For a child or teen with BIG emotions, these words are like daggers because they communicate that their view of the world is wrong or doesn’t matter. Then they learn to stop trusting themselves and others.
But there’s a quick fix to stop this pattern in your home, and it’s known as validation.
Validation communicates that you are there with the other person and that you hear them, understand them, and care.
Using validation does not mean you always agree with them, make them happy, or solve their problems, but instead you’re showing the other person you understand and therefore help them feel understood.
Often parents come to us saying their child or teen will tell them they just don’t get it. Fortunately, changing this part of your relationship is a major piece of the puzzle in eliminating meltdowns and stopping blow-ups.
Five tips to avoid invalidating others:
- Don’t make the conversation about you: “I hate when that happens to me.”
- Don’t try to one-up the other person: “Oh, you think you’ve had it bad…”
- Don’t give advice or try to fix the problem: “What you should do next time is…”
- Don’t tell them how they should feel: “You should feel thankful that…” or “At least…”
- Don’t call names, make character statements, or label the person: “You’re so dramatic.”
Five tips to be more validating:
- Show you’re interested: put down your phone, make eye contact, nod
- Summarize or reflect what the other person is saying
- Use empathy to “read” their nonverbal feelings, thoughts, or needs
- Communicate their feelings/thoughts make sense given their situation
- Find the kernel of truth in their experience
Examples of validating statements:
- “I can see that you are very upset” (or whatever emotion is present).
- “That must be so frustrating for you” or “That stinks!”
- “What a tough spot to be in.”
- “I can see how hard you’re working.”
- “I can tell this is important to you.”
Above all, focus on the relationship instead of the problem. Do not focus on what happened, but how the other person feels about it. Then use words that get to the root of the person’s feelings, and try not to use rational or judgmental statements.
Likewise low self-esteem occurs when people put themselves down or judge their reactions, consequently making relationships more difficult. Therefore validating yourself is essential for both self-care and improving relationships with others.
Tips for self-validation:
- Be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and needs
- Notice judgments and be able to let them go
- Allow yourself to feel your emotions without trying to avoid/escape them
- Notice the emotion, name it, and nurture it (give yourself what you need)
- Choose to change how you feel about the situation or accept it.
In conclusion, like any new skill, you’ll have to practice validating yourself and others on purpose. It won’t always be easy and expect to make mistakes, but relationships that are important are worth fighting for.
STOP sabotaging your relationships and START listening.
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This blog post was written by Sarena Ferguson, LGPC . Sarena is is one of our Child & Adolescent therapists.