Validate, validate, validate.

In a previous post I noted how important it is to help kids express their feelings, in whatever way is most comfortable or easiest for them. One of the most important pieces of this is to validate that what they are feeling is OK. As parents, we so often want to make it better, put it aside, change the feeling but it is (our) judgment call as to whether or not what they’re feeling should be set aside. Try starting with, “it’s OK to feel ____________.” Even when that feeling is sad, jealous or worried. Of course deep down we don’t want our children to feel worried but why not? It is likely driven by a fear that if they are worried, something else may happen – they’ll cope with the worry in some way that is harmful, they’ll be so worried they won’t try new things or they’ll start to believe that because feeling sad is OK, they will begin to feel it all the time. Then who’s worried? Or, if your daughter is sad, will she stumble into a spiral of deeper sadness and not recover? And then what? Certainly children and adolescents experience big emotions that do lead to difficult circumstances for parents and families and I am not intending to minimize such situations. Often big help is needed and relieving. However, when those “big” situations do not reveal themselves, just start with “it’s OK to feel sad.” Try it on yourself too — often our fears are unfounded and instead a weight is lifted.

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