Helping your child manage their feelings with acceptance and validation

As children get older their emotions become more complex, and they can feel different emotions about different things at any given time. Therefore, it pays for one to have a good understanding of what these feelings are and why you might be feeling them. However, the ability to notice, name, understand and be ok with our emotions doesn’t always come naturally or easily.

Development of emotional intelligence.

During childhood the ability to notice, name and accept our feelings is developed through how the adults in our life deal with our (and their own) emotions. Using acceptance and validation can help children build their emotional intelligence, accept their feelings and cope with them better throughout the ups and downs of life. Acceptance and validation tell your child that they matter to you and you hear and understand what is going on for them, and this helps make room for change and growth.

What is acceptance?

Acceptance is an attitude of allowing and willingness, allowing emotions whatever they happen to be, being willing to experience them as they are, knowing that they can and will come/go/change on their own, and they are completely normal human experiences.

What is validation?

Validation sends the message to our children that their feelings are valid, no matter what they happen to be. Problems tend to arise when we are not willing to accept our emotions and instead struggle to get rid of or change them.

Importantly, validation of emotions does not mean you are validating and accepting how they might be behaving at that moment. Let’s say something happens and your child becomes upset, is crying and starts hitting you. You can send a message that accepts and validates their emotions, while also sending a message that their hitting behaviours are not ok. For example, you might say something along the lines of ‘I know it’s sad/disappointing/upsetting that …happened. It’s not ok to hit though’.

Then depending on their age, how they are coping at that moment, you might implement a consequence for the behaviour, help your child calm down and/or use it as an opportunity to teach your child what to do in such a situation.

How to accept and validate emotions.

Acceptance and validation can be done by noticing and being curious about a child’s feelings, and this can help us to help them understand their emotions. Below are just a few examples of validating and accepting emotions, and for most of these examples, you can simply interchange the feeling depending on what emotion you think you are noticing or is likely based on the situation.

 “I notice you look worried”

“Could it be you’re worried about…”

“You seem to be sad”

“I bet you are disappointed… happened”

“I’m wondering if you might be anxious”

“I’m wondering if you are anxious because…”
“I can see how angry you feel right now”

“You look frustrated”

By using acceptance and validation you will be helping your child to develop their emotional intelligence and coping skills that will help them better navigate life’s challenges.

Written by Dr Rachael Sim, Clinical Psychologist.

More information

If you would like to learn more about acceptance, validation and how to build your child’s emotional intelligence or book an appointment with one of our experienced clinical psychologists, contact our friendly client team by calling 6143 4499 or email via our contact page.

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