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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

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.

“Coaching” your kids’ emotions

Learn how to “coach” your kids when they’re dealing with strong emotions.

Emotion coaching is a strategy parents can use to teach their kids about healthy emotion expression. During emotion coaching, parents openly discuss and validate the feelings their child expresses. Parents encourage their kids to find ways to calm themselves when a wave of strong emotion hits. Kids whose parents practice emotion coaching have better self-control and fewer behavioral problems.  

Parents engage in emotion coaching when you’re actively and purposefully responsive to your child’s emotions. It requires that you be aware of your child’s emotional state. It also challenges you to see emotions as an important part of your child’s experience. During emotion coaching, parents accept those feelings and teach their children how to manage positive and negative emotions. Read more...

Non-traditional gifts worth giving

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
This holiday season, try giving in ways that can make a lasting impact on your loved ones and yourself, and enhance your relationships. Learn more.

Gift giving is a hallmark of the holiday season, even though it often involves high levels of stress, long lines, and a drain on your wallet. So, make an impact: Instead of focusing on “stuff”—such as the latest video game, gadget, or toy—consider these alternatives and make your gifts more meaningful.

  • Buy experiences, not things. Get tickets to a show, museum membership, or weekend adventure and invest in your connections and shared experiences with friends and family. Nothing can replace those special moments.
  • Think: Less is more. Materialism is linked to lower well-being. When you try to “keep up with the Joneses,” focus on getting stuff, or compare what you have to what others have, you might experience the very opposite of the joy you expect to feel. Financial responsibility begins at a young age too. Are children on your gift list? Reduce “the gimmes” and increase gratitude by giving them less and teaching them to appreciate what they have more.
  • Give where you live. Grab a friend, partner, or your kids and volunteer your time to a shared cause. You might not think of your time and talent as a gift, but volunteering fosters empathy and perspective. And these qualities are needed, especially during these times. Remember that volunteering is a two-way street: It can improve your sense of meaning, purpose, connection to something larger than yourself, and health while you help others in your community and beyond.

Material things can bring brief happiness, but shared experiences bring long-lasting satisfaction that’s more fulfilling. This holiday season, try to give non-traditional gifts that can ease your financial burden while strengthening the well-being of those around you.

‘Tis the season: Connect with family

Use these HPRC-approved tips to help keep the “happy” in your holidays and take care of your family and yourself, even when you can’t be together.

While the holidays often are times of joy and celebration, it can be especially hard for those serving away from home. And if you’re unable to be with your loved ones during the holidays, this time of year sometimes can leave you with mixed emotions. Still, take time and enjoy the special family members who bring goodness to your life.

HPRC offers these tips to help you take care of your loved ones and yourself this holiday season—whether you’re at home or abroad. Read more...

Stepmothers

A stepmother can significantly impact her stepchildren’s lives. Understanding her role in the family is an important first step.

It can be challenging to explain and understand a stepmother’s responsibilities when a new stepfamily is formed, but there are ways to support her “new” parenting role. Stepfamilies form when a child’s mother or father marries someone after his or her relationship with the child’s other parent has ended.

It’s important for stepmothers to build strong relationships with their stepchildren, but this sometimes can be tricky. A stepmother often has to strike a balance between bonding with her stepchildren while also respecting the limitations of not being a biological parent, especially when her stepchildren’s other parent remains active in their lives. Stepmothers sometimes can feel confused about what their roles should be, and this can lead to insecurity. Stepmoms also might feel they’re expected to do many household and childcare tasks even though they’re not considered parents. It can be hard for a stepmother to see her spouse’s involvement with the children—playing a role she’s unable to play—and continued contact with the children’s other parent too. And stepchildren can feel unsure about how their stepmother will fit into their lives.

Still, when stepfamilies live together at least half-time, stepmothers tend to be happier in their marriages and closer to their stepchildren. Successful stepmothers develop a parental mindset and work to define their roles in their new families. In addition, communication that focuses on strong listening skills and avoids criticism or contempt can help a stepmother and her spouse agree on her role and how they’ll support each other as parents and partners.

Raise healthy eaters—Part 2: Age-specific tips

Part 2 of HPRC’s “healthy eater” series explores age-specific tips to get your kids to eat healthy.

Children need guidance from their parents about eating a well-balanced diet. As they grow, your interactions with them around food will change. They’ll take on more responsibility for feeding themselves too. Still, you’ll continue to influence their eating preferences through the foods you prepare and offer to them. Read on for age-specific tips to encourage your kids’ healthy eating too. And if you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to read Part 1 about general nutrition tips for helping your children learn how to be “healthy eaters” at all ages. Read more...

Raise healthy eaters—Part 1: For kids 2–18

It’s important to teach children about acceptable eating behaviors and how to control their eating impulses. In this two-part series, HPRC offers tips to help your kids eat healthy.

How you approach feeding your children influences their food choices, the amount they eat, and their weight. While it’s important for kids to maintain a healthy weight, it’s also helpful for them to determine when they’re hungry and when they’re full.

Insisting kids eat more after they say they’re full can interfere with their ability to learn what “being full” really feels like. Trust that your child’s brain is sending signals back and forth to his or her belly, indicating “full.” And if children are offered a selection of generally healthy foods, they’ll eat the right amount and grow healthy. Read the rest of this article for specific tips you can use to help your own children eat healthfully as they grow.  

Telling kids about their parent’s injury

Talking with your children about their other parent’s injury can be hard because there’s no good way to share bad news. Find out what helps ease the conversation.

Returning home after a deployment can be exciting but stressful. Still, coming home might present even greater challenges, especially when a service member is injured. Explaining an injury—either visible or invisible—to your children can seem overwhelming, but there are ways to help them cope with things.

It’s normal to worry about your children’s reaction to physical or mental injuries. If possible, talk with them about their other parent’s injuries before your family reunites. Children, family dynamics, and injuries are all unique. So, keep these in mind during your talk:

  • Use age-appropriate words to describe the other parent’s injury. For example, what you say to your six-year-old is different than what you discuss with your sixteen-year-old.
  • Talk about what happened. Be honest when explaining the injury, how it occurred, and any expectations about recovery. Not knowing what’s going on might cause kids to imagine scary, wrong, or bad things.
  • Give it time. Everyone responds differently to difficult news. Don’t force things. Be patient with your kids and yourself too. Support your children however they respond. And encourage them to share their feelings and ask questions.
  • Be a role model. Children take cues from their parents. If you cope well with your service member’s treatment, your kids are more likely to as well.
  • Reassure your children. They’ll want to know that even though their injured parent looks or acts differently, he or she is still the same person who loves and cares about them.

Remember: There’s no perfect explanation you can give your children. What’s most important? Talk, listen, and avoid judging their responses. And visit HPRC’s Returning Home/Reintegration and Post-Deployment sections to learn more.

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