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HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships

Flexibility: One key to family resilience

Learn how to be more flexible in your relationships with loved ones.

Your flexibility in relationships is about being able to adapt the way you think and communicate with those around you. Flexibility impacts couple and family functioning, and it’s a key component of family resilience. It helps lessen the impact of daily stressors on your health and wellness too.

As an individual, you embody a level of mental flexibility that influences how effective you are at engaging and communicating with your partner, friends, coworkers, and children. Being mentally flexible means you’re able to shift your mindset, attitudes, and behaviors based on what’s happening in your relationship. This shift helps you interact with potentially stressful situations in different ways and perhaps lead to more productive outcomes.

In relationships, romantic or otherwise, flexibility means adjusting to and accommodating each other. When there’s flexibility in your relationships, others feel supported and respected. You feel you can depend on each other as well. On the other hand, inflexibility is an unwillingness to be open with your thoughts and feelings, and refusing to adjust your own mindset or behaviors. Inflexibility in parenting also can lead to higher anxiety in moms and dads. Still, there are ways to be flexible in your relationships.

  • Consider the other person’s perspective and compromise when making decisions together.
  • Identify clearly defined roles and rules within your family and other groups, while knowing that these might change, especially during stressful events.
  • Strive to find a comfort level in knowing that changes and challenges are unavoidable.
  • Be firm about rules when needed but open to suggestions as a leader in your family or other groups.
  • Nurture your relationships by offering guidance and being a good listener.
  • Prioritize your team and teamwork—whether you’re at home or on a mission.

 

Posted 03 July 2017

Connect and communicate with eye contact

Filed under: Communication
Look into my eyes! Eye contact plays an important role in starting your conversations and maintaining social connections.

Eye contact is your first step in initiating communication, and your eye gaze conveys what’s important to you. Eye contact can draw in people’s attention. As humans, we’re attracted to faces and particularly other people’s eyes. Looking at someone’s eyes reveals information you automatically decode. You might perceive some eye gazes as welcoming and inviting, while others can seem uncomfortable or perhaps threatening.

Eye contact influences social exchanges and your body’s reaction to those exchanges. And what’s considered “normal” can depend on your culture and location. You might judge other people based on their eye contact, and they might react similarly to you. In North America, for example, direct eye contact tends to signal your intention to engage in an interaction. Prolonged eye contact can activate your nervous system, making you more excited and alert as well. Your eye contact also can influence how others judge your truthfulness and persuasive abilities during discussions. In the U.S., if you avoid eye contact, it might be interpreted as a lack of interest in talking or even that you’re trying to hide something. However, in East Asian cultures, it’s typical to make and sustain eye contact less frequently.

Where you focus your eyes tells others about your interests, intentions, and goals. People are more likely to look each other in the eyes or at each other’s faces when they feel love, respect, or admiration towards each other. In comparison, eye gazes towards someone’s body are more likely to indicate lust or sexual attraction.

Eye contact is part of communicating and connecting with others. For example, initiating eye contact can help make your apology more effective. And it’s a part of confirming your partner’s consent during sex. Eye contact with parents also helps newborns’ brains develop, and it helps them feel comforted and attached to their moms and dads. Use eye contact to connect with someone you care about and further communication with those around you.

Posted 26 June 2017

Are cell phones ruining family time?

Using cell phones during family time can distract you from connecting with your loved ones. Learn more.

As a parent, you set the “rules” for what role cell phones and other mobile devices play during family time. Keep in mind your phone use is an example your kids are likely to follow too.

Being on your cell phones during family time can distract you from connecting with each other. How appropriate you think it is to use cell phones during family time is likely linked to whether or not you use your own phone then. While some people need to check their phones for work or emergency purposes, it’s also important for parents to model putting away their phones, engage in face-to-face communication with loved ones, and enjoy time together. When teens spend more time with their parents, they tend to set higher educational goals. Less cell-phone use also means less screen time, which enables kids to get outdoors and be more physically active. Quality time together strengthens your family’s resilience too.

Overuse of cell phones can, in some cases, lead to strong urges to use your phone even when it leads to negative outcomes. This can feel like a lack of control over how often you pick up your phone or how long you’re on it. You might feel compelled to constantly check it without a real reason too. And if you don’t have access to your phone, your mood can change.

If it’s hard to get your family on the same page about cell phones, call a family meeting. Consider the following questions and agree on a plan that works for everyone.

  • What does appropriate use of cell phones during mealtimes look like?
  • Can you place all cell phones on silent, in a basket, or out of view during family time?
  • Are you comfortable using cell phones to play family games together?
  • How does everyone feel about limiting cell phone use during family outings?

 

Posted 19 June 2017

Military dads’ strengths and obstacles

As a Service Member, your military training and experiences likely influence your parenting role. Read about the strengths and vulnerabilities of being a military father.

Your skills as a Service Member can work in your favor as a parent, but they sometimes can make fatherhood challenging as well. When fathers are involved in their kids’ lives, children do better in school and they’re good at problem-solving. They’re more socially and emotionally steady too.

Your military training and experiences likely impact your role as a father in ways that strengthen your family and yourself. However, there are potential vulnerabilities you’ll have to actively work to overcome—just like other parents. Read more...

Use assertive communication and be heard

Practice assertive communication in your relationships to express your opinions, convey respect, and be heard.

“How” you say something is as important as “what” you say when it comes to communication. Being assertive means you express your opinion and stand up for yourself in an honest and respectful way while also maintaining consideration for others’ thoughts and feelings. When expressing yourself, it’s important to be assertive—that is, neither aggressive nor passive.

Assertive people offer up their perspectives, are able to say “no” without feeling guilty, and ask for what they need. Assertive communication gives you the best chance at effectively conveying your message, and it’s a way to further build your self-confidence. Being assertive and a good listener leads to healthy, productive communication. Read more...

How to build intimacy in your relationship

Intimacy is essential to your healthy romantic relationship. Learn how to connect with your partner.

Intimacy is your sense of closeness with your partner, and it’s a key component of successful romantic relationships. You can build it by sharing thoughts, ideas, experiences, and emotions, and through physical touch. The level of shared intimacy in your romantic relationship makes it different from other relationships too. Many couples report greater relationship satisfaction when they share intimacy, while others tend to seek therapy when they lack intimacy.

So, how do you build intimacy in your relationship?

  • Communicate with your partner. Positive communication leads to higher levels of intimacy. It builds when you discuss your own vulnerabilities, and your partner listens and strives to understand your experiences. This can be challenging for Warfighters who train to not share information. To work through this, practice being assertive and a good listener. Intimacy builds when you share things that are deeply personal and your partner listens, honors, and respects what you’re saying.
  • Choose the “right” time to talk. An important piece of good communication is timing—and knowing when your partner is able to fully listen. Asking your partner, “Do you have some time to talk?” can help you determine that “right” time to talk things over. If distance makes it hard to find time to talk, written communication can be very effective if it’s assertive and received with respect.
  • Enjoy time together. You also can build intimacy by spending time doing mutually enjoyable activities. Experiencing new things with your partner can create a shared sense of intimacy as you encounter obstacles and solve problems together.
  • Explore physical touch. Sex and physical touch make your romantic relationship unique. To build intimacy, talk about your sex needs and listen to your partner as well. Sharing physical intimacy helps couples feel close and connected.

Intimacy builds over time and through multiple experiences, so it requires an ongoing investment from you. And remember it’s common for couples to experience peaks and valleys of intimacy levels in their long-term relationships. Visit HPRC’s Sex, Sexuality, & Intimacy section for more information on how to build intimacy in your relationship.

Posted 29 May 2017

Lullabies help soothe baby and “new parent” stress

There’s great joy in becoming a new parent. To ease the stress during this transition and forge a bond with your little one, try singing to your baby.

While having a baby can bring immense joy, it also can spark anxieties for new parents and cause tension between them. So try singing lullabies to help relieve stress and soothe your cranky infant.

An infant’s neediness sometimes can make new parents question their competence. It’s normal to worry about your baby’s health and your new parenting role. Singing lullabies and other playful songs can help you feel connected to your baby as you share a soothing and enjoyable interaction. Moms, in particular, report that singing to their infants helps them experience and convey positive emotions such as happiness, pleasure, and satisfaction.

Singing is a way to focus attention on your baby and see your little one’s reactions to your voice, gestures, and facial expressions. This type of exchange can help you feel more confident as a parent and closer to your baby. His or her reactions can then inspire feelings such as pride and amazement, which dampens your stress and anxieties.

Singing lullabies can help new parents feel satisfied and calm too. There’s often a physical component to singing as well, where you sway together, or your infant snuggles in your lap. Some parents also report that singing changes their babies’ behavior. Babies can feel calmer, and both parent and baby can experience relaxation and harmony together. Mothers who sing to their babies say it soothes them, which leads to less crying.

If you’re currently pregnant, start singing to your baby now and continue after her or his birth. It’s possible singing taps into a natural tendency you have, but even if it doesn’t, singing lullabies and other playful songs is something you can get acquainted with doing. Use this strategy to lessen “new parent” stress and help you bond with your baby.

 

Posted 22 May 2017

How TBI affects couples' relationships

A traumatic brain injury not only changes your loved one, it also changes your relationship as a couple.

When your partner suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI), changes to your relationship are likely. Both of you can experience a range of emotions as you adapt to new expectations in your relationship, but you can weather the changes. TBIs can occur without warning, and the path to recovery isn’t always clear, which can add strain to your romantic relationship. Read more...

Military kids and mindfulness

Encouraging your kids to be mindful supports their mental health. Learn how to bring mindfulness into your family.

Children can boost their mental wellness by learning and practicing mindfulness. It helps them be more aware of their thoughts and feelings “in the moment” and enables them to better manage their emotions and reactions. When children and teens accept their emotions, they can avoid becoming overwhelmed and suppressing their feelings. Practicing mindfulness can help reduce anxiety, improve performance, and build resilience. Bringing mindfulness into your family can help create calm and peaceful times together. Read more...

Save more, spend less, and reduce stress

Managing your family’s finances means balancing your spending and saving habits. Get ahead of the stress that financial strain can bring with these money management tips.

“Smart” spending and saving habits might help reduce your stress. Money issues tend to be a major source of stress for many Americans, and military families are no exception. The 2016 Blue Star Families survey results showed that financial issues are a top concern for service members and their families.

Poor money-management skills and lack of financial resources can lead to stress that spills over into your relationships, wearing you down. The good news is “smart” spending and saving can help you cope with stress and feel in control during troublesome times. Good saving habits, in particular, can help reduce financial unpredictability, which also could lower your stress. Read more...

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