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HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships
Plan some indoor and outdoor adventures with your kids this summer and enjoy free admission to national parks and museums across the country. Hiking, camping, and learning activities are good for their minds and bodies.
The amount of time children spend outdoors is steadily decreasing. Kids now spend more time inside—staring at screens—and less time outside. Your feelings about outdoor recreation likely impact how much time your kids spend outside too. Still, children who camp and hike tend to have more positive attitudes towards nature and the environment. Those who enjoy the outdoors tend to enjoy it as adults too.
Kids get more exercise at parks and playgrounds. So, shake things up by taking them to any national park: Free annual passes are available to current U.S. service members and their families, as well as Reserve and National Guard members.
Military families also can enjoy free admission to over 2,000 nature centers and art, science, history, and children’s museums through Labor Day. Museums encourage active learning and impact kids’ social and mental development. Little ones especially enjoy hands-on activities, interactive exhibits, and new learning experiences with their parents at children’s museums. And it keeps them on the go.
Premarital education programs can help couples maintain the satisfaction they feel early on in their relationship—and thrive in the long run. In the bliss of an engagement, couples often don’t think about future challenges they might face.
Premarital counseling offers a neutral place where engaged couples and newlyweds can learn about communication, conflict resolution, commitment, and ways to manage expectations. Couples learn to convey the importance of their relationship and focus on what’s necessary to create a loving and lasting marriage. Programs are adapted into various formats: Couples can attend a group workshop or meet privately with a counselor or religious leader.
After completing the program, many couples are more open to resolving conflict. Premarital counseling tends to lower a married couple’s risk of divorce. Or it can help unmarried couples decide whether to move forward with their marriage plans.
Don’t rule out premarital education, even if it’s your second marriage. Most divorced people eventually remarry. However, second marriages are even more likely to end in divorce than first ones.
Explore various marriage education programs to find one that’s right for you. Make sure to check with your installation office too. Another option is to ask your chaplain or religious leader about enrolling in a faith-based program. Or search for a local marriage and family therapist who specializes in premarital counseling.
More teen driving accidents happen during the summer because school is out and teens are driving more—and some are driving while distracted. If the summer sun’s shining and your teen’s asking for the car keys, hand them over cautiously. And do this only after demonstrating safe driving and discussing the danger of driving while distracted.
During the summer months, it’s estimated that 10 people will die each day as a result of accidents involving teen drivers. Distracted driving often leads to crashes. This is especially true for teens distracted by their cell phones, passengers, and other things inside their cars. Anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or even mind away from driving is a distraction: Texting and using a cell phone often involves all three.
Distractions impair teens’ driving performance (regardless of their attention spans), reduce safe driving practices, and disrupt traffic flow. If your teen’s friends text and drive—and don’t see a problem with it—your teen is likely to think it’s acceptable and normal.
Discussing the dangers of distracted driving with your teen is an important first step towards prevention. And demonstrating safe, distraction-free driving yourself is key. Teens tend to think their parents are distracted while driving, sometimes more than parents realize.
As a parent, make sure to wear your seat belt, put away your phone, and concentrate on the road. Set driving rules for your teen too (for example, silencing his or her cell phone and putting it away when driving). Review the rules often, and enforce consequences when they’re broken. And ask your teen to sign the pledge, promising to be a safe, distraction-free driver.
Creating shared meanings about events, especially adversities, is a trait of strong, resilient families. So what’s the story you tell your kids about Independence Day? What meaning do you attribute to this holiday? And how might this meaning link to your own personal philosophies about life?
Do you tell your kids a story of overcoming oppression? Fighting for freedom? Is it a story about justice? Or perhaps one about taking risks? Is it about uniting behind a common goal? Or maybe it’s about creating something new? Perhaps it’s a story about everyone being able to pursue his or her own happiness?
Families develop and share common understandings about events that grow from their strong beliefs. Especially in times of stress, shared family beliefs and the meaning families attribute to their struggle can impact how well a family copes. The stories told within families create a family culture and cohesion. It also becomes part of how families assess challenges.
As a parent, you can strongly impact your children’s beliefs and nurture joint understandings. Faced with a new situation, your kids look to you to help them make sense of what they don’t understand. They’re likely to mimic your physical reactions too.
You can create meaning through your own life experiences as well as the explanations you attribute to events and circumstances. The meaning you pass on to your kids comes from your own personal philosophy, morals, and impressions of the world, yourself, friends, and family.
This 4th of July, think about how you frame the story of Independence Day and what that tells your kids about their country and perhaps about their own family.
Is it true that it’s easy to dish it out, but not take it? Being on the receiving end of criticism can be tough on anyone—whether you’re at work, on missions, in the classroom, or at home. And for some, it can even provoke anger.
If you think that avoiding or denying criticism, making excuses, or fighting back is the best way to handle things, try to remember when those tactics made the situation worse. When criticism stings, try this instead: Listen to what’s being said, thoughtfully ask for details, and remember that your critic has a right to his or her opinion.
Find a way to use the criticism as a learning opportunity too. Any feedback is useful, even if the lesson simply is that others might see you differently than how you want to be perceived. If you need time to think about what’s being said or time to calm down, try saying “Let me think about what you’re saying” to get some breathing space. And work out a plan to develop your talents and improve your performance.
Owning up to your mistakes is important to all relationships, especially close ones. Mistakes often violate trust. But you can apologize and restore that trust, helping others feel secure.
Admitting fault helps you too. Those who actively seek forgiveness tend to be more agreeable and open to forgiving others. And make sure to maintain eye contact when you start the conversation. This lets the other person know you’re fully engaged. The tone of your voice is important too. Be sincere.
Deciding to end your marriage isn’t easy. Yet divorce is a reality for many couples. There are many issues to consider because it can have a lasting effect on your family, home, health, and job—but especially your well-being.
- Which couples divorce? There’s no “typical couple” destined to divorce. However, those who frequently argue and rarely spend positive time together are more likely to divorce. The same couples also risk violence and instability in their relationships. Frequent disagreements over money also are linked to higher divorce rates. Still, couples with fewer challenges divorce too.
- Can therapy help? Counseling offers a neutral place to talk through your thoughts and feelings. Therapists offer an unbiased view with the intent of finding what’s best for the couple. Counselors also encourage them to consider the impact of their actions and help them explore different ways to think and behave. But counseling is only useful when you’re motivated and committed to work towards change. Don’t wait until things become too desperate before seeking help from a therapist or religious leader.
- What else is there to consider? If you have children, you’re likely to be concerned about what might change for them and how you’ll help them cope. Give some thought to how you’ll maintain your financial security too. And start now to strengthen your social support—your relationships with friends and family—to help you through the process.
- Why stay? You might choose to remain in the relationship if your spouse is making efforts to change. Still, it’s important to work together to create your optimal relationship. Some aren’t sure if their marriage will last. But they also want to see signs that reaffirm their love, which sometimes helps them decide to stay.
This Father’s Day, HPRC salutes the many fathers who serve their country, families, and children. Dads play an essential role in families because they teach their kids about being healthy, smart, and kind. And it makes a difference.
So how do fathers teach their kids to become good people? Some dads help their children tune in to their own emotions as well as what others are thinking and feeling. Empathic kids are able to tolerate some degree of anger and guilt. And they use these emotions to look out for themselves and others.
School-age children with involved fathers are more likely to earn better grades and enjoy school. Dads can get more involved by helping their kids with homework and attending school events. Ask your kids about what they’re learning and help foster that curiosity.
Try to volunteer when your schedule allows it too. Coach your child’s sports team or serve as a scout leader. Pick whatever activity he or she enjoys—and your athlete or “mathlete” will shine.
Dads also can help put the fun in family fitness. Organize a bike ride, challenging hike, or fun day at the pool. Fathers with healthy-exercise habits help motivate their kids to be physically fit and active.
Remember to teach your children how to fuel their bodies. Set a good example for your kids to follow. Choose healthy snacks and drinks often because your kids are likely to eat and drink “what Dad’s having.” And ask them to help create your favorite salsa, pancakes, and chili in the kitchen. Make sure to involve the entire family during cleanup too.
Fathers near and far: Thanks for all you do!
Close relationships provide social support that can help relieve stress. One type we don’t know much about is “bromances”—close friendships between two men—but how these help or hurt stress levels isn’t clear.
It’s hard to do scientific research on this topic with humans because it would involve intentionally stressing people out to see how they respond. Who would volunteer for that?! So instead, scientists who study human social behavior use rats, which have social behavior very similar to that of humans. To learn more about the impact of bromances on stress, they observed male rat “friendships” under stressful situations. Here’s what they found.
Under mildly stressful situations, male rats became more social and cooperative with other male rats, compared to when they weren’t stressed. The rats’ oxytocin levels increased. They touched and snuggled other male rats more. Under severely stressful situations though, the male rats’ behavior changed. They were no longer cooperative and became withdrawn, isolated, and aggressive.
Of course, people aren’t rats, and one research study is never a good foundation for reliable conclusions, often raising more questions than it answers. However, it can give us “food for thought.” One idea from this study is that bromances seem beneficial, depending on stress level. Your friendships with other guys might help keep mild stress at bay. So spending time with your fellow men just might help you feel calmer.
Yet in severely stressful situations, bromances didn’t serve the same purpose. The rats became disconnected and hostile. Could the same be true for male humans? We can’t say for sure, but men exposed to severely stressful situations that result in PTSD sometimes have similar reactions.
Looking for ways to beef up your own stress-management skills? Check out HPRC’s Stress Management Strategies section. Concerned about your friend’s or spouse’s reaction to stress? Our Post-Deployment section has some resources to help.
Your team wins when you have a good attitude, manage your emotions, and care about your teammates. But your team can break down, especially when members let their talents or controlling ways interfere with reaching team goals.
What individual traits make a team stronger? Managing your emotions can make you a better teammate, unite your group, and help your team thrive. People who deal with their emotions well are often good “team players” because they tend to listen openly to other points of view. And they’re less likely to feel threatened when wrong.
With emotions in check, you’re more likely to be cooperative and open to resolving conflict, instead of avoiding it. Just one team member with a negative outlook can affect the whole team, while those with a “can do” attitude can improve atmosphere and team performance.
What individual traits break down a team? Teammates rely on each other for the team’s overall success, but those with too much talent can break down a team. Teams don’t function well when talent—from one or a select few—dominates the group.
That’s why cohesiveness is essential to solid teamwork. If individuals try to dominate, unity breaks down and can cause arguments over authority. Teams become weaker when members are more concerned with advancing themselves and undermining their teammates, interfering with reaching the common goal.
How do your traits impact your unit? How do they affect your family? Check out HPRC’s Mental Resilience and Family Resilience sections and learn how to become a more effective team member—at work and home.