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Bringing Down the Intensity

Know Your Stress Cues
According to Lawrence Shapiro in How to Raise a Child with a High EQ, 55 percent of emotions are communicated nonverbally and 38 percent through voice tone. That leaves only 7 percent communicated through actual words! Often it's much easier to monitor your actions than it is to name your feelings.

During dinner one night, my daughter turned to me and asked, "What's wrong, Mom?" I was startled by her question. I hadn't said anything.

"Why do you ask?" I questioned.

"Because you just let out your 'something's wrong' sigh," she replied. Kris was right. I had had an upsetting day, but I wasn't even aware of my feelings. The sigh had simply come out of me. Her observation made me stop, reflect on my day, and check my feelings.

Think about your body cues. What do you do when the stress hormones are surging through your body? Here's what other parents have said.

  • I slam doors.
  • I become impatient.
  • I start sounding like a drill sergeant.
  • I start screaming at the kids.
  • I don't smile.
  • I won't talk on the phone.
  • I rush.
  • I forget things.
  • I lock into my deadline or schedule and refuse to alter it, even though everyone is falling apart.
Think about your "stress behaviors." Become aware of them so that the next time you realize you are gritting your teeth, clenching the steering wheel of your car, screaming at the kids, or feeling a headache building, you'll know that it's time to stop, think, and take preventive measures. This is especially important before you join your family for the evening, before your kids come home from school, or before you start the bedtime routine. If your stress level is high when you begin, you'll blow up over anything. Know, too, that your stress can agitate other members of your family. Monitoring your emotions, and taking steps to manage those feelings before you blow up, helps the others to keep their cool, too.

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From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.

Buy the book at www.harpercollins.com.

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