Parenting Insights – Why validation is the best parenting skill of all

At a time when the mental health and wellbeing of children and teenagers is firmly in the spotlight, validation is an essential parenting skill.

When a child or teen comes to you when they are struggling emotionally, they want you to understand their dilemma. They don’t want to be dismissed or told to ‘get over it’. They generally want someone to acknowledge that their concern is real with comments such as:

  • “I see you’re worried about going to camp. I can understand that.”
  • “Thanks for telling about the scary monsters in your bedroom. Let’s see what we can do about them.”
  • “I’d be afraid too if I was left alone on my own for that long.”

Validation of a child’s struggles helps them
Validating a child’s struggles helps in a number of ways. It works to:

Build deep connection
Relationships built at the time of vulnerability go deep and are hard to break.

Promote a child’s wellbeing
Validation helps kids feel safe, which is what ‘worry warts’ and anxious kids want. Lack of understanding rather than fear itself often impacts negatively on a child’s happiness.

Overcome disappointment and build resilience
Validation encourages kids to give voice to their concern or disappointment and either takes steps to rectify it or move on.

Develop emotional intelligence
Parental validation models emotional intelligence for children and teens. It requires you to identify the emotions that may be behind their language or behaviour.

Encourage empathy
Validation requires you to stop, listen and get on the same wavelength as your child.

Four steps to validating your child’s emotions
Follow these steps when your child comes to you with their worries or concerns to make sure they feel understood.

  1. Attend – Stop what you are doing and give your child full attention.
  2. Observe – Listen with your eyes as well as your ears.
  3. Reflect back their worries – Get down to their eye level if necessary, saying something like, “I see you’re really concerned about this.”
  4. Touch – If appropriate, gently touch their shoulder or give them a hug when you speak to them. This will help them feel safe and comforted.

There’s no better feeling for a child or teen who is struggling than knowing someone they value truly understands them.

By Michael Grose.

Michael Grose, founder of Parenting Ideas, is one of Australia’s leading parenting educators. He’s the author of 12 books for parents including Spoonfed Generation and the best-selling Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It. His latest release Anxious Kids, was co-authored with Dr Jodi Richardson