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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships

Should I trust the person I’m dating?

It’s risky to trust a new boyfriend or girlfriend. Ask yourself these questions to gain clarity about your partner’s trustworthiness.

Dating is a time to “experiment” with trust and evaluate if your relationship will last, so it’s normal to wonder if the person you’re dating is trustworthy. The decision to trust your new partner should depend on your own assessment of his or her commitment to you and your relationship. Mutual trust is a central component of your relationship and essential to helping it thrive.

Feeling confident that the one you’re dating will keep what you share private and have your best interests in mind helps build connection and intimacy in your relationship. Disclosing personal information—such as details from your past, your feelings on challenging topics, or intimate pictures of yourself—and knowing your partner respects your wishes not to circulate things is one way to tell if you share mutual values.

It’s risky to trust your new partner, and there’s no clear-cut way to tell if she or he is worthy of your confidence. Still, asking yourself these questions might help you gain some clarity.

  • Does your partner call as promised?
  • Can you count on him or her to show up as expected at your mutually agreed upon time and place?
  • Do others who know your boyfriend or girlfriend report that he or she is loyal and trustworthy?
  • Does he or she share information and show a willingness to trust you?
  • Is your girlfriend or boyfriend respectful of your personal wishes?
  • Do you feel pressured to share private information because she or he is insisting upon it?
  • Have you discussed and agreed to what’s okay to share with others?

Trustworthy people have integrity and care about others. If the person you’re dating pressures you to share intimate details that you’re uncomfortable revealing, listen to your instincts. If you have doubts, it’s okay to say, “No,” now and take more time to evaluate your comfort level. A trustworthy partner will respect your wishes. To learn more about building closeness and improving your relationship, visit HPRC’s Relationship Enhancement section.

Posted 10 April 2017

Help your military kids make new friends

During Military Children’s Health Month, HPRC takes a look at how military parents can help their kids make new friends.

Making and sustaining friendships is an important part of children’s growth and development. But military kids, who move often, might have to make new friends several times throughout childhood and adolescence. The ability to engage in conversations and openness towards others helps kids develop friendships.

What can you do to help your military kids make new friends?

  • Model friendly behaviors such as greeting new people, asking questions to encourage conversation, and treating others with respect. Be open to making new friends yourself when you move to a new location.
  • Emphasize the qualities that make someone a good friend. Encourage your kids to share and take turns. Children who are cooperative, helpful, and considerate tend to be more liked by their peers.
  • Talk openly about what it means to be someone’s friend. Friends are honest, supportive, and fun to be with. They share common interests and don’t bully or make you feel left out.
  • When your kids are younger, organize play dates with kids you think will complement your child’s personality. Before the play date, brainstorm with your child how to spend the time doing fun games and activities your child enjoys that will help build friendship.
  • Allow your school-age kids to choose their own friends while passively supervising the interactions.
  • Practice conversations your kids could have with new friends. Sharing thoughts and ideas is basic to any relationship, but especially friendships. Get your kids comfortable with telling others what’s on their mind and asking what their peers are thinking.
  • Discuss with your kids how to effectively manage through conflicts to sustain their friendships. Encourage them to be assertive and considerate.

Helping your kids make friends can impact them in the short and long term. Acceptance by peers can affect children’s self-esteem. As kids get older, friendships provide a sense of security and an outlet to relieve stress. Having good-quality friendships in childhood has long-term consequences, too. Having few or no friends in childhood has been linked to worse health in adulthood. As a parent, you can guide your kids toward making healthy friendships today.

Posted 03 April 2017

Why revenge against your ex doesn’t work

Filed under: Divorce, Relationships
The saying goes, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Read on to find out why you’re not likely to benefit from taking revenge against your ex.

The end of a relationship is hard. It can be complicated further if you feel wronged. But getting revenge on your ex often has more costs than benefits. The desire for revenge might come about if you feel your ex violated the rules of your relationship. Maybe she or he was unfaithful or unresponsive to things you deemed important. People who report feeling the urge for revenge say their partner compromised their own reputation or sense of self, so they felt devalued.

Such thoughts and feelings are complex to manage. Still, revenge isn’t always a productive response. You might think vengeance will make you feel better, but the relief is probably temporary. And engaging in vengeance can create more feelings of discomfort and guilt. It isn’t likely to solve your problems, and it can end up causing more harm—to you and others—in the long run. The consequences of “taking revenge” might not be clear at first, but vengeful acts also can be unethical and immoral, leading to a range of negative outcomes, including career setbacks and family or other relationship strain.

People who think revenge is acceptable tend to be less honest, less humble, and less agreeable. They might feel they’re in a position to gain from exploiting others. Such personal characteristics aren’t desirable in long-term relationships. Successful relationships are built upon mutual respect, understanding, and trust.

Instead of getting revenge on your ex, consider the following:

  • If you feel hurt and wronged, practice good coping skills and mental resilience.
  • If you worry your reputation is damaged, surround yourself with family and good friends who will continue to support you.
  • If you’re not sure you’ll ever date again, remember that breakups are hard but also can be good for you, especially if you use this opportunity learn more about yourself.

So, set aside the urge for revenge. Handling yourself with respect and honor—even if you were wronged—reflects your strength and the characteristics new partners are likely to find attractive.

Posted 27 March 2017

Preparing for a deployment

A new HPRC video offers insights from Giants (and former Red Sox) baseball team’s performance psychology coach Bob Tewksbury on how military families can prepare for deployments.

In a new HPRC video, Bob Tewksbury, EdM and a mental skills coach for several major league baseball teams, discusses with Tim Herzog, EdD, how military families can effectively prepare for deployments using aspects of performance psychology. These can help service members and their families prepare mentally for challenges that can arise during deployments. The video highlights how families can benefit from getting in touch with their thoughts and feelings during this time period. According to Mr. Tewksbury, managing through a deployment requires mental toughness and the ability to focus on what you can control.

In a previous HPRC video, Mr. Tewksbury and LTC Craig Jenkins, PhD (a former SOF operational psychologist, now with the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence [USAICoE]), explore how military families can stay connected through deployments and TDYs. This new video (below) continues the conversation to help you learn more about preparing for deployments.

How to plan your family meetings

Family meetings can build cohesion and improve communication with your loved ones. Learn how to get started!

Family meetings help streamline communication and increase closeness with your loved ones. Use these times to get together, discuss important topics, and listen to each other. These meetings can be helpful if you need to talk about an upcoming problem or situation your family is facing. Your family also can discuss upcoming events, decide on any preventative actions you’ll take, and agree on how you’ll manage things. In addition, the meetings can clear up confusion and ensure everyone understands expectations and action plans.

During family meetings, you might talk about house rules, upcoming family vacations, or changes to your family structure. Or you might settle ongoing disputes between siblings. Invite all family members to participate and gently encourage them to come, but don’t demand attendance. Establish a productive meeting space and consider the following tips to make sure your family meetings are effective.

  • Set a specific time and location. The time should work for everyone, and the location should be convenient and conducive to good conversations.
  • Establish an agenda. Ask family members in advance what they’d like to cover during the meeting. As you identify topics for discussion, remember your agenda will drive the length of your meeting. Hold shorter meetings—about 10–20 minutes—when younger kids are present too.
  • Get everyone involved. All members should take on a role, even little kids. Decide who will be the leader, note taker, and timekeeper. Rotate responsibilities at each meeting.
  • Take turns talking and listening. Set some guidelines for how the meeting will run, including how everyone will communicate. Speak one at a time, use “I” statements, and practice good listening skills.
  • Encourage participation. Ask for everyone’s opinions and ideas when problem-solving or brainstorming. Enabling all family members’ voices to be heard helps build cohesion in your family unit.
  • Write down your plan of action. Once your family decides how you’ll work towards achieving your joint goal, write things down and post the information where everyone can see it.

Family meetings are successful when kids learn effective problem-solving skills and everyone in the family feels heard. Get your loved ones together for your first family meeting this week!

Posted 13 March 2017

Create a productive space for family meetings

Filed under: Communication, Family
Optimize your family meeting time by creating a positive space to share thoughts, feelings, and concerns.

Family meetings are important for maintaining communication and cohesive relationships with your loved ones. The environment in which you hold these meetings is just as important as what you talk about. Creating a safe, comfortable, and productive space will help your family get the most out of your meeting times. Just like office meetings, everyone should pay attention, stay involved, feel included, and be respectful too. Before you call your next family meeting, consider these tips to set up a productive meeting space.

  • Minimize distractions and ban devices. While some people think they’re good at multitasking, research suggests otherwise. So, turn the TV and other devices off. That includes phones, tablets, and video games. This will help ensure that everyone is focused on the issues at hand.
  • Set a comfortable room temperature. A room that’s too hot or too cold can be a distraction. And it can take away from the focus of your meeting.
  • Make sure everyone has eaten. It’s difficult to focus when your stomach is growling. Hold family meetings after mealtimes or eat snacks beforehand, so your loved ones don’t get hungry when it’s time to talk.
  • Set up effective seating arrangements. Make sure that everyone has “a seat at the table.” Everyone should be visible—not sitting off in a corner or behind other family members. This will help ensure that people are engaged and involved in your conversations.

It might take a few tries to figure out the best environment for your family meetings. Still, be flexible and open to trying new things to get the most out of your time together.

Are girls at higher risk of concussion?

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is “Think Ahead.” If you have a daughter, learn how to reduce her risk of concussion.

Girls might be at greater risk of concussion—also known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI)—than boys, so it’s important to recognize their symptoms and seek medical help. Female high school and college athletes report more concussion symptoms than their male counterparts. In addition, their reported symptoms are more severe and last longer than what boys experience.

In sports, a concussion can happen from hitting another player, ball, or surface with your head. It causes a disturbance in brain functioning and can lead to a number of symptoms, including headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, and sensitivity to light or noise. In addition, you might feel foggy, have difficulty concentrating or remembering things, or feel confused about recent events. You also might feel irritable, sad, or nervous. While concussions can happen in any sport, they’re most likely to occur in football, soccer, rugby, basketball, and hockey.

It’s not clear why girls experience more concussions than boys. Girls are more likely to report symptoms, whereas boys tend to keep their concerns to themselves. So it might be the case that boys and girls are concussed at the same rates, but girls report their injuries more often. Hormone levels and blood flow differences in the sexes also might contribute to the rates of concussion among girls. For girls who have entered puberty, hormonal changes experienced along with their menstrual cycles might impact the severity of concussion symptoms. It takes longer for a girl to be symptom free after her concussion, and that might be due in part to where she is in her menstrual cycle.

If you have a daughter, take steps to prevent her from experiencing a concussion. If she is diagnosed with an mTBI, she’ll need “brain rest” to recover. She also should limit reading, homework, and screen time. And consult with her doctor to make sure that concussion symptoms resolve and she’s medically cleared before she returns to play her sport.

Staying connected during deployments

Filed under: Deployment, Families
How can military families stay connected during deployments? LTC Craig Jenkins, PhD, and Bob Tewksbury offer their insights from working with service members and professional baseball players.

In this HPRC video, Tim Herzog, EdD, LTC Craig Jenkins, PhD, and Bob Tewksbury, EdM, discuss how military families can stay connected during deployments and temporary duty assignments (TDY). Dr. Herzog is a licensed counselor who specializes in mental performance training. Dr. Jenkins is a former Special Forces operational psychologist who went on to work with the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence (USAICoE). Bob Tewksbury, a former major league baseball (MLB) pitcher, became a mental skills coach for several MLB teams, including the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants.

Dr. Jenkins offers insights into how military families can exchange meaningful, handwritten letters to help stay connected with loved ones during deployments. Mr. Tewksbury shares examples of MLB players and their families, who also experience extended periods of separation.

Check out the video below to learn more about their suggestions on how to stay connected during deployments and separations.

Help your child face dental fear

What can parents do to help kids who are afraid of going to the dentist?

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.

Boost communication with “I” statements

This Valentine’s Day, take a deeper look at what it means to use “I” statements when communicating with your loved ones. Learn about the “I” statement basics.

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...

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