Emotional Invalidation: Why Invalidating Kids’ Feelings Can Hurt Them

Invalidating a child’s feelings can have long-term consequences, according to experts. This type of feedback — telling a child that their feelings are not real, or that they are not allowed to have them — can cause the child to feel ashamed, frustrated, and isolated.

Invalidation can also damage a child’s self-esteem and confidence. When a child feels unsupported, he or she may begin to doubt his or her own worth. This can lead to problems in later life such as depression and anxiety.

Invalidation can be a learned behavior. If a parent or other adult in a child’s life invalidates emotions frequently, the child may start to believe that this is how it is supposed to feel. As a result, the child may become less likely to express feelings honestly in the future.

If you are evaluating whether or not your child is being invalidated, be sure to ask questions that will help you understand the child’s feelings. For example, you might ask the child how he or she feels about the situation. You might also ask the child whether he or she wants to talk about the issue. If the child is reluctant to talk about the situation, that may be a sign that he or she is feeling invalidated.

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