Filed under: Families
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.
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!
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.
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...
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!
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.
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.
Have you decided to separate from the military? If your estimated time of separation (ETS) date has arrived, you’ve probably checked off your long to-do list and officially become a veteran. This can be an exciting and emotional time. Regardless of your reason for separating, this is a time of transition for your entire family. Here are some tips for easing your path to civilian life. Read more here.
Last week, we discussed how loneliness can be isolating and suggested ways to connect with one person. This week, we’ll add a few more strategies to your arsenal—and help you turn loneliness into a motivating force:
- Go out to public places, especially by yourself. Doing so can give you more opportunities to connect with others. You can also make virtual connections online or through social media.
- Join an activity group or faith community that aligns with your interests or beliefs. Volunteer for a cause. Choose something you value and attend in-person, or find an online community.
- Adopt a pet if possible. If not, try helping at an animal shelter or rescue group. Pets can provide important mental and social benefits. Owning a pet can actually lead to an increase in oxytocin, a “feel-good” hormone.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. For example, don’t just rely on your unit members for social plans. Build meaningful and lasting relationships with a variety of different groups such as your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Each can offer something different to enhance your life.
Forgiveness can help you adapt, embrace flexibility, be happier, and move through resentment in your relationships. Balancing children, career, and your marriage is difficult enough; adding deployments to the mix can lead to eruptions with family members. Meditation has been has been shown to help people lower stress their levels and become more forgiving. To reduce friction with your partner or children, consider following these steps associated with forgiveness meditations:
- Take a time-out, and find a quite space to calm down.
- Relax and focus on slowing your breathing.
- Recall times of closeness and connection with your spouse and children.
- Develop awareness of your reactions, and patiently find your way to forgiveness.