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HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships
Military kids are resilient in the face of unique challenges, but also might need extra emotional support along the way. They can experience struggles other children don’t face, such as their parents’ deployment. We don’t know the entire impact a parent’s deployment has on children, but some younger children seem to struggle more post-deployment. And kids mental health problems tend to increase when a parent returns injured.
Some parents or caregivers might see signs of anxiety in 3–5-year-olds with a parent on long-term deployment. These symptoms could include kids expressing lots of worries and repeatedly asking for reassurance. Some might also complain of physical symptoms, such as a headache or stomachache. Yet it’s also possible that some don’t experience any physical or emotional distress during their parent’s deployment. Overall, military kids tend to be resilient when a parent is deployed.
Still, military kids, like all kids, sometimes experience mental health concerns, including thoughts of suicide, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and cognitive and mood disorders. The percentage of military kids diagnosed with one or more concerns has increased over the past several years. This mirrors what’s happening in civilian families, possibly because pediatricians are getting better at diagnosing and/or referring children for mental health care.
If you suspect your child needs help, supports and resources are available. Consider using Military OneSource’s confidential video non-medical counseling services for active duty families, including kids and teens. Your children also can connect with other military kids at Military Kids Connect. This site offers help for kids coping with a parent’s deployment too.
In the meantime, visit HPRC’s Family Resilience section for tips on managing family stress and improving family relationships, which are important for kids’ strong mental health.
The demands of deployment and combat can be stressful. It’s important to know that, if it gets to be too much for you to handle, you can get help. Here are some ways to find it.
Returning home, you might feel that nothing’s changed since you left, or you could have a rougher transition and experience sadness, sleep problems, anxiety, anger, heightened emotions, edginess, and/or trouble focusing. These are common and normal reactions to being in theater, but they can potentially be signs of mental health concerns too.
So when should you seek help? You can first use a mental health-screening tool that can guide you in the right direction. The assessment is free, anonymous, and available to service members and their families. However, it’s not intended as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
For accurate diagnosis, or to simply check in with a caring professional, consider consulting a qualified mental health therapist. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website offers good information and helpful resources. Also, Military OneSource offers support and services to improve your mental health and well-being. If you feel you're experiencing a potentially life-threatening problem, contact the Military Crisis Line online or call 800-273-8255 and press “1,” or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or by phone at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) also has a 24/7 Outreach Center featuring a hotline, email, chat, and phone number. And visit HPRC’s Suicide Prevention page. In an emergency, please dial 911.
Be proactive in addressing your mental health. And if you’re ever concerned about safety, err on the side of caution.
A mom with the right mindset feels that she can “get things done” and be a good parent, which impacts more than her to-do list. It can affect her satisfaction with family relationships and work-life balance too. The good news is that about half of younger moms (between the ages of 18 and 34) feel they’re very good at parenting. This is true if you’re married, living with a partner, or single-parenting—whether working inside or outside the home. Yet this means nearly half of younger moms feel less confident about their parenting skills.
Why does a mother’s confidence matter? Self-assured moms feel less overwhelmed when managing multiple responsibilities. And they can feel less stressed. Confident moms feel happier and pleased with their family relationships overall. Many experience greater satisfaction with their partners too.
Moms who work outside the home often juggle household tasks along with their job responsibilities. What helps them feel confident in their ability to accomplish everything? Those who are comfortable with their childcare decisions feel more effective at work. Good relationships with a supportive partner and encouraging supervisor also help keep your work-life balance in check. And when you feel confident at work, you feel capable of managing work and family needs—successfully and simultaneously.
Confidence is a mindset that needs nurturing. If you waver in your confidence as a mother, you might’ve fallen into a thinking trap—and you’ll need to work your way out. Take the Parenting Confidence Assessment to see where you stand. Parenting alone during your partner’s deployment? Check out Military OneSource for helpful tips and resources.
A hostile work environment can impact work performance and well-being, but help is available. There generally are two hostile-workplace scenarios: unlawful harassment—also known as unlawful discrimination or prohibited harassment—and bullying. There can be a difference in how these situations are handled when reported, so it helps to know the difference.
Unlawful harassment occurs when an employee is subject to unwelcome verbal and/or physical conduct or feels discriminated against based on his/her sex, race, color, religion, or national origin (as identified in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).
Sexual harassment is unlawful harassment and gender-based discrimination. It includes unwelcome sexual advances and/or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Unlawful-harassment behavior often repeats and can interfere with work performance.
Bullying can include similar behaviors, but isn’t based on one’s sex, race, etc. Employees can feel victimized through sabotaged work efforts, offensive conduct, and/or verbal abuse. Whether the behavior stems from unlawful harassment or bullying, it’s unacceptable and shouldn’t be tolerated.
Here are some tips to help develop a plan of action. And act sooner rather than later.
- Tell the offender(s) that the conduct is unwelcome and offensive. Ask him/her to stop.
- If it continues, or if you’re uncomfortable directly confronting the offender(s), report it to your supervisor immediately. Your supervisor has a duty to respond promptly and help prevent recurrences.
- If your supervisor doesn’t respond—or is the source of the harassment—go to your higher chain-of-command. You also can file a formal complaint with the Inspector General, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), or any chaplain.
- If you’re working in the civilian sector, contact your civilian personnel action center and/or your EEO office.
- Finally, if you or someone you know is feeling physically threatened, contact law enforcement immediately.
Learn more about the different branch policies:
- Army Directive 2015-40: Implementing Procedures for Anti-Harassment Policy
- Navy/Marines Directive: Equal Opportunity within the Department of the Navy
- Air Force Directive: Zero Tolerance for Unlawful Discrimination or Harassment (begins p. 11)
- Coast Guard Directive: Anti-Harassment & Hate incident Procedures and Policies (begins p. 50).
Yelling, swearing, and/or calling your children names can take a toll on their behavior and mental health. Make a point to keep your anger in check and remember that how you talk to your kids matters.
Harsh verbal discipline includes shouting, screaming, swearing, and/or name-calling. By some estimates, nearly half of parents speak severely to their kids. They sometimes do so out of desperation, especially when they’re frustrated and/or angry—or they simply feel that nothing else is working.
So what’s the end result? Parents could get what they “want,” but it might only be for the short-term. Even worse, kids’ mental health and self-esteem could suffer. Children who are exposed to shouting and swearing tend to develop poor behavior. Kids and teens on the receiving end of yelling, cursing, and name-calling tend to be more physically aggressive too. And they could struggle socially.
Discipline is about teaching kids to manage their behavior and letting them know you’re worried when they make a bad choice. It's also about keeping them safe. Discipline isn’t about winning battles or calling your children humiliating names.
If you follow these five steps for managing your anger, you’ll be well on your way to developing a more effective and positive approach to disciplining your kids. Try becoming more mindful of your emotions rather than letting them drive your behavior.
Make your children’s emotional health a priority. Parenting for Service Members and Veterans suggests a positive approach to discipline begins with a strong relationship between you and your kids. Constantly on the go? Download the Parenting2Go app for helpful tips when you’re on the road.
Mealtime can be enjoyable “family time” too, especially when you plan ahead and ask family members to “pitch in.” Kids like being helpful so let them know they’re vital members of your “family team.”
Many moms and dads recognize the importance of family mealtimes, but often want helpful ideas to make it “the norm.” Here are some tried-and-true tips to get you started. Add these to your family’s routine gradually. And add new tips whenever possible. Read more...
Mother’s Day is set aside to honor mothers, but for service members who can’t celebrate with their moms or who can’t take time to celebrate being a mom, it can be hard. But still do your best to take time and recognize the special moms in your life.
- Show your appreciation with a handwritten note or ecard. If you’re feeling creative, make a card from scratch—just like you did as a kid—and drop it in the mail.
- Enjoy a physical activity together. Go walking, running, biking, hiking, or do yoga. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, together or apart, can help you both enjoy Mother’s Day in the future too.
- Nourish your mom with healthy treats or a homemade meal. And consider inviting a mom who doesn’t have family nearby. Good food and conversation can make her day special too.
If you can’t be with your mom, then schedule a time to talk or video chat. Let her know how much you cherish your relationship. And ask any questions you might have wondered about, such as:
- How are we alike or different?
- What did you really think when I joined the military (or married someone in the military)?
- Is it easier being a mother now that your kids are grown?
- What do you hope the next few years will bring for our family?
If you’re feeling some sadness or anxiety, make a point to manage your stress. “Perfect” moms and/or children could evoke stress, even if you love them dearly. Consider mindfulness or other ways to cope, and make the best of this day.
Happy Mother’s Day to all military moms—service members, spouses, and mothers of service members!
Those TV ads your children enjoy watching impact their food choices and their health. Kids see many commercials that advertise foods high in fat, sodium, and/or added sugars, especially during Saturday-morning children’s TV programming. The more kids are exposed to advertisements of unhealthy foods, the more likely they are to request—or sometimes beg—to eat them.
TV commercial viewing has also been linked to children’s weight problems. Kids who watch these commercials have an increased chance of eating foods containing too many calories and few nutrients. And the impact of TV commercials on kids’ food choices extends beyond what they eat at home. It’s also been linked to how often families eat at fast-food restaurants.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 2 years old avoid all TV and screens, while children 3 and over watch no more then 2 hours of TV each day. Limiting the amount of time your kids watch TV means more time for them to be physically active. And less TV time means kids are exposed to fewer commercials that encourage unhealthy food choices.
Make sure to watch what your kids are watching—that means the shows and the commercials. When possible, watch TV together and move more during commercial breaks. Encourage them to get active by doing some jumping jacks, sit-ups, or push-ups!
Remember that commercials can influence kids’ food choices, so teach them to spot advertising tricks too. Keep the conversation going about the importance of healthy eating habits. Heading to the grocery store? Point out nutritious alternatives to your little ones, and ask older kids to help compare labels.
April is Sexual Assault Prevention Month. One essential step to prevent misconduct or missteps with your sexual partners is to openly and clearly obtain consent. What is it? Consent is spoken permission to continue moving forward with the sexual experience. Consent is an enthusiastic, verbally expressed “Yes! I want what is happening to keep happening!” Verbal consent is important because it’s unmistakable.
If you’re not sure how to ask for consent, consider some of the following:
- Can I kiss you?
- Is this okay?
- Are you enjoying yourself?
- Do you want me to keep going?
- How far should we go?
A positive verbal answer to any of these questions—“Yes!” “Yes please.” “Keep going.”—is consent, meaning you’re both on the same page about the sexual experience. In addition to asking for verbal confirmation, get in tune with your partner’s body language. Is he or she making eye contact and responding to your gestures?
In some situations, an individual isn’t able to consent to sex, such as when drugs or alcohol are involved. They impact decision-making and impulse control.
Also remember that lack of a “No” doesn’t mean consent. When a person feels in danger, he or she might become immobilized with fear and not actively resist or say no. Don’t mistake absence of resistance for consent.
You must obtained consent with each and every sexual encounter, regardless of your sexual history with your partner. Everyone is entitled to a change of mind, so it’s important to keep checking in with each other throughout the whole experience.
The DoD Safe Helpline is available 24/7 as a free, anonymous, confidential sexual assault resource for the DoD community. You can call, text, or chat with Helpline members. They will answer your questions and connect you with resources.
Your children and adolescents could benefit in many ways if your family eats at least 3 meals a week together. Dinnertime usually works best with family schedules, but other mealtimes work as well. Keep the following in mind when you sit down together at your next meal.
- Children and adolescents eat healthier. When kids eat with their families, they usually consume more fruits and vegetables. Kids also take in more fiber, calcium, and iron. And they drink fewer sodas and eat less saturated fats.
- Healthy habits have staying power. Adolescents who share in more family meals tend to eat healthier after they leave the nest, so this tradition can have lasting importance.
- Eating and talking together enables parents to tune into their kids’ needs. You might learn valuable information about your children’s friends, school, and interests—heading off any potential problems. They could also learn your thoughts on current events, healthy behaviors, and what matters to your family.
Sometimes parents feel that the task of putting meals together is too cumbersome. Meals can be quick and simple. They don’t have to be organic, costly, or even perfect. Simply being together around a shared table and eating a nutritious meal can do wonders for a family. Want a bit of encouragement? The majority of teens actually enjoy eating dinner at home with their families!