What Is Validation and Why Is It So Important?

Available with English captions and subtitles in Chinese, Hindi, and Spanish.

Everyone wants to be seen and heard. Validation, at its core, is a way of letting someone we care for know that we understand them, and in turn, can strengthen our connection with our loved ones. Validating the thoughts and feelings of kids and adolescents is especially important, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them, since it lets them feel seen and heard.

How can we help our kids recognize their feelings? What are some ways that we can validate our children’s thoughts and emotions? Is it ever too late to start validating how others feel?

Audience Questions

Blaise Aguirre, MD, provides examples of what validation looks and feels like in kids and teens, shares ways to support our loved ones’ thoughts and feelings, and answers audience questions about learning how to validate feelings at any age.

  • Why is it so important for kids to feel validated by their parents or caregivers?
  • What does validation of emotions and actions do for kids’ mental health, both in the short and long term?
  • How do you think self-validation has changed as kids are more exposed to people’s “highlight reels?”
  • What are some examples of how self-validation appears in kids?
  • How can validation help teach our kids emotional regulation?
  • Is there a way to recognize that validation has become too much or unhealthy?
  • How do we convey this “understanding” even if we don’t know what our kids are going through?
  • What are some other examples of validating actions that parents can take?
  • As a parent, how have you yourself shown validation toward your kids?
  • What happens if our loved ones don’t experience feelings of validation?
  • How can these people start self-validating?
  • I think I was emotionally invalidated by my parents growing up and it has led to many problems for me emotionally and socially as an adult. Do you have any tips on how to overcome these issues? Is there a type of therapy that would be most helpful for me?
  • How can we convey validation even if we don’t agree with their thoughts or point of view?
  • Are there differences between how we validate our children versus teens versus young adults?
  • What if a small problem, like misplaced homework, leads to a big emotion? How to validate their experience and move them to problem solving?
  • How can we help validate emotions and actions when the kid themselves may not understand why they’re doing what they do? Example: you ask why they’re yelling, they respond with “I don’t know!”
  • How are praise and validation different? And when is validation is more appropriate than praise?
  • Is invalidating behavior the same as gaslighting?
  • How true is it that to receive validation from others, you must validate others first?
  • How would someone who has come from a large family that historically invalidates ask to be validated? How can one get over the level of resent to receive validation and get a sense of belonging from such family?
  • How do we generationally break the invalidation cycle?
  • Can you expand on your statement that resentment is a form of attachment-causing suffering?
  • What should you do if you see/hear others invalidating your child, especially a parent?
  • Should validation come with rewards? Should we be “prizing” our children instead of “praising?”

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


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About Dr. Aguirre

Blaise Aguirre, MD, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist specializing in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and mentalization-based treatment (MBT) for borderline personality disorder and associated conditions. He is the founding medical director of McLean’s 3East continuum of care, programs for teens that use DBT to target self-endangering behaviors as well as the symptoms of borderline personality disorder.

Learn more about Dr. Aguirre.

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Originally aired on May 11, 2022