Parental Validation: The Cornerstone of a Happy Childhood

If your parents made you believe that your emotions were unimportant, it'll be really difficult for you to express what you want and need as an adult. It'll also make it difficult for you to have happy and healthy relationships.
Parental Validation: The Cornerstone of a Happy Childhood

Last update: 08 September, 2022

Do you express what you feel and need in all of your relationships? Do you take your feelings into account when making decisions, or do you prioritize what others want first? If you do it the first way, congratulations, you’re responsible and emotionally mature. Thanks to these qualities, you’ll navigate your relationships successfully.

If not, you have a problem. In fact, you’re one of the many who represses their emotions, like swallowing one stone after another. You keep quiet about what hurts you as you don’t want to bother others. You silence what frustrates you by not contradicting anyone. Furthermore, you consistently hide what you need because you’re used to not expressing or stating what you want.

The type of psychoemotional behavior that makes you want to deal with your problems alone and in secret is usually associated with the way you were raised. Indeed, the kind of parental validation you received as a child directly modulates how you express and relate to your emotions as an adult.

Let’s find out more.

You tend to ask for what you were allowed to ask for. You claim what you’ve been taught you can claim. What your parents taught you as a child concerning psycho-emotional matters modulates your behavior.

man with fear of intimacy due to lack of parental validation
If you have difficulties talking about what you feel, these problems usually have their origins in the way you were raised.

Parental validation and its impact on your maturity

Parental validation allows children to become aware that what they feel is important and that they must learn to manage it. Skilled and respectful parents know that they must guide their child in adequately labeling the emotions they feel. This will allow the child to be more in tune with themselves and develop sufficient emotional intelligence.

For example, the accumulation of sensations that a child unleashes in a tantrum is paralyzing for them. If the adult solves them with shouts and punishments, the child will gradually start to repress their anger, frustration, and discomfort. Something similar will happen when they’re immersed in a complex task. If parents praise their child’s effort, it’s likely that the child will learn to tolerate frustration better.

Parental validation also means guiding their child to better communicate their inner experiences to the people around them. To teach them to be able to say “I feel sad”, “I’m angry because…”, “I’m afraid of…”, etc. Indeed, nothing is as important as a caregiver reminding their child every day to talk about what hurts them and what they need, instead of repressing their feelings or channeling them into anger.

Neglectful parents and dysfunctional families are the bedrock and root of many of our problems. For example, not being able to build happy bonds with others when we’re adults.

Growing up in invalidating environments

Parental validation in childhood is a powerful tool for building secure relationships with others. It may, in fact, be the cornerstone of our psychological well-being. Having figures that demonstrate to children on a daily basis that they deserve to be loved and that their emotions are valid are the best possible emotional nourishment for a child.

A study conducted by the University of Palo Alto (USA) claims that validation is an essential element in any psychotherapeutic scenario. It’s what the psychologist employs to reinforce the patient and to make them see the truth of what they’re thinking and feeling. That’s because the patient has spent so much time without understanding or making any contact with their underlying emotions that require presence, attention, and understanding.

If you grew up in an invalidating environment, in a family in which you were taught to silence your needs and prioritize those of your parents, it’ll have been traumatic for you. That’s because you were deprived of security and adult support when you most needed it. This meant you developed a fragile identity and self-esteem, along with problems in regulating your emotions, and difficulties in loving yourself and others in a healthy way.

Lack of parental validation affects your emotional communication

If as a child, you were made to believe that crying, complaining, or protesting was for the weak, it’s likely that in adulthood you’ll be mean to yourself when it comes to your needs. You won’t ask for anything and you’ll try and solve your problems yourself. You won’t complain and you’ll act as if nothing affects you. Nor will you take into account your own needs. In fact, you’ll park them to one side, or keep them under lock and key in order to prioritize the needs of others.

If you were repeatedly told, as a child, that your inner emotional experience was wrong, you’ll also have felt wrong, as a person. In fact, from that moment, something broke in you, you stopped trusting others, and all your emotions became deregulated. Emotions like anxiety, stress, contained anger, low self-esteem, poor emotional communication, etc.

A lack of parental validation is like a virus that alters everything. Your dignity is weakened, your self-esteem defenses are lowered, and your risk of developing a psychological disorder is increased. We’re talking about conditions like depression, borderline personality disorder, etc.

Sad girl due to lack of parental validation
Validation doesn’t seek to solve a child’s problems, nor to change their emotional experience. It consists of guiding them so they can recognize their emotions and regulate them.

How to validate yourself

To a certain extent, everyone deals with the mistakes that their parents made with them. However, if they were extreme, it can make it difficult for the child to build happy bonds with others. So what can you do if you were a victim of parental invalidation in childhood?

As Boris Cyrulnik points out in his book, The Ugly Ducklings (2001), a happy childhood doesn’t necessarily determine your life. As a matter of fact, you can change, mend wounds, straighten out the distorted, and rewrite many of the mental narratives instilled in you. Developing good emotional intelligence is a priority. This implies making contact with your emotions, giving them presence, naming them, and learning how to regulate them.

Knowing how to communicate, express what you feel, stop repressing your feelings, and learn social skills can be key in all cases. You also might want to consider psychological therapy. It’s a powerful tool capable of healing and empowering you in this set of dimensions. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Validating yourself is the alloy that’ll allow you to better connect with life.

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  • Kuo, J.R., Fitzpatrick, S., Ip, J. et al. The who and what of validation: an experimental examination of validation and invalidation of specific emotions and the moderating effect of emotion dysregulation. bord personal disord emot dysregul 9, 15 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40479-022-00185-x
  • Shenk, Chad & Fruzzetti, Alan. (2011). The Impact of Validating and Invalidating Responses on Emotional Reactivity. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 30. 163-183. 10.1521/jscp.2011.30.2.163.