Shine with Unschooling

Validating our Children Through the Challenges

by Anne Ohman

Excerpt from *This is How We Shine ~ Growing & Expanding*

We Shine Unschooling Conference, 2013


…What was there to validate?  


It seemed like the universe had lined up everything so perfectly with this job offer at the restaurant, flowing and moving him forward in paths that held his passions and the doors were opening and our excitement level had been, up until this day, just through the roof for Sam and for his infinite possibilities, because that’s the energy we were getting from him.


But to Sam, in this moment of preparing to step away from the only life he had ever known ~ one of freedom and respect and celebration for Who and ALL that He Is ~ it felt to him like he was going to be losing all of that.  He was so very sad and grieving for the loss of this life, HIS life, even before he had stepped away from it.  It all felt huge and scary to him.


This is what I deeply understood and that which I sincerely and humbly validated.


I love that Merriam Webster defines validate as: to recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of.  Because that’s the beautiful gift we get to hand to our children when we validate them for all that they are feeling, no matter what they are feeling.  And I was really excited to break down the definition even more because each word in the definition of validate is so beautiful in ITS definition… and you can just feel how each word is empowering and uplifting… 


  • Recognize:  acknowledge the real existence or independence of
  • Establish:  to cause to grow; to gain full recognition or acceptance of
  • Illustrate:  enlighten, to light up, to make clear
  • Worthiness:  the quality of having value
  • Legitimacy (my favorite, I think):  Being exactly as purposed.  It is exactly that which I had always wanted to preserve in my children from their very beginnings.   


I actually had the passing thought that day of what other, more typical parents might have done in this situation…how some might have reacted and responded to a child who was so very sad at this point when the doors to his dreams were opening…and the word validation did not come to mind.  


Just the opposite…from my experience, I kinda think that many parents would be upset at the child’s feelings, perhaps telling the child that he SHOULD feel happy, he SHOULD feel lucky, reminding the child, maybe, of his good life and perhaps throwing in a little guilt in an attempt to get the child to stop feeling these uncomfortable and, in the parent’s mind, unjustified feelings.  


The thing is that long before this point, the child knows that the parent will react this way and the child doesn’t feel safe to even display or share his honest, authentic emotions.  This is InValidation, a word which means “to weaken or destroy the relevance of.”  It does not feel uplifting or empowering… I feel like it whittles away at the 


child’s spirit, ignores the beauty and Whole-ness of Who He Is and robs the child of his own life experiences by undermining and de-valuing the authenticity of the child and his emotions.    


It never, ever occurred to me NOT to validate my child when he was at a less-than-joyful place in his life and it never occurred to me to think that anything my child was feeling was invalid.  It did occur to me that validation for the emotions I had experienced during the difficult times in my childhood was something that I had been craving my entire life and so it WAS something that I wanted to hand to my child, as well as to myself.


Validation of those darker, more uncomfortable times is so necessary.  It allows us to speak of exactly where the child is, so that what he is feeling can be seen and accepted.  Because acceptance of where he is right now is how he will get to where he would rather be.  


There are so many gifts in between this place of discomfort and whatever it is that the discomfort is here to show us… and those gifts can be discovered in that space in between the two, where there is room for validation and conversations and questions and pondering and deep, raw emotions.  We can simply allow it all to BE, no matter what shape it takes, and in this allowing space, we will be able to see what it is we need to see about our child and he can see what he needs to see about himself and his path, when he is ready to see it.  Validation, in whatever form is needed at the time, gets the child to that place of being ready to see it faster and still arrive Whole.  


In our family, we have found that this space between this place of discomfort and what it is that the discomfort is here to show us is necessary to allow answers or direction to come to us.  I can’t tell you how many times I have said, “I hear you. I understand ~ that is so difficult, I know.  Let’s let it be for awhile and see what comes to us.”  


Whatever comes to Be in that space that we allow is part of the excavating process, whether we experience more sadness and validation and crying and frustration or not!  What we know to be true is that that space is necessary in order for the light to shine, because we always receive some form of inspired direction, some form of an inspired answer.  


Sometimes answers or direction comes to us quickly…sometimes the dark, uncomfortable place will hang around longer if we are REALLY resistant to releasing whatever it is that we are holding onto that is not allowing us to move forward.  Sometimes we can simply choose to release the darkness in order to get to the light.  


Many times those inspired directions and answers that we receive start out as little ideas, here and there, maybe things that are pretty ridiculous and wrong and we know it as they are formed in our heads, but they are valuable nonetheless because they are little shards of light and they become springboards for a more fine-tuned thought or an idea that feels a little better…  I have always pictured this fine-tuning of our ideas taking us higher and higher, allowing us to SEE the big picture more clearly because we are getting a better view of it all from up there… and as we go higher, more and more possibilities are able to come to us.  And that space and that light and those springboards almost always get us, eventually, to a place of, “Oh My Goodness!  This is fantastic!!  Look what we created!!”


If we had robbed our children of their life experiences by INvalidating their feelings and their Be-ings, even by going into what is, for some, an automatic fix-it mode, they miss out on that really valuable and necessary space in between, they miss out on the life experiences and the lessons that are needed in order for them to walk their path and see themselves more clearly and fine tune their needs and desires and Visions of Who They Want to Be. 


Invalidation also takes the child in another direction all together because he is then reacting to his feelings that arose from not being Seen or Heard… and THAT reaction often ends up looking like rebellion.  


Validation allows the child to know it is right to feel what he is feeling, it allows him to learn to trust in his emotions and his own intuition.  These are absolutely beautiful and perfect life experiences that should not be robbed from him.  


Eckhart Tolle said, “Some changes look negative on the surface, but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.”  


I have found that space is being created to enable our Be-ings to grow and expand.  It’s the stretching in our lives.


When I am validating my children, I never let go of my Trust in their lives, my Trust in their paths, my Trust in their emotions and even my Trust in this difficult time that they are experiencing.  


And it’s because of this trust that I know that Validation is very different from feeling sorry for my child.  I do hurt when he is hurting, and yet I do not fully take on his pain.  


While I can see my child’s world from his perspective and DEEPLY validate from that place, I also need to be in this place of Trusting that all is well for mySelf.  My child needs this from me, especially when he is feeling sad or otherwise challenged and is not able to connect to any light in his life, not able to reach for a better feeling place at all.  


When I am able to hold that space, that Trust that these darker places are a time of stretching and growth, then I am the one who remains at the door of infinite possibilities!  I am the one who can still see and accept the goodness that is there for my child to claim at a time when he can’t do it for himself and he can feel that I’m holding onto his light within me, even if I’m crying and sharing raw emotions with him when I am sincerely validating this dark time of his.  


He can feel that I am not pitying him.  He can feel that I am not feeling sorry for him.  He can feel that I UNDERSTAND him, that I SEE him, that I HEAR him, that I know that this is hard and yet he knows that I do Trust in him and his path, no matter what.  He can feel that I am ready to help him in any way I can, any way that he needs me to.  He can count on me to throw him a lifeline when he needs it because I have stayed in the perfect position to be of value to him by not disappearing into his emotions and doubling the weight and the darkness that he is already carrying.   


And while I have no expectation of my child to be happy, because I wouldn’t want to presume that even THERE is where he “should” be, I do tend to Trust that this is what he WILL naturally want to reach for when he is ready, because I know that this is where my child feels good about himself, and that’s the feeling we’ve always walked toward in our family ~ feeling good about ourSelves.  


I Trust that my child will, eventually, be able to let in his own light, with my help, if he desires it, because the very thought of “I want to feel better about this” IS, in and of itself, a sliver of light.  And even a sliver is enough, because it always grows from there.  So when he is ready to let in some light, I am ready to offer it to him because I never let go of it for one second during HIS dark times.