A Communication Skill To Faciliate A Healthy Sense Of Self For Your Young Child And Much More......
By Sophia J. Wien-Kim, M.A., Drs.
There's a book in every book store these days, which is called "Are You Somebody". It is a memoir by an Irish woman named Nuala O'Faolain. In the book she describes a lifelong, deep yearning for a gratifying connection to the world around her and a longing for love so deep, that it brings tears to your eyes. This is a woman who is successful in her career and became famous. But none of this ever eased her pain of not feeling loved and her struggle to develop a sense of self.
Nuala grew up with a mother so overwhelmed by the task of rearing her nine children that she took comfort in drinking, severely neglecting them. Her father was continuously absent too and used shame and punishment as a way of keeping the children in check.
It is clear that this is the root of Nuala's wounding.
All of her significant relationships failed, she never had children and is in pain about that too.
We are grateful that our children have had a better start in life. Yet we all struggle with questions like: what does it take to provide your child with a healthy and strong sense of self? How do I avoid making the mistakes my parents made? How do I provide the basics, the safety, support and structure (boundaries) my child needs at each stage in her development?
No matter how much you struggle or how confused you might be, there is an approach with which you never fail. It is using a communication technique called "mirroring", which originates from the Imago Relationship Theory developed by Harville Hendrix, PhD.
Mirroring is literally and accurately reflecting back what the other is telling you. The purpose of mirroring is to let the your child know you are willing to put aside your thoughts and feelings for a moment to really listen and understand her point of view.
When you mirror your child, you make it clear that she (or he) is getting your undivided attention. It is a way to honor your child's reality - to respect her in her feelings, awareness and the expression of both.
When you mirror your child, you will convey that she is allowed to communicate what she needs and that you will always respond. It is a way of letting your child know that whatever she is experiencing makes sense, ambivalent feelings and all, and that it is your task to decode, to translate, to understand.
By mirroring, you make your child feel safe and protected. Mirroring promotes "moments of oneness", ongoing experiences of connection and bonding - experiences that are extremely important for the child's confidence.
Through mirroring you let the child know she is acceptable, adequate, valued, worthy and treasured. Your child will, over time, start thinking about herself in those terms. She will grow strong, resilient and be able to manage her life, her emotions and her tasks - and have healthy relationships with others as well.
Whenever your child seems demanding or difficult, whenever you see behavior that you don't understand, keep mirroring and say to yourself "stay with it" and then mirror again if needed. You will see that when you take the time to mirror, your child will relax when frustrated or in distress. When you need to set boundaries your child will inevitably be upset, because she is confronted with something she wants, but cannot have. Mirror the fact that she wants what she wants and that this makes sense and then mirror the frustration of not getting it. Ultimately your child is going to quiet down and be okay - validated in her emotions, so that she will learn to trust her inner life and develop a secure sense of self.
Mastering the "Art of Mirroring" will break negative patterns of communication, and will redirect and strengthen the parent-child relationship. Mastering the Art of Mirroring will also have a profound effect on your child's life, the way she will think about herself and the way she will progress in the world.
Note: I used the term mirroring as opposed to dialogue with respect to communication with the young child , because it needs to be absolutely clear that it s about the child's and not about the parent's needs.
Sophia J. Wien-Kim, M.A. Drs. has been part of the Imago Community since 1991. She is a certified Imago therapist with Advanced Clinician standing and has private practices in New York City and Port Washington, Long Island. Sophia can be reached by Tel. (212) 721-6660, ext. 2, Fax (516) 767-4247 and mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.