The Importance of Validating Children’s Emotions

February 29, 2020
Validating children's emotions means recognizing them as legitimate and letting them be, without trying to deny them or repress them.

Most parents these days grew up in homes with an authoritarian upbringing based on demands, without much sensitivity. Today, however, they have their own children and hope to do things differently… choosing connection and respect and the pillars of their philosophy. And this includes validating children’s emotions – something that was a foreign concept for many generations of the past.

Of course, knowing how to give something when we ourselves didn’t receive it is no easy task. Therefore, to educate our children in a new way, we need to learn – and that’s okay. To help you out, the article below will provide information and advice on how to be more respectful of your children’s emotions.

When we become parents, it’s common to find ourselves repeating patterns from our own upbringing. After all, it’s the only thing we know. However, if we start to become aware that we want to establish more healthy and solid bonds with our kids, it all starts with their emotions. We need to help our children comprehend them, manage them, and give them meaning.

Emotional invalidation

Everyday obligations and the daily grind often leave us without a lot of time to reflect before we act. We need to get our kids to bathe, eat, and go to bed by their bedtime… and so much more.

We often feel incapable of spending time tending to a tantrum that erupted because our little ones don’t want to come home from the park… Or because they don’t want to get out of the bathtub… Or because they don’t like the clothes you chose for them, etc.

The Importance of Validating Children's Emotions

In our eyes, the reasons behind our little ones’ tantrums are insignificant in comparison to their explosive reactions. And this leads us to think that they behave the way they do to challenge, manipulate, or irritate us.

But, if we put ourselves in our children’s shoes, we can understand that, to them, their reasons are important. And their tantrums are a manifestation of an emotional intensity that they don’t know how to express any other way.

When we ignore our children’s crying, scold them for being upset, or belittle the reasons for their tantrums, we send the message that their emotions aren’t important… that they’re not valid… and that our children don’t have the right to express their emotions or even feel them. And, if they do, we’ll get angry and take away our affection.

As a result, they begin to repress their emotions and experience them as something uncomfortable, because denying them won’t make them go away. They feel confused and insecure with their emotions. As a result, they grow up having a hard time managing and comprehending their own emotions and those of others.

Validating children’s emotions: How to do it

Therefore, it’s important to take a minute to reflect before we react to our children’s emotions. Perhaps our first impulse is to tell them that big kids don’t cry, or that they always make us late, etc.

But if we take on a new perspective, we’ll understand that taking that extra time to accompany our children when they’re feeling overwhelmed is well worth it. Validating children’s emotions involves the following steps:

The Importance of Validating Children's Emotions

  1. Give their emotions a name. Many times, our little ones don’t know how to identify precisely what emotion they’re feeling at a given moment. So, the first step is to help your child identify and name their emotion.
  2. Validate the emotion by letting your child know that it’s a normal reaction and they have a right to feel the way they do.
  3. Explain the reasons. Children won’t always understand or be convinced, but it’s still important to give an explanation.
  4. Offer tools for handling their emotions. Teach your child that they can reduce the intensity of their emotions by changing their thoughts or looking for an alternative.

So, we could say something like: I can see that you’re upset about getting out of the bathtub. It’s normal to feel angry about having to stop playing when you’re having a good time. The thing is, it’s getting late and it’s time to eat. If you want, you can help me make dinner like a real cook.”

Connection and respect

Rather than minimizing or getting annoyed with our children’s tantrums, we should give them space to express their feelings. When you do, you’ll connect with, comprehend, and accompany your children. What’s more, you’ll teach them an alternative to help them feel better. This way, children feel loved, respected, and cared for.

As a result, children learn to identify their emotional states and handle them in a healthy and constructive way. And, above all, we’ll build a bond of trust and care with our children.

  • Martinez, Á. C. (2010). Pautas de crianza y desarrollo socioafectivo en la infancia. Diversitas: Perspectivas en psicología6(1), 111-121.
  • Posada-Díaz, Á., Gómez-Ramírez, J. F., & Ramírez-Gómez, H. (2008). Crianza humanizada: una estrategia para prevenir el maltrato infantil. Acta Pediátrica de México29(5), 294-304.