Wednesday, March 29, 2006

EQ to the Rescue -- Feeling Loved in Your Family

Frustrated and anxious about making a "final" decision? Disappointed that nobody listen to you? March is the month when college admission (and/or rejection) letters arrive. Even if college is not on your radar screen, parents and kids have to make thousands of (small and big) choices that lead to college. Therefore, allow me to use the college decision process to illustrate how increased EQ can help.

One summer, I received a "crisis" call made for a highly distressed couple. "Will you talk with them if I can get them to come in? They have big problems with their kids and they are not talking." I suspected a case of teenage drug and alcohol use, or dating and sexual issues. After the couple sat down side by side on the sofa, I asked, "What have brought you to therapy today? ... Tell me about your kids."

"Our daughter is a junior in college. Our son is leaving in the Fall." He looked at his wife and added, "The three of us sat down in April and went through all the pros and cons. We made the choice. We sent in the checks. But she kept re-opening the case. I don't even know why she has to worry. Why can't we just be happy?" I reflected, "So, you are frustrated about your wife changing her mind." He sighed.

His wife looked sullen but she started, "We have good kids, good students, and they know God ..." She seemed very fond and proud of her children but she was overwhelmed with emotions. Noticing tears in her eyes, I said, "You feel sad that your son is leaving." She nodded."It must be hard to have no kid around." Tears ran down her face. "I just want to make sure everything is okay. How do we really know this college is best for him? But whenever I say something, he always cuts me off!" "Mmm, you have jitters about the future. You need comfort and reassurance." She was sobbing. Her husband put his arm around her and his other hand on her knee ... After our first session, they were able to pray together again. Praise the Lord!

This case is one of my success stories. Imagine helping someone just by listening. No doubt "empty nest" could be a scary place, especially if we cannot share our deepest thoughts and feelings with our spouse! Both parents were anxious about their future. They merely approached anxiety in different ways! They were in a negative vicious cycle because each person did not feel understood. Increasing EQ is a key. Now you know why I am so passionate about working with couples!

Having high EQ means being aware of what is happening within oneself and among people. Without self-awareness, we cannot manage our emotions and gain freedom with personal responsibility (e.g. delay gratification and self-control). Social skills improve our human relationships. Decisions cannot be made in a vacuum. We need to let every one involve take part in the process so that they commit to the mutual decision. (Now be aware that we don't have to force someone to be involved neither!)

Emotional intelligence is a good thing. God gives us a mind to think and the freedom to choose. He also gives us emotions so that we can relate to people. Even Jesus wept. The best way to develop our kids' EQ is to first increase ours. As children of God, we can hold on to His promises such as "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you" (Psalm 32:8).

Let's face it. If we keep doing what we have always done, there will be no change. The Bible teaches us empathy. "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited" (Roman 12:15-16). Do you want to be closer to someone you love? Try empathy at home!

1. Ask "How do you feel?" instead of just having rational talks.

2. Listen attentively and reflect their feelings, e.g. "So you feel frustrated when your friends mock you at school."

3. Practice sharing your feeling using I-message which looks like "I feel ____ when _____ because _____." You may try two or three parts. Here are some examples: "I felt anxious when my laptop froze because I was afraid that my talk would be bad without the power point slides." "I am glad when you write because feedback helps me grow."

Copyright © 2006 Winnis Chiang, Parenting ABC