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HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships
It’s important for kids to establish good dental health habits early on, but their fears of visiting the dentist sometimes can get in the way. Still, you can help manage kids’ dental anxieties by talking through worries and explaining upcoming dental procedures.
Kids who don’t go to the dentist are more likely to experience pain, tooth loss, and cavities. The good news is regular dental visits can prevent these and other oral health issues.
Many parents struggle to figure out how to help their anxious little ones feel more comfortable. When kids think their oral health is bad, they also tend to get more anxious about visiting the dentist. Still, there are things you can do to lessen your child’s worry when a dental appointment approaches.
“Coach” your kids’ emotions to help them manage fears before the visit. Validate your child’s worries by saying something such as, “It seems you’re very concerned about what it will be like to go to the dentist tomorrow.” Let your child talk about his or her feelings. And ask her or him why it might be important to visit the dentist. Reassure your child if she or he has good oral health and suggest that the appointment is to make sure nothing goes wrong in the future.
Kids can benefit from age-appropriate, realistic explanations about what to expect on their next visit. Discuss what might help him or her feel calmer and more comfortable. Let your child offer ideas first. If needed, encourage him or her to bring a favorite stuffed toy or suggest doing a fun activity afterwards, so you both have something to look forward to. Distractions, such as watching cartoons during his or her appointment, also can help relieve your child’s anxieties. And gently remind your child how the dentist can help teeth and smiles stay strong and healthy.
At home, make your kids’ oral health a priority by getting into a routine of brushing and flossing from a young age too. Doing so can help prevent tooth decay and illnesses caused by bacteria buildup in the mouth.
Healthy communication requires a balance between being a speaker and a listener. When you’re the speaker, express yourself clearly and concisely with “I” statements.
An “I” statement requires you to start a conversation with “I” instead of “you,” but that’s not where it ends. “I” statements also challenge you to think about why a certain situation matters. What’s bothering you about the events that occurred? Try to connect your feelings to those thoughts and events. And phrase your “I” statement as follows:
- “I feel (describe your emotions) when (describe event) happens.”
Explore the following examples. Read more...
“Coming out” means openly talking about your sexual orientation or gender identity—as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). It can be a difficult process for some, but it also is an important step towards improving your mental health and well-being.
Coming out is an individual process with gains and risks. Your gains include feeling more comfortable around—and accepted by—others. It will boost your self-esteem, and you’ll gain a new community. However, you risk possibly losing family and friends who don’t understand. Your relationships also might change or shift, and some people might choose to no longer associate with you. Read more...
If you’re concerned about your partner’s weight but she or he doesn’t seem worried, there are things you can do to create a healthy eating environment at home. Pushing or pressuring your loved one won’t work and might make things worse.
Instead, consider where your partner is in the “Stages of Change.” These are the stages one goes through on his or her journey to making a behavior change. Keep in mind that he or she has to be the one to initiate the change. Read more...
Honest, forthcoming conversations about sex should start early in your relationship—before you tie the knot—to establish a strong foundation. Good communication about sex in a romantic partnership can lead to greater sexual satisfaction and a more fulfilling relationship.
Physical affection and sex are important parts of developing and sustaining a romantic connection. Intimacy builds through both communication and sex—and partners who talk often about sex are more satisfied in their relationship and sex life. Talking early during your relationship, whether you already have an active sex life or you’re waiting for marriage, establishes a mutual understanding of expectations. When couples struggle with sex and intimacy, relationship satisfaction can decline and partners might opt to go their separate ways.
Physically satisfying sex requires coordination and communication between partners. Talking with your significant other about sex enables you to plan sexual encounters and explore how your partner likes sex to be initiated. As you grow as a couple, you create a shared meaning about your joint sex life. Open discussions ensure you both remain engaged and content. Disclosing your desires and fantasies with your partner and listening in return is an opportunity for connection. When a relationship develops into marriage and then possibly parenthood, a couple’s sex and sexuality are likely impacted. Having a strong foundation of healthy communication about sex from the beginning can help you persevere through relationship transitions.
Talking about sex early also enables you and your partner to establish the mutual value of sexual health and discuss any sexual health risks you might experience. Begin by being forthcoming about your sexuality and sexual history. If you have concerns about sexually transmitted diseases, know the signs, prevention and risk factors, and treatment options.
HPRC offers concrete skills to help you talk about your sex needs. Check out our FAQ section for more about sex, intimacy, and sexuality. If you’re unsure how to have these conversations with your partner, consider seeking premarital education or counseling.
People you work or interact with might differ from you in age, ethnicity, ideology, or a number of other ways. In conversations with individuals you perceive to be different from you, strive to come from a place of curiosity.
Being curious means entering conversations and relationships assuming only that you have something to learn. What’s more, people who are curious are more likely to feel better about themselves and their lives. They experience more positive emotions such as joy and surprise.
Ask yourself: Am I willing to learn about the lives of people who are different from me? Can I ask more questions? How might I benefit from learning more? Do I communicate with a willingness to learn?
Being curious requires being a good listener, which means being aware of the assumptions you bring to conversations. When you hear or read something someone said, it arrives after being screened through your own personal filter. You might draw what appear to be “logical” inferences, but these might not be accurate at all.
Before you act on your assumptions, ask open-ended, curiosity-driven questions such as:
- What was that like?
- How did that feel?
- What did you think when that happened?
- How did you end up making that decision?
- Tell me more.
Healthy communication means listening, accepting, respecting, and negotiating differences. Note your body language, too. If your arms are crossed, muscles tense, and your face in a grimace, you’re not conveying curiosity. Approaching conversations with anger or blame or intent to criticize, threaten, or punish leads to communication breakdowns and strained relationships.
The U.S. Armed Forces celebrates diversity and encourages inclusion. When you communicate with others—whether the conversation is in person, on the phone, or over social media—be driven by curiosity. Being curious can benefit you and your improve relationships with others. In the end, you might find out you’re more alike than you are different.
Your human nature can prevent you from being open to diversity and differences, but you can learn to overcome this. Diversity is a strength—of this nation and its military—and navigating differences in beliefs, values, and perceptions begins with challenging your own assumptions about how you see others and the world. However, despite living in an increasingly global environment characterized by ever-broadening horizons, many still struggle with viewing differences as an asset to be explored rather than a weakness to be fixed. HPRC offers a few strategies to help raise your self-awareness and promote openness, accuracy, and flexibility. Read more...
If you’re wondering how to talk with your partner about his or her weight, resist the urge to control or criticize. Instead, express genuine concern, and focus on healthy, sustainable changes that you can make together.
Couples typically share similar values and engage in activities together, so you’re more likely to impact each other’s health habits. Yet criticism about weight can be a source of conflict between some couples, which can affect your otherwise fulfilling relationship.
When one partner is at a healthy weight and one is overweight, there’s a greater chance for conflict, especially when they eat together. If one tries to restrict the other’s eating, things become less enjoyable. You might argue more too.
Try to be supportive about your loved one’s health issues. It’s most helpful when your message expresses caring and closeness. Be in tune with your partner’s needs if she or he is asking for your help with making healthier habits. Try being an “accountability” partner and help keep your partner on track towards his or her goals. Establish mutual goals you can work on to help improve your health and wellness too.
Some phrases to avoid include:
- “You’re going to eat that?”
- “Maybe you should stop eating.”
- “You’re going to gain more weight if you keep eating so much.”
Some supportive phrases to try include:
- “Let’s both commit to healthy eating in the new year.”
- “Since you’ve expressed wanting to eat healthier, how can I help?”
- “I know you’re trying hard to eat healthier, and it’s not easy. I’m proud of your efforts. Let’s continue in a positive direction.”
Create healthy lifestyle changes together. Pack nutritious lunches and snacks for work or school, and prepare well-balanced meals. Check with your installation about couples cooking classes and other wellness activities offered through Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs too. And check out HPRC’s ABCs of Nutrition page and videos for more ideas.
Emotion coaching is a strategy parents can use to teach their kids about healthy emotion expression. During emotion coaching, parents openly discuss and validate the feelings their child expresses. Parents encourage their kids to find ways to calm themselves when a wave of strong emotion hits. Kids whose parents practice emotion coaching have better self-control and fewer behavioral problems.
Parents engage in emotion coaching when you’re actively and purposefully responsive to your child’s emotions. It requires that you be aware of your child’s emotional state. It also challenges you to see emotions as an important part of your child’s experience. During emotion coaching, parents accept those feelings and teach their children how to manage positive and negative emotions. Read more...
Some service members and their partners worry about infidelity, especially during deployments. Warfighters also can experience many mental stressors in the months after their return, which can make their relationships vulnerable to infidelity.
- What leads someone to cheat? If you’re unhappy in your marriage or don’t have sex very often, you’re more likely to cheat. Those who feel powerful also are more likely to be unfaithful now or in the future. If your friends, family members, or coworkers support your infidelity, you’re more likely to cheat too.
- Why is infidelity hurtful? Sexual faithfulness in a relationship is related to trust, respect, and intimacy. Infidelity damages the emotional foundation of a relationship, and it can feel like an intense betrayal of your agreement to trust and respect each other.
- What’s the impact? Both men and women experience the pain of infidelity. Discovering your partner has been unfaithful can lead to a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, anxiety, or jealousy. Infidelity can lead to increased conflict and poor communication in a relationship too. Cheating increases unhappiness in a relationship and can lead some to contemplate divorce. Service members whose partners were unfaithful during deployment tend to experience more depression symptoms. And if a service member experienced trauma while deployed, then having an unfaithful partner can make things worse.
- What if I’m worried about infidelity? If you’re concerned about infidelity in your relationship, keep in mind that help is available. HPRC’s Sex, Sexuality, & Intimacy section offers guidance on talking to your partner about sex and building intimacy in your relationship. DoD also offers professional counseling services over the phone, online, and through video chat. Or connect with a Military and Family Life counselor who specializes in couple relationships. You can meet alone, or with your partner, to discuss how to manage your worries about infidelity.