Is there a wrong way to validating feelings?
As a parent, there's nothing more heart-wrenching than seeing your child in pain. Whether they are feeling sad, frustrated, or angry, it's natural to want to do whatever you can to make them feel better. But sometimes, our well-intentioned attempts to fix their problems can actually do more harm than good. In fact, one of the most invalidating things we can say to our child is 'I'm sorry you feel that way.' Instead, it's important to practice being present with our child amid their emotions and simply letting our presence be validating. Read on to learn why this approach is so important and how you can put it into practice.
"I'm sorry you feel that way"
Saying something like "I'm sorry you feel that way" can be well-intentioned, but it can also be perceived as dismissive by your child. It's important to remember that your child's emotions are valid, no matter how you feel about them. Simply being present with your child and allowing them to express their emotions can be incredibly validating.
It's also important to practice staying with your child amid their emotions, even if you don't understand what they are feeling. This doesn't mean matching their emotions, but rather listening and hearing them in the midst of their big emotions. This can be difficult, especially if your child is upset or angry, but it's an important part of being a supportive and nurturing parent.
Just be There in the Moment
By showing up for your child in this way, you are showing them that their emotions are important and that you care about how they feel. You are showing them that you are holding space for their feelings. Their feelings matter and are important. This can help your child feel seen and heard, which is crucial for their emotional development.
Imagine that your child comes home from school one day feeling upset because they were excluded from a play date. They are feeling hurt and left out, and they come to you looking for support.
In this situation, it's natural to want to try and fix the problem or make your child feel better. You might be tempted to say something like "I'm sorry you feel this way. I'm sure they didn't mean to exclude you. I'm sure you'll get invited to the next one." While this response might be well-intentioned, it can come across as invalidating to your child. Instead of trying to fix their emotions or make them feel better, it's important to simply be present with your child and acknowledge their feelings.
So, in this case, you might say something like "I can see that you're really upset about not being included in the play date. It sounds like that really hurt your feelings. I'm here to listen if you want to talk about it." By showing up for your child in this way, you are acknowledging their emotions and letting them know that you care about how they feel. You are also giving them the space to express their emotions and work through them in their own way.
This approach takes practice and patience, but it can be incredibly rewarding for both you and your child. By being present and supportive in this way, you can help your child feel seen and heard, which is crucial for their emotional development to be present and supportive when their child is experiencing strong emotions.
This doesn't mean trying to fix their emotions or make them feel better, but rather being there to listen and acknowledge their feelings. By showing up for your child in this way, you can be a validating and nurturing presence that helps your child feel seen and heard.
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