Lessons Learned: From Anger to Healing Part 6

(Sixth of a 7 part series)
part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

by Zack’s Mom

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. ~ Anais Nin

6. Getting yourself strong gets your child strong. Mirror your child’s feelings.

I have found that this simple process lets my son know first that he has been heard, and second that I believe him–something he won’t hear from his dad.

My narcissistic ex often told me that my thoughts or feelings were imagined, incorrect, or the result of my own confusion, and now he is doing that to my son. Mirroring is very simple, but deceptive in that it is also very powerful.

If my son says, “I hate transitions. I miss you and I don’t want to go to my dad’s house,” I say, “Transitions are really hard for you because you miss me. You hate them because you have to leave me.”

Mirroring is not about fixing, but about holding the child’s emotions. My son’s therapist tells me that this kind of interaction by a parent is descriptive rather than proscriptive, proscriptive being the kind of talk that contains a lot of “shoulds” and “don’t dos.”

His dad’s response might be something like “You shouldn’t feel sad. You will see mommy in a few days.” The child feels he has not been heard and over time, this shuts the child down.

~ My greatest moment came when my son was almost three. He told me, “Sophie [his cousin] hit me. I feel sad. What are my choices to feel better?”

When a child can identify his or her feelings, you can explore ways to address those feelings. Mirroring is the key.

Tomorrow Part 7

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2 Responses to Lessons Learned: From Anger to Healing Part 6

  1. cathib says:

    It is the hardest thing ever to see your child struggle!!! My son comes home from his fathers and is so confused with his emotions, he hits me or kicks me when he returns (he’s almost 3) then I calmly talk to him about it and he feels so bad and cries. He is so out of control and confused by what he’s supposed to feel he just breaks down. Getting him to relax and to bed after a weekend at his dad’s takes hours of me carrying him and singing to him. I feel so bad for him and so angry that I have to send him to such a toxic place!! Any suggestions?

    My ex and I are about to go to a case conference and he is fighting for my son to live one week at his house and one at mine… that would be the most detrimental thing for my son. Any advice would be great!!!!

  2. PhoenixRising says:

    I hear you. 🙁

    Do you have legal advice? Representative to help you go over your options? Unless there’s physical abuse, it’s my understanding it’s hard to deny another parent their “rights” to the child.

    However, is there any way you can show it would be detrimental? Have you sought counseling help or therapeutic advice on what your son goes through when he comes home? Even if all he needs is your singing and holding him, you need more in court.

    I don’t know what the situation is, but it usually takes some kind of documentation to show how one type of arrangement may not be as good as another, especially if the other parent appears all he’s asking for is what’s fair.

    Are there any other logistical reasons it might not be a good idea to switch him back and forth?

    Whatever you do, be careful about how you present yourself. Stay centered and be mindful of how you appear to the judge. He or she doesn’t know you or your ex. They can only judge by what they see in front of them, and unfortunately their own preconceived notions.

    And get counsel. Even if you can’t afford one to represent you, find out what your legal rights are and what kind of laws exist to protect the child. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there are many, but whatever laws do exist, you owe it to yourself to know what they are.

    Good luck!

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