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Non-traditional gifts worth giving

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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.

Saluting fathers on Father’s Day

Learn how dads help their children become stronger, healthier, and more resilient.

This Father’s Day, HPRC salutes the many fathers who serve their country, families, and children. Dads play an essential role in families because they teach their kids about being healthy, smart, and kind. And it makes a difference.

So how do fathers teach their kids to become good people? Some dads help their children tune in to their own emotions as well as what others are thinking and feeling. Empathic kids are able to tolerate some degree of anger and guilt. And they use these emotions to look out for themselves and others.

School-age children with involved fathers are more likely to earn better grades and enjoy school. Dads can get more involved by helping their kids with homework and attending school events. Ask your kids about what they’re learning and help foster that curiosity.

Try to volunteer when your schedule allows it too. Coach your child’s sports team or serve as a scout leader. Pick whatever activity he or she enjoys—and your athlete or “mathlete” will shine.

Dads also can help put the fun in family fitness. Organize a bike ride, challenging hike, or fun day at the pool. Fathers with healthy-exercise habits help motivate their kids to be physically fit and active.

Remember to teach your children how to fuel their bodies. Set a good example for your kids to follow. Choose healthy snacks and drinks often because your kids are likely to eat and drink “what Dad’s having.” And ask them to help create your favorite salsa, pancakes, and chili in the kitchen. Make sure to involve the entire family during cleanup too.

Fathers near and far: Thanks for all you do! 

The “I” in team

What strengthens teams? What breaks them down? Find out how your mood and drive to dominate impacts your team’s stability and performance.

Your team wins when you have a good attitude, manage your emotions, and care about your teammates. But your team can break down, especially when members let their talents or controlling ways interfere with reaching team goals.

What individual traits make a team stronger? Managing your emotions can make you a better teammate, unite your group, and help your team thrive. People who deal with their emotions well are often good “team players” because they tend to listen openly to other points of view. And they’re less likely to feel threatened when wrong.

With emotions in check, you’re more likely to be cooperative and open to resolving conflict, instead of avoiding it. Just one team member with a negative outlook can affect the whole team, while those with a “can do” attitude can improve atmosphere and team performance.

What individual traits break down a team? Teammates rely on each other for the team’s overall success, but those with too much talent can break down a team. Teams don’t function well when talent—from one or a select few—dominates the group.

That’s why cohesiveness is essential to solid teamwork. If individuals try to dominate, unity breaks down and can cause arguments over authority. Teams become weaker when members are more concerned with advancing themselves and undermining their teammates, interfering with reaching the common goal.

How do your traits impact your unit? How do they affect your family? Check out HPRC’s Mental Resilience and Family Resilience sections and learn how to become a more effective team member—at work and home. 

Turning mealtime into “family time”

After a long workday, you might consider forgoing a family meal. Instead, combine plan-ahead tips with simple time-saving recipes. Add your loved ones to the mix and enjoy!

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...

Eating with your kids matters

Children do better in many ways when they share meals with their families regularly. These benefits can last a lifetime.

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!

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