A Guide to Creating a Safe and Non-Judgmental Space for Your Child's Emotions
Validating your child's emotions means recognizing their feelings without judging them. Even if you don't agree with your child's perspective, you can still show them that you understand why they feel the way they do.
Here are some reasons why you should validate your child's emotions:
Your child feels heard and important
Your child's self-worth improves
Your child learns healthy emotional regulation
Your child becomes more compassionate towards themselves and others
Your relationship with your child becomes stronger
To validate your child's emotions, follow these steps:
1. Take a break
If your child's emotions or behaviours trigger you, take a moment to attend to your own feelings first. This will help you remain calm and focused on your child's emotions without letting your own feelings interfere.
2. Listen actively
When your child is upset or emotional, take the time to listen actively to them. Make eye contact, ask questions, and acknowledge their feelings. Avoid interrupting them or dismissing their emotions, even if you don't agree with their perspective.
3. Show empathy
Empathy means understanding and sharing someone else's feelings. Show your child that you understand how they feel and that it's okay to feel that way. For example, say "It's okay to feel sad about your drawing." By doing this, you help your child feel heard and validated. Remember that although not every behavior is okay, every feeling is.
4. Avoid judgment
Avoid judging or criticizing your child's emotions. Emotions are neither good nor bad; they are simply a natural part of being human. It is essential to create a safe and non-judgmental space for your child to express their emotions freely. When your child feels safe to express their emotions, they are more likely to feel comfortable seeking your support in the future. It is normal to want to console your child by saying something along the lines of “don’t feel sad, your drawing is beautiful”. However, refrain from doing so as it only goes to invalidate that they shouldn't feel that way.
5. Label emotions
Children may not always have the words to express their emotions. As a parent, you can help by labeling emotions for them. For example, you could say, "It sounds like you're feeling sad right now. Is that right?" By labeling the emotion and checking if it is correct, you help your child recognize and identify their feelings. This can also help them learn how to express their emotions more effectively in the future.
6. Support your child
Encourage your child to find solutions on their own. It can be tempting to shield your child from difficult feelings, but learning to cope with emotions is an important life skill. Instead of trying to solve the problem for them, ask questions like "What would you like to do about the situation?" and let them come up with their own solutions. Your child may ask for your help or just need comfort. Make sure they know you're there for them and love them, regardless of their emotions. This can make them feel safe and supported during tough times.
In conclusion, validating your child's emotions is crucial for their emotional well-being. By taking a break, listening actively, showing empathy, avoiding judgment, labeling emotions, and supporting your child, you can create a safe and supportive space for your child to express their emotions freely. Remember that validating your child's emotions is not about agreeing with their perspective, but rather acknowledging their feelings and offering support. By doing this, you can help your child develop healthy emotional regulation skills that will serve them throughout their lives.
Examples of validating statements:
"I can see you're feeling sad. I am here for you." "It sounds like you're feeling frustrated. I understand." "You seem angry. Do you want to talk about it? I’m listening." "You seem worried. Would you like a hug?." "I see you're happy and excited. That's great!"