When a child is crying in my therapy session, I often validate the emotion by reiterating how they feel: “You are so sad,” I say in a soft and drawn out voice. I learned this method of speaking under clinical fieldwork with Tal Baz at In Tune Integrated Therapies in Boston, MA. It is part of the Floortime and Developmental Individual Relationship-based (DIR) approach for working with children with social communication challenges like Autism.
Not only do I validate the child’s emotions in that moment, but I enhance their understanding of sadness. They can attach a word to the meaning because they finally recognize the feeling of sadness.
In therapy, we see a huge disconnect right now in emotional understanding and growth, social emotional learning (SEL). For more resources on SEL and for curriculum ideas to teach social skills, emotional connection and empathy visit CASEL: https://casel.org/.
One of the reasons we are seeing increases in mental health issues like anxiety and depression in our children is lack of emotional validation, face to face time with parents away from screens, and time spent building emotional connections outside in nature during free play.
For more resources on the importance of free play and natural contexts for child development, learning, and social skills building, visit my friend Angela Hansom‘s website: https://www.timbernook.com/about-timbernook/. The power of emotionally connecting with your child face to face now can be the difference in their ability to create mentally health bonds and intimate attachments later in life!
Validate your emotions today too! You are only able to meet your child where they are in a moment if you can meet yourself there too. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself so that you can be compassionate with others.