The validating feelings tool card provided daily, if not hourly, opportunities for me to practice this skill with my two boys. It wasn’t until this week that I made the extra effort to come up with new ways to say, “you’re so mad,” “you didn’t like that,” or ” I can see how that really hurt your feelings,” and finally, “I can see that you’re really upset, let me know when you’re ready for a hug or to try again.”
Another approach that I use to piggy-back on this tool is to validate my child’s feelings followed by a story of how I can relate to them because of something that happened to me when I was a little girl. My oldest son, Greyson, loves when I tell him stories about when I was growing up. And when your children feel like you can relate to them, it’s another form of validating feelings at a deeper level.
I also realized that when all I do is simply validate my children’s feelings—it prevents me from feeling like I need to “fix” or problem solve; rather than simply just letting them have their feelings. I know that I “feel” validated when my friends or husband say, “I can relate to what you’re saying and therefore I completely understand how you feel.” Even if that doesn’t solve the problem, it helps me feel better to hear them say they can understand.
My mom taught me a valuable lesson when my son was 18-months old and was just starting daycare. It was so difficult and painful for me to leave my son there crying and pleading for me to stay or begging me to take him with me—absolutely heartbreaking! I called my mom from the parking lot crying and feeling like the worst mother ever.
My Mom reassured me that every emotion and feeling that Greyson was having was “normal,” and “developmentally appropriate.” We had been very careful to find a good child development center at San Diego State University. Mom went on to say that “developing his disappointment muscles” was a very important part of his development and growing up. I instantly felt better. As a Mother, all I want for my kids is for them to be happy and healthy, but it wasn’t until she described his disappointment as a strength that I also realized how important it was to have him strong—even if it meant he was temporarily unhappy. I have to say that both my sons have developed more self-confidence and capability because of their time away from me 3 days a week than they might have without this experience.
Once again, I was reminded how much more effective it is to problem solve when my children weren’t “feeling” upset. We were able to search for solutions once they had calmed down. As we all already know, or for those of us who are still learning, “Children Do Better When They Feel Better.” Often times, simply validating their feelings, helps them calm down.