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HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships
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!
Financial stresses are real and affect many service members. Sometimes stress can explode into bigger problems if you use drugs or alcohol as a means to cope or if you take out your frustrations on your spouse. How you perceive your stressor has a big impact on how stressful your situation feels. You can always choose how to react.
For instance, as you get your tax information together, you might realize you won’t be able to afford that new car or move into that new apartment, after all. You might think, “I’m a failure,” or “My spouse screwed up.” Such thoughts place blame on yourself or your spouse and stir up feelings of shame and/or anger. If you let these feelings drive your behaviors, you could make matters worse. Not dealing with your shame well enough could lead to negative coping behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol. Not effectively managing your anger might lead to ugly arguments with your spouse.
Rather than playing the blame game, it might be more constructive to think, “We didn’t save enough this year, but we’ll make some adjustments and still meet our long-term goals.” Yes, you’ll feel disappointed, but you’ll also feel optimistic and ready to make those much-needed changes.
To learn more on how to take charge of your thoughts, or accept them and let them pass, check out HPRC’s tips on positive thinking. And use the Mind-Body ABCs Worksheet to help increase your awareness, plan better outcomes, and improve your performance—financial and otherwise! Also, Military OneSource offers financial management services to help you plan a budget, do your taxes, and more.
On a daily basis, girls’ physical activity levels are lower than boys’ of the same age. They need extra support from their parents to get moving and find opportunities for physical fitness. A lack of physical activity can have negative consequences in the long term, such as poorer hand-eye coordination and worse overall health. But exercise isn’t just good for your child’s body; it’s also linked to better academic achievement.
One reason girls get less exercise is because they may not be offered opportunities to engage in physical fitness. Parents might assume their daughters don’t like sports and then don’t suggest they participate. Encouragement from parents matters. Don’t assume your daughter isn’t interested in physical fitness, even if she sometimes says she isn’t! Break up the times your daughter is just sitting around by getting her to go for a walk or move around the house. Ask her to help with tasks at home that require some physical activity. Encourage your daughter to enroll and stay involved in organized sports from a young age. Brainstorm physical activities she might enjoy. There’s trampoline, fencing, hip-hop dance, lacrosse, martial arts, soccer, ice hockey, skateboarding, rowing, swimming, yoga, or tennis, to name a few.
Remember that kids take their cues from their parents. Set an example by being physically active yourself, and your children will likely follow suit. All kids—boys and girls—need at least 60 minutes if physical activity a day. Not sure what type of exercises your children should be doing? Check out HPRC’s “Put some fun in your children’s fitness” for some great ideas.
This spring, create a “family tree of health” by collecting your family medical history. The information you gather might help you to take steps to manage health conditions that run in your family.
Record the health information of at least 3 generations in your family, including children, siblings, parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles and their children. Collecting your family medical history is a way to find clues about any medical conditions that might run in your family. Share the information with your doctor to help her/him see patterns that could affect you. If your family members have medical issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, and diabetes, you might be at increased risk for these conditions. Then your doctor can recommend lifestyle changes and/or treatments to reduce the chances a medical condition will become a problem.
So, get asking! And write down the answers. Ask your family members about their chronic conditions. Ask if they’ve had any serious illnesses such as cancer or stroke and when they developed. Also ask about problems with pregnancy or childbirth. If you’re missing some important information, consider searching for obituaries or death certificates of relatives who are no longer with you.
My Family Health Portrait is an online tool where you can enter your family’s health history, print it to share with family members and healthcare providers, and save the information so you can update it over time. Collecting your family medical history will not only benefit your own health, but also the health of generations of your family to come!
If you have a child with special needs, the good news is that military families have access to special support and services. When you first learn that your child has exceptional needs, it’s a challenge to sort through: You have to adjust your expectations and lifestyle.
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, shocked, and perhaps denial initially. Parents of children with special needs often grieve the loss of their initial hopes and dreams for their child too. Physical reactions to the news—such as crying or lack of appetite—are also common.
What can you learn from parents who have “been there”?
- Support between spouses is essential, especially early in the process. Support from other family members and friends also can help you adapt.
- Learning about your child’s disability or medical condition and what it means for his or her future health and abilities is important. Stay positive about your child’s future while also being realistic and accepting of his or her possible limitations.
- Anticipate some changes to your social life. It’s important to maintain old routines, especially if you have other children. But time with your own friends may initially decrease as you focus on your child’s needs. However, be careful not to isolate yourself.
Be aware of your own coping strategies during this stressful time. Coping effectively with this news will enable you be attentive to your child.
Look for support groups and tap into resources with local and national organizations. Explore your Family-to-Family Health Information Center and get connected to other families and support groups. Enroll in the military’s own Exceptional Family Member Program, which will connect you to a coordinator who can help you figure out what programs and services are available to you.
Many parents of children with special needs feel highly satisfied in their parenting role. With the right support and resources in place, you can feel the same way.
People with good friendships and strong family relationships are likely to live longer than those without social ties. This is true regardless of gender, age, or how healthy you are. Strong relationships matter for your health, just as much as losing weight, getting active, and stopping smoking. To increase your chances of living longer, strengthen your social relationships. How? A good conversation with a friend, taking your mom out to lunch, or getting involved in your community are all ways to improve your connections with those around you. Doing so also can lessen feelings of loneliness and improve your health in the long run. The reverse is also true: People who don’t feel supported by those around them report more health problems. People with weak relationships are at risk for earlier death.
Take an inventory of all of your relationships and consider where improvements can be made. Are you putting in the effort needed to keep these ties strong? Doing so will not only enhance your connections to those around you, it also has the potential to add years to your life.
Ever have well-meaning people tell you to shake off feelings of sadness, frustration, or disappointment? It probably didn’t help. Similarly, when someone else is hurting, especially someone you love, you might try too hard to fix it. Empathy is feeling someone else’s emotions and letting that person know you fully understand. Sympathy is observing troubling events in someone’s life and letting that person know you’re concerned.
Sympathy is sometimes useful, such as when you want to maintain boundaries or focus on the task at hand, but it’s potentially less impactful than empathy. Make a difference with PACT: Purpose, Awareness, Compassion, and Treaty.
Purpose: Is your goal to let someone know you care (sympathy: e.g., “I wish this wasn’t happening to you; maybe we should talk about something less upsetting?”), or are you aiming to connect more deeply (empathy: e.g., “It feels like maybe part of you wants to talk about this more and part of you wants to set it aside right now.”)?
Awareness: Are you “observing” the person from afar (sympathy: e.g., “I hate that you’ve been having such a hard time lately.”), or trying to see the world through their eyes (empathy: e.g., “It feels like nothing is going right lately.”)?
Compassion: You can try to understand somebody based on similar personal experiences or you can use your imagination to understand more deeply, putting yourself in the other person’s “shoes.”
Treaty: With sympathy, you might feel pulled to agree with someone (e.g., “Yup, you got kicked around.”), but that might also prevent him or her from considering alternative viewpoints. With empathy, you can tune into how somebody feels without necessarily agreeing with that person (e.g., “You feel abused, and it’s hard not to feel like a victim right now.”).
Try PACT daily and decide what’s helpful: empathy or sympathy.