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Clausen PamTherapist's Corner...
Emotion Coaching

If there is one key gift a parent or grandparent can give to a child that will improve their odds for success, it would be to build their “emotional intelligence.”   Emotional intelligence is simply the ability to recognize what emotion they are feeling and understanding why they are feeling it. Not as simple as it sounds, of course. But it is a process and the good news is that no matter how old your child is,  it is never too late to teach this skill! This also leads to the extended skill of being aware of another person’s feelings and being able to empathize with them.

When children react emotionally to something, we often think they are just trying to get their way.  If they would just be reasonable they wouldn’t have such outbursts!  Research shows this to be a false assumption. These emotions serve an important purpose! We all have the basic emotions to guide us as we create our path through life. We now know that emotion processing and reasoning are closely integrated in the brain. One cannot reason without emotion they act as our compass, and one cannot problem solve without the intuition (coming from the emotional center) to distinguish what is important from what isn’t. Our feelings can guide, instruct and are the engine of learning and change.

Drs John and Julie Gottman coined a concept they call “Emotion Coaching” as a parenting style that describes an emotionally responsive parent that follows five simple steps guided by love and affection and demonstrated  by empathy and understanding. 

The Gottmans teach that learning to understand our emotions leads to regulating rather than suppressing them. Here are the five steps to being an “Emotion Coaching” parent:

  1. Be aware of your child’s emotions.
  2. Recognize emotional expression as an opportunity for connection or teaching.
  3. Help your child verbally label the emotions.
  4. Communicate empathy and understanding.
  5. Set limits and problem solve.

The opposite of an “Emotion Coaching” parent is an “Emotion Dismissing” parent. This style comes from a discomfort with intense emotions and is not effective in creating emotional intelligence. Here are signs of an “Emotion Dismissing" parent:

  1.  They don’t notice lower intensity emotions in themselves or their kids.
  2. They see negative emotions as toxic and want to protect their children from them.
  3. They want kids to be able to change emotions quickly.
  4. They may punish a child or put them in a time out just for being angry even if there is no misbehavior.
  5. They prefer cheerful children and want their kids to focus on the positive. They distract or try to cheer up their kids when they have negative emotions.
  6. They see introspection as a waste of time, or even dangerous.
  7. They don’t have a detailed vocabulary for emotions.
  8. They want reason to control emotion, therefore, are uncomfortable with strong emotions.

An emotion dismissing parent is not cruel and mean spirited but often loving, warm, and concerned. It is simply not a style that promotes emotional intelligence.

Details to increase your skills as an “Emotion Coaching” parent can be found at www.gottman.com.  Or watch for a parenting group at Family Resources this fall.   *As presented in an Emotion Coaching parenting workshop by
                                                                                                         Drs. John and Julie Gottman

~ Pam Clausen, Therapist

Therapist's Corner...HainA
The Grass Is Greener

I think there is sometimes a misunderstanding when clients come in for therapy. Oftentimes I hear from people the notion that once they fix a problem, overcome a challenge, move somewhere else, get skinnier, or make a big decision, then they will have a perfect life. Granted, media messages prompt us in this way to think that if only we look a certain way, find our soul mate, and have the right car then we will finally be happy. The problem with this message and definition of a perfect life is- there is always something more, something better, something newer, or something shinier.

When I was eighteen and right out of high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. Though I debated going straight to college, I chose instead to travel overseas and live for a short time with an aunt and uncle in Hong Kong. I was certain, as I excitedly sat through the fourteen hour flight, that once I got to Hong Kong and had new, fun adventures I was going to be happy. The truth is I did have many fun adventures, such as: riding on a triple-decker bus in the left lane down insanely steep, windy roads at close to terminal velocity speed; doing chi-gong in silence with a large group of people in a beautiful flower garden around midnight; and, seeing (no exaggeration) a thirty foot long gold dragon encrusted with diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Here I was, 18 years old, and having, what should have been, a wonderful time. But I wasn’t. I felt empty and confused and mostly frustrated that I couldn’t figure out what was missing from my life.

One day this changed. Instead of exploring the city that day, I stayed in and planned to read and forget how annoyed I was with this disappointing trip. Around noon a woman, knocked and entered the apartment to clean. While exchanging superficial niceties and introductions, we laughed as ironically both of our names are Anna and we ended up talking for almost an hour. Anna was a Filipino maid, one of almost 500,000 who had migrated to Hong Kong to make money and send most of it home to their families. Though the maids worked 6 ½ days a week for very little pay and while living in less than ideal conditions, Anna appeared grateful for the work and, in general, just a very happy person. After our conversation, Anna invited me to join a few friends the following afternoon, a Sunday, when they took the ferry to the mainland to shop and relax. At this point in the story, without completely divulging my age, I feel obligated to let you know that when I traveled to Hong Kong it was incredibly safe with very little crime. Thus, my aunt and uncle were not concerned with sending me out alone or with Anna and her friends. So, I spent the afternoon as the one white person in a sea of Filipino maids. The afternoon was mostly uneventful; however, I remember the experience and carry the memory with me still.

Anytime I start to feel sorry for myself or wish I had something newer, shinier, or better, my mind wanders back to my experience of the gratitude and positive outlook of the Filipino maids. Finding happiness has nothing to do with what you own. Happiness is a choice. Now, that said, I’m not trying to imply that external circumstances do not affect people because our environments absolutely do influence who we are. What I do believe is that it does not matter where I am, who I am with, what I have, or what I look like. As long as I work to create happiness and gratitude from the inside out, I feel peaceful and content regardless of my circumstances. 

~ Anna Hain, PLMHP & EAP Program Director

HainATips from our EAP...
Alli Victoria
Rest & Relaxation

It can be hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the hustle and bustle world that we live in. If you are in school, commuting to work and/or taking care of your family, time can seem to evaporate. Taking good care of your body and mind can make a difference in how healthy you are in general and how well you cope with change. Exercising, relaxing and getting enough rest will help you do better and enjoy life more. Taking good care of yourself may require a little extra time and effort, but it’s worth it.

Rest
Getting the correct amount of quality sleep is essential to your ability to learn and process memories. Additionally, sleep helps restore your body’s energy, repair muscle tissue and triggers the release of hormones that effect growth and appetite.1

Just like exercise, the amount of sleep you need depends on your age. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends at least 11-12 hours for preschool-aged children, 10 hours for school-aged children, 9-10 hours for teens and 7-8 hours for adults.2

Quality of sleep matters too. Quality of sleep refers to how much time you spend in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM is the most restorative of the 5 cycles of sleep and should account for one-fourth of the time you spend sleeping. For example, an adult who sleeps 8 hours in a night should spend a total of 2 hours in REM sleep.

If you don’t get enough sleep, or good quality sleep every once in a while, you may notice that you wake up feeling groggy, not well rested, and experience difficulty concentrating. If you consistently do not get enough quality sleep, you are at higher risk for conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, headaches and depression. Try to stay in the suggested guidelines for amount of sleep - getting too much sleep on a regular basis can be problematic for health as well.3
If you feel as though you are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis and it is affecting your work or personal life, talk to your primary care doctor to discuss whether you may have an underlying sleep disorder, like insomnia or sleep apnea.

Relaxation 
While there are no specific guidelines for how much relaxation a person should incorporate into their lifestyle, making time to unwind and enjoy life is an important part of maintaining good health. Deep relaxation, like meditation, when practiced regularly not only relieves stress and anxiety, but also is shown to improve mood. Deep relaxation has many other potential benefits as well—it can decrease blood pressure, relieve pain, and improve your immune and cardiovascular systems.6

Making time to find enjoyment is also an important element of relaxation. Laughing decreases pain, may help your heart and lungs, promotes muscle relaxation and can reduce anxiety.
If you aren’t getting enough time to relax, you may find yourself feeling tense and stressed out. Long-term stress, if not addressed, can cause a host of health issues, including chest pain, headaches, digestive issues, anxiety, depression changes in sexual desire and the ability to focus.7

Check out our next newsletter for relaxation tips!

~ Anna Hain, EAP Program Director, & Alli Victoria, EAP Development Specialist

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