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  • Katy Ainslie-Wallace, LPC-IT, SAC-IT

6 Ways to Validate Your Child's Emotions

According to the dictionary, validation is defined as:

“The recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile.”

Sometimes we confuse validation with confirmation of thoughts, feelings, or emotions. While validation is confirming that the other person has feelings and emotions that are their own, we aren’t confirming that their feelings are right or correct, nor are we confirming that they are wrong.

Validation is important—particularly for children who are trying to figure out their own emotions.

When we validate a kid’s feeling that something is sad, frustrating, exciting, disappointing, etc., we are helping them notice and understand their emotions.

wrong,bad. While you may be frustrated when your child is crying about their socks feeling “weird,” your child is experiencing their own frustration that they also don’t understand. Telling your child that they shouldn’t cry, that being angry is ridiculous, or my favorite: “I’ll give you something to cry about!”— is actually invalidating your child's emotions. This teaches children that they shouldn't trust their emotions. It gives them the message that what they are feeling is wrong.

While we don’t necessarily mean to invalidate the ones we love, emotional invalidation can harm a relationship and have a significant impact on a person. This is why learning to validate others is so important.

There are six types of validation as you begin to validate others more often, it important to know what constitutes as validation, and therefore, what doesn't.

  1. Being Present - Let them know that you are there.

  2. Accurate Reflection - Reflect back what you have heard.

  3. Mind-reading - What may they be thinking or feeling?

  4. Understanding their history and biology - What have their experiences been?

  5. Normalizing - Validating that their reaction was reasonable in the moment.

  6. Radical Genuineness - Expressing equality and respect.

Y ou get to choose the level of validation that makes sense for the situation, and is within your capacity. Validating someone can simply as being present with them, and showing your support by listening. Read this article from Psychology Today to learn more about these levels.

Additionally, here are some specific phrases you can use to validate your child as well as others:

  • ​“Of course you're upset!”

  • ​“I’m here for you."

  • ​“I can see that you're upset, what can I do to help?”

  • “It’s <insert emotion> when <insert event>. (It’s sad when we say goodbye).

​Check out even more statements you can use here.

So, while "weird" socks can be frustrating to a 5-year-old (and frustrating to 35 year old), we can help them cope with the frustration by first, validating their feelings and helping them to name their emotion, and second, working with them to find a solution. Your child will feel validated and can not only trust their own emotional response, but trust that you will always be there to help problem solve.


If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Katy, you can reach her


call our intake line: 608-709-6972

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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]

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