How to Validate Your Teen's Feelings

Acknowledge Your Teen's Emotions

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Although most teens may appear irrational and overly dramatic at times, they do have a right to their feelings. It can leave many parents feeling confused and frustrated by their child’s emotional outbursts. However, it’s important to validate your teen’s feelings, even when you don’t understand those feelings.

How Validation Helps

Validation is an effective communication tool that can really help improve the quality of your relationship with your child. When your teen feels like you have validated her feelings, she’s much more likely to talk to you about problems and events in her life.

Validating your teen’s feelings means sending the message, “Your feelings are okay.” Of course, how your teen chooses to handle those feelings might be a different story. For example, it’s okay to feel angry but punching someone because you feel angry isn’t okay.

When you validate your teen’s feelings, it teaches them important life skills. They develop an understanding that all human emotions are acceptable and that they have choices about how to deal with those feelings.  Validating your teen’s feelings opens the door to teaching your child appropriate ways to deal with those feelings.

Examples of Invalidation

Sometimes parents inadvertently send the message that says, “Your feelings are wrong.”  Although most parents mean well when they give feedback, their lack of understanding about how or why their teen feels a certain emotion can cause a negative reaction.

Here are some examples of statements that can invalidate a teen’s emotions:

  • “You shouldn’t overreact. It’s not a big deal.”
  • “If you can’t handle a little problem like this without getting upset, how are you going to handle problems in the real world?”
  • “I don’t know why you get so mad at your sister. It isn’t as if you don’t do the same thing to her all the time.”
  • “Get over it.”    
  • “Don’t cry about something so silly.”
  • “It’s not a big deal. Calm down.”
  • “Don’t act like a baby.”
  • “Don’t get so nervous. It will be fine.”
  • “There’s nothing to be scared of so stop worrying.”

Examples of Validation

Validating your teen’s feelings means that you can acknowledge what she’s feeling. You don’t have to go so far as to agree with her feelings. Instead, you can simply show an understanding of how she is feeling right now.

If you don’t feel your teen’s feelings are justified, try reflective listening. For example, say, “It sounds like you’re so angry that your friend didn’t make the basketball team, that you’re considering quitting the team.” This shows that you heard what she is trying to say.

There may be times where you can make an observation that connects why your teen is feeling something. For example, if your teen was bullied last year and she tells you a peer teased her about the shirt she wore today, you could say, “Given what you went through last year, it’s understandable you’d feel so bad that someone teased you about your shirt.” This can help your teen see the connection between the past and her current feelings.

If you truly agree and understand your teen’s feeling, you can express this as well.

Say something like, “I’d sure feel angry about that too,” or “I think anyone would feel angry after being treated that way.” This can help normalize your teen’s feelings.

Moving on From Validation

After you’ve validated your teen’s feelings, it may be helpful to talk about how your teen plans to deal with those feelings. Sometimes this may involve problem-solving strategies to overcome an obstacle or it may involve finding ways to cope with situations that she can’t change.  

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