I wrote earlier today about the wonderful gift of “mirroring” that our children can provide for us—the way that their very existence in the intimate places of our lives can serve as an illumination to our individuality—both flaws and fabulous uniqueness. As I was writing that, I realized that we parents serve an important mirroring function for our children as well…
Myra wrote several months ago about “emotional mirroring”—how we can consciously reflect emotions back for our children to help them learn how to act appropriately, but I do think we can serve as mirrors for our children in many other ways too. Mirroring can be modeling—showing our children what sort of behaviors we expect by who we are in relation to who they are; we can also play devil’s advocate and help them see the consequences of what they are doing or the choices they are making.
I think that what is important is that we mirror appropriately and authentically for them. For example, if a child is saying mean and hurtful things and we react my laughing it off or making light of it—what message are we sending? While we know as parents that we need to be somewhat thick-skinned and not take things our children say and do personally, we still need to give them authentic, appropriate reactions. We can let them know that they are being mean and hurtful and share our reasonable reactions. This way, they learn cause and effect and can have their behaviors illuminated in a very human way.
Being mirrors for our children requires us to be present and interact with them in a genuine way. Sometimes, this can mean that we have to be vulnerable and emotional—while other times it means that we remove ourselves emotionally in order to reflect back what is best for the child. Either way, it requires us to be involved, available, and “grown-up” as parents.