Mirroring and Kids from Hard Places

What is mirroring?

Mirroring is getting cues from from another person, not your five senses. These mirror neurons fire up for things such as: when we watch someone else laugh, enjoy something or show visible signs of stress.

Why is important?

Kids get their cues from us parents. They get approval in a smile. Disappointment in a frown or angry glare. Kids learn about themselves by mirroring how we handle the world around us. They mirror our reactions.

What does it mean for kids from hard places?

Kids from hard places are mirroring what they have been taught before they came ‘home’ to stay with us (whether forever or temporarily). They have beliefs based on what they have observed. They may believe that they shouldn’t exist or they have no value. They may believe that lashing out or shutting down is how you handle life. We can help these kiddos find help and healing by projecting our acceptance. We can handle situations with love, grace and mercy. Eventually, they will learn to do the same. It’s tough, but we can:

Faith it ’til you make it.

(Thanks, Jessica for the saying!)

What is the science behind mirroring?

 This is a scientific principle discovered by Giacomo Rizzolatti  and his team in 1995. “Through these neurons we literally fire up activity in the brain without actually using our five senses through the normal sensory-cognitive cycle.” (Dr. Caroline Leaf)

Here’s a short video about the subject I filmed for The Whole House Adoption/Foster Support Group Page.


Three Practices that Help Promote Adoption

I love to promote adoption. I could stand on a soap box all day and talk about it. I want more children to be adopted! But, there is a catch.

Adoption isn’t as complicated as it sounds until you get immersed in the system of paper work, caseworkers, therapists, etc.. Talk of all that is enough to scare anyone off the adoption trail.

How do we promote adoption in a positive way?

  1. Don’t give too much info at once.

When Jerry and I began pursuing adoption, a wise friend and adoptive parent told me,

“I’m not going to explain everything. That’s too overwhelming. Let’s just focus on one step at a time.”

Trying to cover every inch of the adoption journey is like sitting a pregnant mama down and giving her all the info she needs until her child goes to college. Less info at the beginning is better. Each step has enough new information to digest.

pregnant mama

2. Don’t hyper- focus on the negative, but tell the truth.

When we began the homestudy process, we were given a stack of material to plough through. Eighty percent of it was negative. I pitched it.

It’s not that I was trying to be unrealistic. I knew what trauma was. I had lived through it. I was looking for material to equip, educate and encourage me. (That’s why I started Positive Adoption).

When the lens of adoption zooms in on the negative, no one is looking for the positive. It takes stepping back from the microscopic and looking at the whole picture.

If the negative is an eight year-old with self-regulation issues, stuck in angry, survivial mode, then the positive is, with some attachment, some regulation skills, leaning how to use the upstairs brain, this child can bond, regulate and smile. He learns how to recognize other emotions and allows himself to feel some. None of these wonderful steps would have occurred without adoption. He would be a name on a page in a file with a sad picture while he grew up in an orphanage.

3. Offer a support group.

When speaking with future foster/adoptive parents, point them to a support group online, in person, or both. Make sure the support group equips, educates and encourages.

No one likes a negative Nelly, but then again, Pollyanna can be a little much at times. We parents need a place to be honest, authentic and know we can leave our masks at home. We are among our own tribe in a support group.

It’s not all about the T-shirt (those are cool), advertising adoption without the provision of support is like inviting someone to join you in your canoe without providing them with a life jacket.

We adoptive parents can go overboard sometimes, trying to spread the good news of adoption. Adoption is positive. We want everyone to know about it. We want to shout it from the rooftops. We just need to practice promoting it in a concise, productive, encouraging and honest way!

*If you are interested in joining Positive Adoption, the live support group, contact me. If you are interested in Empowered to Connect Parent training, send me and email! Here’s an intro:

To contact Kathleen Guire, please email positiveadoption[at]gmail.com . Kathleen will do her best to reply promptly, but please keep in mind that her inbox and her day are both often full!