valid, but the behavior of staying home from school is not.  You can validate the feeling of not wanting to go, but reinforce good behavior choices at the same time.  Feelings are never wrong, but actions can be, so it’s important to teach your kids how to deal with their valid emotions in an appropriate way.

What are the benefits of validating your child’s emotions and listening to them with warmth and empathy? In Margarita Tartakovsky’s article entitled The Powerful Parenting Tool of Validation, she states that, “validation helps kids to feel and express their emotions, develop a secure sense of self, gain confidence, feel more connected to their parents and have better relationships in adulthood”. Using this strategy can help kids name and express their feelings and you can help them understanding that whatever their feeling is okay. It is important to remember that validation does not equal your agreement with their feelings, rather it demonstrates your understanding and respect for what your child is experiencing.

As parents we all want to help our children, turns out validating their feelings is a great way to do just that.

Martha Anderson, LMFT is a therapist in our Edina Partial Hospitalization Program.

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