Empathy and validation don’t mean that we agree with the child or condone everything they do; it’s simply an effort to understand and accept the child’s perspective. Emotions don’t become entrenched when they’re validated. In fact, they tend to lighten”
-WIlliam Stixred & Ned Johnson
A lot of parents I work with are afraid that acknowledging a child’s feelings when they are upset will make it worse. “Doesn’t that just make it seem like it’s okay? Won’t it make it harder for them to move on?”
The opposite is actually true.
Empathy, feeling with someone by trying to see it from their point of view, is THE single most effective thing to focus on if things feel hard with your child. (Pro tip- It’s also a way to keep things from being hard because you are showing up and connecting with your child!)
When we feel understood, we want to calm down. When we feel understood, we feel connected.
Look at it this way:
Have you ever been upset about something and your partner or friend shrugs it off and tells you, “It’s not a big deal. Why are you so upset?”
How did that feel? I know that makes me MORE upset if anyone does that.
Your partner or your friend might not agree that you have anything to be upset about. That doesn’t matter. Your feelings are your feelings and you have a right to them. No one gets to decide what is ‘worthy’ of upset.
What if, even if your partner didn’t agree or understand, they said, “Wow. I’m sorry. That sounds like it was really hard for you/upsetting. Is there anything I can do? Do you want a hug?”
Much better, right?
Our kids are the same.
We might not agree or understand. After all, we certainly wouldn’t be upset if someone cut our sandwich the wrong way!! That’s okay. We only have to try to see it from their point of view: It’s important to THEM.
If we can acknowledge their point of view and empathize when they are upset– “This is so important to you. Of course you’re upset”– the feelings will start to lighten and we will feel closer to our child.
Sarah Rosensweet is a certified peaceful parenting coach, speaker, and educator. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 15, 18, and 21). Peaceful parenting is a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Sarah works one-on-one virtually with parents all over the world to help them go from frustrated and overwhelmed to, “We’ve got this!”
Read more at: www.sarahrosensweet.com