A theme that I see in the counseling office is clients wanting to feel validated.  Whether that is  children/adolescents wanting to feel validation from their parents, teachers, or caseworkers OR adults wanting to feel validated from their employers, spouses, or other family members it’s a theme that tends to span generations.  People want to feel comfortable sharing their feelings and opinions, but sometimes feel that it’s wrong or unsafe to do so.  

What is validation?  To validate means to certify or confirm something. When someone feels that they are invalidated it means that they are wishing someone would accept what they’re doing or how they are feeling.  To feel validated,  one is acknowledged, feels as though they are important, and their purpose matters.  I should caution, to validate someone doesn’t mean “agreeing” with their feelings, it means acknowledging that you see they are feeling a particular way.

So why is this important?  When someone feels invalidated, they feel a sense of being unimportant, purposelessness, feeling of emptiness or that they misunderstood their own emotions.  To those of you reading, our feelings are meant for our survival. We should feel anxiety/nervousness in new or dangerous situations.  We should feel anger when wrong doing has been done to us or we should feel guilt when we’ve done something wrong. We should feel happy when we’ve done well at something.  However, when people experience invalidation they are confused about their feelings and  learn to distrust their own emotions.  That can affect long term mental health and future relationships.   

The people in our lives  (especially children & adolescents)  need to be validated; they need to know that they are good at something or that they mean something to you. The people in our lives need to know that they can feel safe sharing their experiences and their feelings.  When they feel validated they know that it’s OK to talk about tough issues, and that their loved one will accept them.

Many times, I will have parents or spouses ask how they can help their loved one open up.  I might point out times where their response to their child’s opinion or experience might be ignoring, teasing or downplaying their feelings.  It takes alot of energy for a child or adolescent (or even a spouse/sibling, etc) to share their feelings and to hear the response of “Don’t feel….” or “You shouldn’t feel that way…” invalidates how they feel.  

Some examples of invalidation / validation

Child comes home and got teased for spilling ketchup on their shirt. 
– Validation:  Your feelings were hurt when Suzi was teasing you OR I’m sorry that you had a rough day wit the kids teasing you. 
– Invalidation:  It was only one day, they’ll forget about it tomorrow OR you’re acting like a baby suck it up.

Child shares sexual abuse with mom:
– Validation:  This must have been really difficult for you to share with me OR we are going to take you to a doctor/counselor who can make sure that you are okay.
Invalidation:  Your brother wouldn’t do that OR don’t accuse your dad of things like that OR if you didn’t wear those types of clothes something like that wouldn’t have happened OR  you shouldn’t talk about that with me, I can’t listen to how my baby was hurt.Spouse shares feelings about jealousy:
– Validation: You are upset that I hang out with that person,  What would help you feel more comfortable with it?
– Invalidation: You shouldnt’ feel that way it’s just a friend.

Hope some of these examples helped you become better equipped to handle little disruptions in your life!  On the personal side,

I’ve noticed that when those in your lives are validated, it can deescalate a situation significantly.  During college, when I worked in customer service at a local chain electronics store, sometimes the simple statements of validating the customer’s frustration is all they really needed.  It’s the same thing in our day to day lives, if you’re finding that you’re having trouble communicating or having trouble with alot of mini disruptions, keep in mind the concept of validation and how it can be applied in that particular situation. 


Best Wishes!

Jennie Wilson is a child and adolescent therapist. She holds the credentials of a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor http://cletus.soupmagazine.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/jennie.jpg