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HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships

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...

“Coming out” in the military

Filed under: LGBT, Transgender
As a service member, you don’t have to disclose your sexual orientation. But if you’re thinking of coming out, or just want to understand or help someone who is, read on.

“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...

Help your partner lose weight

Learn how to help your loved one lose weight as he or she goes through the “Stages of Change.”

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...

Talk about sex before tying the knot

Healthy communication about sex increases relationship satisfaction. Start these discussions early to create a common understanding about your sex life with your partner.

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.

Communicate with curiosity

You probably work and interact with people who are different from you. Approaching conversations with curiosity can improve those relationships.

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.

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