In life, there are many privileges. They’re not all connected with a financial advantage. In fact, one of the most important is linked to the emotional realm. Indeed, growing up in a family setting in which parents constantly provide security, affection, and validation to their children is the greatest of gifts. It’s a way not only of making children happy but also of protecting their mental health.
However, in reality, this psycho-emotional nutrition should be an obligation and not a privilege. That said, there are many times when a certain lack of care is observed, and gaps and alterations in the bond leave serious consequences. So much so that parental invalidation is related to the subsequent development of more than one psychological problem.
The explicit rejection of the events that occur in the emotional dimension of children is an extremely intense source of psychological anguish. It means their sense of self and identity is distorted. Moreover, they’re made to believe that many of their needs are wrong or defective. No one should grow up in the midst of these dynamics. In fact, parenting based on secure attachment and correct emotional attention is a right that every child should receive.
The most common emotional invalidation from parents to their children lies in the classic phrase that starts with “That’s nothing.”
Parents who invalidate and how they do it
Emotional invalidation is the mechanism that one individual exercises over another through rejection, minimization, or explicit manipulation of their feelings. Sadly, it’s a dynamic that often appears in many of our relationships with others, be it in the family, relational, or even friendship sphere.
However, in no type of bond is it as important to attend to emotional validation as in the upbringing and education of children. Recognizing their needs, emotions, and feelings without judging or criticizing them favors their psycho-emotional development. Also, their identity. Indeed, by feeling valued and understood, they manage to have a presence in the world.
However, having invalidating parents is the origin of multiple mental disorders. For example, a study conducted by the University of Washington (USA) highlights how family invalidation is related to the appearance of self-harm in adolescence. In addition, in recent years, research has been conducted on more of the consequences of parental invalidation.
First, we’ll explain how the parental invalidation mechanism is produced.
Any child exposed to a crippling environment will feel punished for certain emotional realities that are entirely normal and respectable.
Punitive punishment for expressing needs
Being afraid, feeling anxious, worried, and demanding attention… Children express their needs through behaviors that can sometimes exhaust their parents. But, if we don’t understand what lies behind our children’s behavior, we’ll be invalidating them, neglecting them, and denying them the most appropriate response in each situation.
Many caregivers opt for punishment, for a yell that paralyzes the child. Or, in the worst cases, a smack. However, physical punishment that seeks to control negative behavior has serious consequences and this must be remembered. In fact, far from solving anything, education based on fear and pain intensifies feelings of anxiety and guilt.
Minimizing: what they feel isn’t important
The minimization technique is the most common resource used by invalidating parents. In fact, adults often remember certain phrases, comments, or attitudes of these kinds of parents. They dismiss the emotion that their child feels at a given moment, underestimating it without addressing the issue that’s behind it.
The “Don’t cry, it’s nothing”, “Don’t get mad because it doesn’t matter”, “It’s only a toy, it’ doesn’t matter that it’s lost” or even “Don’t be sad about it, there are far more serious things in life ” are ways of annihilating the psycho-emotional experience of any child. Not giving importance to and dismissing what they feel makes them believe that their emotions and problems are irrelevant.
The practice of parental gaslighting means consciously altering what the child feels in order to gain power over them. In this case, their emotions aren’t only invalidated, but also distorted, making them believe that there’s something wrong with them.
They’re also led to believe that what happens to them or what they need is something else. Here are some examples of this phenomenon:
- You’re a really sensitive and weak child.
- You’re always overreacting. It’s impossible to live with you.
- You’re not hungry, you’re tired.
- You’ve got nothing to be angry about, you’re just bored.
- Shut up. You’ve got nothing to cry about, You’re just spoilt.
Experts have found that parental invalidation is related to borderline personality disorder.
Borderline personality disorder and invalidating families
In a recent study conducted by Dr. Stephanie Lee and colleagues at the National University of Singapore, it was shown that, in many cases of borderline personality disorder, invalidating parents is the cause. The data confirms, once again, how this condition is always linked to traumatic events that occurred in childhood.
The researchers claim that borderline personality disorder is better understood from a biosocial model. In other words, growing up in a disabling social environment can be devastating. However, if the child also exhibits greater impulsiveness and emotional vulnerability from an early age, the risk of it developing into a mental problem arises.
In essence, it reminds us how decisive it is that parents know how to guide their children in every emotional challenge. We know that raising a child is no easy task. But, promoting a childhood based on security and attention to their every need builds a solid foundation for the adult they’re to become.
Therefore, parents must ensure that they emotionally validate their children to ensure they reach a happier maturity, or are, at least, prepared to face each vital challenge in their lives.
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