When I was young . . .

Inadvertently Invalidating Conversations

An article written by Principal Clinical Psychologist Colby Pearce.

“When I was a child we spent all day outside making cubby houses. Now my children spend all day in front of the computer making houses in Minecraft!”

The above statement is an example of how much the lives of children and their parents have changed in developed countries in the 21st century. It is also an example, or variant of, a common concern of parents. Parents  in developed countries are concerned that their children are spending too much time interacting with and via electronic media and too little time doing what they, the parents, did when they were growing up. Typically, the conversation between parent and child begins with When I was a child . . . . and incorporates an elevation of the worth of the parent’s own childhood pursuits and a corresponding devaluation of contemporary, sedentary electronic pursuits. The motives of the parent may be pure, such as encouraging creativity, physical activity and face-to-face interactions between their children and their friends. The inadvertent outcome is that the child perceives their contemporary interests as invalid and disapproved of by their parents. By extension, the child perceives themself to be a less valid person in the eyes of their parent.

Validation is an important component of my work with children in distress, and their parents. Children who have regular experiences of validation from their parents tend to be better-adjusted than those who feel like their activities and interests are criticized and disapproved of by their parents. In extreme cases, regular experiences of parental invalidation can result in a child developing a depressive illness.

It is important to accept and show interest in your child’s [reasonable] activities and interests. When you do so, they feel loved and validated by you. They feel like a valid person. With you, the parent, being the source of such positive feelings, you have also strengthened your influence to promote your child’s engagement in creative, physical and  interpersonal activities.