This is part 2 of our 5 part series on the parent-adolescent relationship. We sat down with one of UCEBT's parent-child relationship specialists, Dr. Kalee Gross, to ask about the parent-adolescent relationship. What's it all about? Why is it important? How can it be improved? Read along to learn more about this important topic!

What is validation? And how can you use it? 

Validation is the communication of acceptance, the communication of that person's thoughts and feelings. But those make sense in this moment. And an example of validation would be like a teenager coming to you and saying, “Oh my gosh, I have all these things going on with school, I have the science project, I have a chemistry project and then have my music lessons and I have soccer practice after. I don't know how the heck I'm going to get all this done in that moment.” A validating statement for them would be, “Well, it sounds like you're feeling really overwhelmed right now.” And that helps them feel understood and heard. And that what they're feeling makes a lot of sense that it works to help strengthen that relationship, open up that door for communication. 

The perks of validation 

Another really cool piece about this is that it improves emotional regulation as well, because once someone feels heard and understood, it tends to lessen the intensity of that emotion for them. And then that gives them more space to think more logically and problem solve.  

The downsides of problem-solving 

And so, with parents, something to consider is parents often want to jump into problem solving right away because it's hard to see their child in pain and they don't want to see that, it's uncomfortable. So, they're trying to solve the problem for them. But then this creates a dynamic where then the teen doesn't feel heard and understood, and then they either tend to escalate in anger, frustration, or tend to pull away and be less likely to come to you and talk about those problems. So then you know less about what's going on.  

If you can step back and just focus on validating in the moment, that will actually help with your goal of keeping that communication open and helping them learn how to regulate their emotions and problem solve.  

“Validation” is not “agreement” 

A lot of times parents think that or just people in general think that validation means agreement and validation does not mean agreement. They are not the same thing as one another.  

And so, going back to that example with the teen coming and saying that they're so overwhelmed with everything, with all their school and activities... and then all of a sudden, they start talking about, “I'm just not going to do that science project... I'm going to fail it... whatever”... the parent can validate in that moment that their teen is feeling overwhelmed AND not necessarily agree with the fact that they're making the choice to not do their science project.  

Giving space for problem-solving 

Well, as a parent, if I can stick with that validation, their feelings of being overwhelmed will likely decrease. And if I can give them more space to problem solve, they may shift into thinking that “well, I can work on the science project for an hour today and then an hour tomorrow...” or “...I can talk with my teacher and ask for an extension...” or some other way to work out the problem themselves. So, it just creates that space for problem solving without threatening their autonomy.  

Validating the invalid 

Another thing some parents say sometimes is “well, there's nothing valid to validate what they're saying”... but there's usually something that we can find. There's usually a piece that we can validate. And I think a helpful way to get through this one is to pay attention to the emotion that the teen is feeling, pick up on that emotion, and try to validate it. 

Sometimes parents say, “Hey, what if I get it wrong?” That's okay. That doesn't matter. What matters more is that you are tuning in and trying to hear them, and if you get it wrong, they'll correct you. They'll tell you.  

Paying attention to invalidating statements 

Sometimes, there are certain types of invalidating statements that tend to happen. And so just keeping an eye out for those that come up is important. For parents, just thinking about times when you've had people say invalidating statements to you and how it felt can be helpful. Usually it doesn't feel great, makes you either escalate or pull away and really not want to talk to them anymore.  

Some of these types of statements are include giving advice, telling them what they should do or how to solve the problem. Another one is telling a person how to or how not to feel. So you might have a teen come to you telling you about a friendship that blew up and that they're really sad about it and how difficult it's been for them... but as a parent, you've seen how maybe unhealthy that relationship was... So then you tell them, “Oh, no, don't be sad. You should be glad you don't have that toxic friend anymore.” 

That's going to feel pretty bad to them to hear that in the moment. And they're just not ready to see the things that can come out of that relationship ending at that time.  

Another example of invalidating statements are ones where you make it about you. So just look out for these invalidating statements and try to find those validating statements, instead.  

 

Check out part 3 of 5 on the parent-adolescent relationship.

Published in News and Updates