The What, Why, and How To…

Your child comes home from school and is visibly upset. They are crying and telling you about how they don’t like their new class because their teacher is grumpy and they don’t know where to sit at lunch. You reach out to your crying child and tell them “Don’t worry honey, you will adjust soon and everything will be alright” and “When I was in school we had assigned seats at lunch so you are lucky that you can pick”. Your child turns away from you and only cries harder as they go to their room. What happened here? Why were your efforts to console, not effective?


Hi parents, This blog is for you. As a therapist, I have heard from many of my kid and teen clients that they don’t feel like their parents understand them. While I know that this isn’t always the case, I do know that a big reason for a kid to feel this way is that their parents often try to solve their child’s problem or fix the situation at hand without validation. It makes sense that you want to shield your children from hard emotions or to try and take away their pain by offering explanations or telling them not to worry. It is extremely hard to see your child struggling and telling your child “It’ll be ok” is meant to take away that pain. However, if you move into “fixing it” for your child without validating their emotions or experience, your child will not feel seen nor heard in what they are going through. In this blog, we’ll delve into the many “whys” behind validating your child’s emotions and explore the “how to” – practical ways to apply validation with your kids. I hope you will come away with a better understanding of validation and its importance in parenting.


What is validation? 


In the context of emotions and experiences, validation refers to acknowledging, understanding, and accepting one’s feelings, perspectives, or thoughts. To validate someone, you are communicating to a person that their emotions and experiences are legitimate. Validation does not include fixing a problem or offering wisdom but instead letting the person know that they make sense to you.


So why should we validate our children? 


  • Emotional development: 

Validating a child’s emotions helps children develop emotional intelligence, understand their feelings, and learn how to manage them appropriately. 


  • Communication Skills: 

When children see that their parents are receptive to their thoughts and feelings, they are more inclined to share their experiences openly. This creates a healthy foundation for ongoing communication, making it easier for parents to guide and support their children through challenges. 


  • Self-esteem: 

When you let your children know that they make sense to you, you are letting them know that they are valued and known in this world. Validation contributes to developing self-esteem and forming a more positive self-image. 


How do we validate?

As you have read, validation in communication with your children has many benefits for both you and your child. I have listed three above but there are more. Here are some examples of how to validate, using both verbal and non-verbal responses. 


Verbal Validation:


“I can see that you’re upset about this.”

“I can understand why you are feeling sad”

“Your feelings are completely valid, and it’s okay to feel this way.”

“I understand why you’re feeling anxious about that. It’s hard to know where to sit at lunch”

“I hear you, It makes sense to me that this would make you nervous”

Restate what your child is saying so that they know that you heard and understood.


Nonverbal Validation:


Nodding while the person is speaking.

Maintaining eye contact to show you’re engaged.

Use facial expressions that convey understanding, like a concerned or empathetic expression.

Providing physical comfort.


In parenthood, validating your children’s emotions is crucial. It builds their trust in both you and themselves, and it allows them to feel they are understood in this crazy world. The validation a child receives from you is a powerful building block for their self-esteem, emotional intelligence, and overall security.  As you guide your children through the ups and downs of life, remember the importance of validation. 



Written By Rebecca Meyer, LMFT


Throughout September, we are highlighting resources around Back to School and Talking to Your Children about Mental Health. If you or a loved one need professional support, our counselors at Mathews Counseling are available for appointments. Request to book today!




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