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Filed under: Families

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!

Get your daughters moving!

Filed under: Families, Girls, Sports
Girls are less physically active then boys. With encouragement from parents and opportunities to get moving, girls can get the exercise they need.

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.

Military children with special needs

Learning that your child has exceptional needs can be overwhelming at first. Find resources and support to help you along the way.

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.

Shifting from service family to civilian family

Transitioning from active duty to veteran status involves change. Learn how your entire family can weather these changes well.

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.

More tips for combating loneliness

Learn some great strategies to combat loneliness and feel better connected with your community.

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: A gift to you and yours

All relationships come with challenges. Forgiveness can be a gift to yourself, your spouse, and even your children.

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.

Forgiving your partner or children is not only a gift to him or her, it’s also a gift to you! For more ideas about forgiveness, try this guided meditation and read about couples communication.

Planning a home birth? Be prepared!

Deciding whether or not to birth at home is a big decision, but if you’re thinking about it, follows these tips and develop a solid plan.

If you’re considering giving birth at home, make an informed choice, including a plan that lays out expenses, your nearest hospital, your delivery team, and more. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists (ACOG) both say that hospitals and birthing centers are the safest places for birth in the U.S. However, they also recognize the right to make a medically informed decision about where and how to give birth. If you’re considering home birth, here are some specific suggestions to help you make safe decisions. Read more here.

Communication during deployment

HPRC would like to recognize Day of the Deployed (October 26th) with some tips for communication during your loved one’s deployment.

Members of the military community know how hard it can be to be separated during deployments for months at a time, but even with miles between your loved ones, there are ways to communicate and connect. October 26th marks the Day of the Deployed, a day set aside to recognize the devotion and sacrifice of our military personnel who serve and their families who live outside our nation. The National Day of the Deployed pays tribute to those whose military service has sent them outside the United States to ensure its safety and security.

Lengths and frequency of deployments are always changing. Most service members have been deployed at least once and often for stretches of 3.5–12 months. One way service members can communicate with people back home is through letters. In fact, writing letters can help improve relationship satisfaction more than other forms of communication. It’s easier to ensure privacy with a letter than with email or phone. More importantly, letters provide the writer opportunities to reread their work and take the time to express what they really mean.

There is no best formula for what to write in your letter. Couples can agree on rules for communication by talking through and finding agreement on what works well for both partners, such as staying away from certain topics. It’s sometimes best to keep the focus positive, saving tense topics for later. Some may prefer to keep open communication to help maintain a sense of intimacy. Keep the guesswork out of what to write by talking about it, and then enjoy the connection you experience through letter writing.

Developing your coping arsenal

Learn coping strategies that can help you either directly tackle the problem or reduce your stress associated with the problem.

It’s a good idea to have a choice of coping strategies to meet the specific needs of each situation you face—some “problem-focused” and some “emotion-focused.” During severe stress, you might find that your old ways of dealing with problems aren’t doing enough to help. For example, your preferred way of coping in the past might have been venting to a friend about something you couldn’t control. But now you may be overlooking direct actions you can take to fix the problem. Or perhaps you’ve always been an action-oriented problem-solver but now, even though it’s unfamiliar to talk with others about what’s bothering you, you might simply need someone to be a good listener. Take stock of your current coping strategies. We offer some suggestions here for how you can expand your arsenal. Consider which ones might be most useful for you personally in various situations. 

Help your children’s oral health

You can maintain and improve your children’s oral health with these simple tips.

The condition known as “dental caries” is the most common and chronic childhood illness, but you can help your child avoid it. Bacteria that build up on your children’s teeth and produce acid can destroy enamel and dentin, leading to decay, infection, and cavities. Thankfully, there are a few simple ways to prevent this.

  • If your young child uses bottles, make sure you put your child to sleep without a bottle.
  • Avoid continual use of a bottle or sippy cup, especially with fluids other than water.
  • Limit sugary foods and drinks, and the latter should include only 100% juice.
    • Allow less than 4–6 oz. of 100% fruit juice per day.
    • Start brushing your child’s teeth twice a day as soon as their teeth are visible.
      • Use no more than a pea size dot of fluoride toothpaste for children 3 and up and a dab the size of a grain of rice for younger children.
      • Take your child to a dentist before the age of one.
      • Parents and caregivers can spread bacteria to babies and children accidentally, so take care of your own teeth! And it’s a good idea not to put food or other items into your child’s mouth after they’ve been in your mouth, especially if you have a history of cavities.

If you use these simple tips, you can strengthen your child’s teeth throughout childhood. For more information, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics article “Brushing up on oral health: never too early to start.”

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