top of page
  • Writer's pictureAmanda Marie

“I see you and I hear you.” The benefits of offering validation to young adults who are struggling - Dr. Amanda Aster-McKenna, Licensed Psychologist in Montclair NJ

Dear Readers,

At age 18, our teenage children are now considered to be adults by law. But does the legal age of adulthood match the requisites required to function well as an adult while our young adults’ brains are still developing well into their mid to late twenties?

Understanding Young Adulthood

As we think about young adulthood (ages ~18 through 26) there are many struggles that our young adults face that can create obstacles to optimal functioning and success. Such struggles can include:

  1. Having limited ability, courage, and practice advocating for oneself which can engender deficits in one’s self-esteem

  2. Using ineffective strategies to regulate one’s emotions and problem solve when facing challenging situations

  3. Due to the comfort of communicating via the digital world, our young adults now are experiencing a dearth of socio-emotional skills in the real world

  4. An unknowingness of the importance of self-reflection, growth, learning from failures, and personal victories

The Power of Validation

So, what can we do as parents/caregivers/professors/coaches/mentors etc. of these young adults who are struggling to thrive in our current climate? Like everyone else, our adult children can benefit greatly from validation. Feeling validated offers this age group (and most others) the chance to feel heard, feel seen and feel understood. When their frustrations and challenges are acknowledged and recognized, their experience of isolation and “differentness” lessens. Validating our young adults’ experience can enhance their self-esteem, improve their communication skills, and increase trust and resilience. It can motivate them to engage in effective committed action to face their challenges head on. Validation allows this group of folks to be more willing to express vulnerability all while staying connected to their values.

What can validation sound like?

  1. “I can understand why you feel that way.”

  2. “That must have been really hard.”

  3. “I can tell this is really important to you.”

  4. “I believe in you and I am here for you.”

Given your own historical context and early emotional learning, offering validating statements can feel unusual, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable. Many of us have been taught and still believe in the idea that harsh self-criticism is a catalyst to behavior change. This just is not the case. While it may work in the short-term, in the long term it leads to more inner struggles, self-doubt, depression, anxiety, among others. Choosing validation means that you choose to see your young adult whole-heartedly, accepting the totality of them, their strengths as well as their areas of growth.

This not only fosters a deeper connection with your young adult, it also promotes a more compassionate inner narrative within your young adult to be able to tackle the curveballs of life.

Take Action, Practice Validation

If you are willing, think about how you can offer a validating statement or phrase to a young adult in your life that you know is experiencing hardship. What might it sound like? 

If you would like to sign up for my monthly newsletter, please email  to be added to the mailing list.


Peace, Love, & Fierce Acceptance

Dr. Amanda Aster-McKenna, Psy.D.


NJ Licensed Psychologist #5888, Private Practice, Montclair, NJ

Adjunct Professor, Kean University, Department of Advanced Studies in Psychology

Board Member, Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris

77 views0 comments


bottom of page