In Family Support

allison-livingston-2by Allison Livingston

Question: Have you validated your child’s emotions today?

Every child has the core needs to be seen, heard and accepted.

The best way to do this on a daily basis is to validate their emotions. This is crucial according to meaningful connection researcher and best selling author Brene Brown.

We can lose sight of this in the busyness of the day to day logistics of school, work, laundry, groceries and activities, especially as most of us weren’t given emotional validation when we were young.

So what can you do?

A reliable way to meet these needs is to validate their emotions. Try it!

The next time they are upset: validate their emotion BEFORE you problem solve/fix.

It could sound like this:

Your Child:
“Mom, I’m worried about… how I did on that test, my soccer performance, getting to school on time…”
“Dad, I felt left out as no one wanted to sit with me at lunch, walk with me, included me…”

“Oh that’s hard. You sound down. I’d like to hear more…”
or “That’s no fun. It makes sense you feel that way.”
or “I get it. I believe you. Want a hug?”

This meets their needs, helps them not feel alone and grounds them that they are real and normal.

If this is so important, why is it so hard to do?

We’ve been taught that it is our job to take away their pain and make them feel better. (NOT TRUE!)

Does this resonate for you? When your kids feel upset, it hurts you even more than them, so we do anything to stop it!

Too often we are conditioned to jump right into problem solving, or distracting. or numbing, or rationalizing. We’d rather fix their pain than witness it.

But there is a cost to this cycle.

We are actually breaking a biologically designed link when we stop our kids from experiencing an emotion to completion. We miss the emotion’s message about their needs.

So one of the most important things you can do for your child is to stay with them while they feel. Let them know they aren’t alone. Reassure them that most emotions only last 6-90 seconds so it won’t last forever, that you trust they are strong enough to stay with it, that all emotions are normal and important.

So try it, increase your own tolerance for discomfort by sitting with your child when they are upset, hurt, lonely, embarrassed, angry, sad, ashamed, in trouble…

This grows both of your emotional intelligence and capacity to relate + connect.


Let me know how it goes.

In partnership,

Allison Livingston is a conflict resolution specialist, mediator and parenting coach for those struggling with a strong-willed child. Learn more at 5 Steps to Connect.

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