I remember walking through the pasta aisle one Sunday afternoon. I was planning my Italian dish of the day and narrowing down my choices when, suddenly, I was assaulted by the sound of bitter tears from a toddler in distress.
I don’t know what caused the child to start crying. The cause became less and less relevant as my attention was drawn to the words of the mother pushing the cart.
“You better shut up!” She said with penetrating anger.
Obviously, this didn’t work. Regardless, she continued with phrases like, “I oughta just leave you behind!” and “Keep crying. See? Nobody cares?!” I was in complete disbelief at what I was hearing. How could a parent be so cruel, insensitive, and invalidating? Perhaps she had had a bad day, but could any situation warrant such behavior towards a child?
Even if the little girl (maybe 2-years-old?) was crying over a trivial matter, it definitely didn’t feel trivial to her. Even worse, instead of being met with reassurance, she was met with anger, animosity, and discord.
While this is an extreme instance, the invalidation of emotions is an all too common trait among parents these days.
In fact, I’ve heard experienced a lot of parents invalidating the emotions of their children, even on Facebook. We have made a culture that is quick to attack other’s perspectives and refuse to listen to what is being said.
Let me let you in on a little secret about emotions…
Your emotions are always valid.
What you do with your emotions is another story. Even the woman previously mentioned had valid anger. It was her response to anger that was destructive and boundary-pushing.
If we are to heal our culture’s emotional chaos, we must first lay the foundation of validating emotion so that we can best grow to understand them and learn to respond to them in a healthy and productive way. Cause how are you supposed to know how to handle a natural occurrence, such as emotions, if you don’t even know how important they are to daily life?