Mirroring Monday – Going in to School Edition

Start the week off right with examples of mirroring from the team at Connected Parenting. If you’re new to Connected Parenting and want to find out more about mirroring and the CALM method, check out this podcast by Jennifer Kolari (courtesy of Penguin Group USA).

This week’s Mirroring Moment is from Lisa Seward. Enjoy!

Lisa Seward picA 6 year-old client of mine (let’s call him ‘Buddy’) would not get out of the car to go through his school doors on his own. “He absolutley refuses,” said the Mom.”Won’t even try,” added Dad.

We discussed other things that were not going perfectly well for Buddy. “He will only eat one type of food,” said Mom. “YES. ONLY ONE COLOUR FOOD-IT HAS BE A CERTAIN COLOUR OR HE HAS A MELTDOWN,” added Dad, “But other than those two things … everything is perfect. Perfect!”

Silence. “Perfect. He is an amazing child. Bright. Very smart and loves his sibling.”

Silence.

A long pause and then one parent uttered a small apology that they had been separated for a few months, but were now back on track and all was … Perfect.

Excellent opportunity to open the door to a) relief that some of the tension was perfectly evaportated from the room and b) a chance to bring anxiety ‘after the fact’ into the discussion and bring it all back to the need to mirror and learn more about mirror neuron cells and connections!

I asked for a practice scenario based on real life in the car during morning drop off … or morning escort service. Mom started and stopped and said she couldn’t do it. She tried again, but felt silly role playing and stopped again. Dad jumped in and said he’d try and lo and behold the Dad was the Great Mirrorer of all Times! WHO WOULD’VE KNOWN? The Mom was awe struck and thrilled at the same time and the praise was forthcoming as we plodded through practice scenarios with the husband helping out and really doing a great job. The mirroring went from “Darling … son you need to try to get half way out of the car and then I’ll lift you the rest of the way and undo your coat and hang it up in your cubby,” to:

“Ugh. Yuck. The last thing you want to do is see me leave with _______ ( Buddy Jr./ sibling) in the car to go home and have loads of fun!”

“You’d love to be the one staying home with me and having some fun … last place you wanna be is school.”

The parents were able to mirror and move on to solutions like, “We know how much you love school. And you’re so smart – you even like to do extra homework… But I’m wondering if you can think of a plan for next Monday to go in on your own. Think about it and let me know your ideas because kids in grade 1 need to go into school on their own. We’ll practice at home before next Monday.”

The child was able to use the think time to master a plan and I mean a Master Plan (mapped out in drawings and labelled … a real perfectionist … Thinking about every little detail). The following week – follow through… THEY PRACTICED AND IT WORKED.

The talk about anxiety helped heal the family as they realized that the food and the school anxiety were a result of two parents separating, living in two different houses, and then getting back together in a new one – all in the same year. Our Buddy needed some extra ‘baby play’ or ‘connected play’ and some mirroring around his school issues and some mirroring around his eating – so that he could get through his anxious feelings and need for control.

At the close of our second session the parents seemed more relaxed and Mom was happy that Dad was so good at mirroring and there was less upheaval and tension. I asked them if Buddy knew they were back together for real…for good…had it been talked about or come out in daily play at all? “No we haven’t brought it up. Too painful for him. He probably doesn’t want to talk about that time. We didn’t want to worry him or mention it.” I mirrored their words and sentiments and after a few minutes we talked about Buddy needing a couple of thumbs up to know that all was O.K. with Mum and Dad. Buddy needed reassurance even if he didn’t ask for it. Their 6 year-old may need two thumbs up from them that, “They were on it – all was A-OK!” They both told Buddy and Buddy Jr. that they were not going to live apart again and the parents mirrored Buddy for a short talk… Buddy suggested they all draw family pictures and Dad suggested he put them up on their fridge.

An hour later at bedtime, Buddy had taken the picture off the fridge and put it under his pillow. In the morning he said he wanted Mum and Dad to draw another picture to put in their room to remember that they are a family. He turned to Mum as he left the car that morning and said he would draw a picture for little sibling Buddy Jr.’s room after school.

He ran out of the car and forgot to shut the passenger door. Mum was happy to yell out “love you … have a great day,” through a tear falling down her cheek. A happy tear no doubt.

Share your own favorite mirroring moment in the comments below. Or are you stumped? Feel free to leave a comment describing a situation you encountered where you couldn’t figure out how to mirror. We’ll try to incorporate it into a future Mirroring Monday post.

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Please remember that the advice given on this blog is not meant to replace medical advice or the direct advice of a mental health care professional.
"Connected Parenting advises us not just how to parent, but—far more important—who to be as parents. The therapeutic methods suggested by Jennifer Kolari are based not on simple-minded behavioural solutions, but on building warm, nurturing relationships with our children, with insight and compassion not only for their little flaws, but also for our own larger ones."
—Gabor Maté, M.D.

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