Has your child or teen ever accused you of not listening or understanding? Your child will feel validated when you recognise and affirm their feelings or point of view. You don’t necessarily have to agree with them but it is important to show you understand that the thoughts and feelings are important for your child for them to feel validated.
Validating your child is a simple, fast way to have a productive discussion, ease tension, build trust and reach an agreeable solution more readily. It’s important for children to feel heard and understood but the process doesn’t always come naturally.
Parents’ default position is often to respond to negative comments from their child by arguing with their viewpoint, dismissing their feelings, ignoring their concern or even criticising their child for expressing a point of view in the first place. When this happens, no one learns anything and there is no progression towards agreement. It is more likely that new negative feelings will be created which will repeat the cycle until it ends in broken relationships and a child or teen who feels hurt and misunderstood.
Here are three ways to help your child feel validated:
- Paraphrase the main thing your child is saying to ensure you heard him or her correctly. This not only helps you get it right, it shows your child that you are listening, interested and even curious. It is also a non-judgemental way to begin responding to your child. It can be helpful to use phrases like, “What I hear you saying is…” “Is that right?” or “Let me see if I’m understanding you…” “In other words….”
- Acknowledge the emotion underlying the issue. Your child will feel you have heard them when you show you understand how they feel. Even simple responses like, “That sounds frustrating” or “It sounds like you are worried” can make huge progress in helping your child to feel truly heard and understood.
- Communicate acceptance even if you don’t agree with the sentiments expressed. You can accept their feelings and opinions without compromising your stance. Letting your child know that you accept their feelings without necessarily agreeing with them can be communicated by phrases like, “I can see why you’d feel that way” or “That’s understandable”.
Some parents are reluctant to follow this tried and tested method with reasons that include:
- I don’t agree with my child’s opinion so why should I validate it.
- I don’t believe my child should have this opinion so if it isn’t valid, why should I encourage it?
- This touchy-feely stuff isn’t for me. I’m the parent and my child should respect me.
- I am just too tired to tiptoe around my child’s opinion when I know they are wrong.
If any of these responses ring a bell with you please remember that you don’t have to agree with your child to validate him or her. You are making them feel important and heard. This will not undermine your relationship with them but will increase their willingness to share with you what they are going through in the future.
If you make reflective listening and validation a regular part of the way you converse with your child, then you are on a rewarding path of enjoying a healthy relationship with them.
The Little Mermaid musical
At the time of writing this, I’m not sure if all the tickets have sold out yet but if you haven’t bought your seats to The Little Mermaid, you only have a few hours left to do so. I remember many people being disappointed they didn’t go to Beauty and the Beast when they found out the quality and calibre of the performance from others after the performance.
The Little Mermaid promises to be every bit the same professional and enjoyable performance of our last musical. If anything, I believe this year’s musical will be even better. The students have set the bar high and plan on wowing us all.
Mike Curtis, Principal