Filed under: Families
The American Psychological Association offers strategies to make blended families work:
- Have your own identity separate from your spouse and children.
- Maintain some autonomy in relationships while building togetherness through intimacy and identity.
- Maintain time for a rich sexual relationship that is safe from work and family intrusions.
- Be flexible in dealing with issues - life is unpredictable.
- Use humor to keep perspective.
- Remember how you felt falling in love and keep those images and feelings alive.
See the American Psychological Association site for more information.
Eating with your family around the table is an effective way to bond, communicate, and even eat healthier! So, turn off the television and put all cell phones away during dinner time to improve family dynamics and health.
Hooah 4 Health describes the "7 Emotional Cycles of Deployment" for couples - that both the deployed partner and one at home experience. At first, there is anticipation of departure, then detachment and withdrawal. This can lead to feelings of emotional disorganization. Over time, each partner copes with the deployment so that recovery and stabilization occur. Then, anticipation of the partner's return can start the countdown to deployment’s end. Once back home, partners adjust and renegotiate their roles and can be completely reintegrated and stabilized within a few months. These stages are discussed in detail at the Hooah4Health website.
Living in high-stress environments while deployed often affects life when Warfighters return home. Families become an important source of reintegration support. However, finding the balance between taking care of others and taking care of yourself is important. The Real Warriors program suggests that time should be set aside for each individual to reset – which could include hanging out with friends and family outside the home, relaxing with a book, through an activity like yoga, or helping out in the community.
Research from the Harvard School of Public Health showed many years ago that individuals who exercise regularly die less from all causes. Although vigorous exercise, like running, produces greater gains, all that’s needed for good health is regular exercise. Regular physical activity has a positive effect on all of your body systems – it improves your mood and decreases anxiety, improves cognitive function, makes you stronger, and reduces your risk for many diseases like stroke, cardiovascular disease, many types of cancer, and adult onset diabetes. Even so, public health data from the Centers for Disease Control still shows that obesity and physical inactivity among adults in our country is high.
We at the Human Performance Resource Center are not only concerned with the total fitness of our Warfighters, but of all Americans. And like in many offices across the country, we work at desks, and fitness is something we have to carve out time for. But still, we do, as one of our staff members reports.
A few weeks ago, I went running with my super-tough Airborne Army son, a jumpmaster and SSG who’s been deployed many months over the last four years. When we last ran several years ago prior to his initial boot camp experience, I could outdistance him. Fortunately, that didn’t last long – six years and many runs later, this is no longer the case. The stories abound, and are hilarious. Like when he returned from his first 15-month deployment to Iraq: I had been running a lot and wanted to impress him with what good shape I was in. We hadn’t even made it out of my neighborhood, or hit the hills yet, and I was sucking wind. At that point he looked over and said, “Hey, Ma…we walkin’ or runnin’ today?” Fast forward to our five-mile run a few weeks ago in the midday July heat. I straggled back, having taken only a couple of one-minute walk breaks to catch my breath. Of course, he beat me back, and his greeting was, “Ma, you can do better than that!” But I know that underneath the teasing, he’s proud that his 50-year old mother is out that running with him, eating his dust. My response is, “Why aren’t there more mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, sons, and daughters out here running with their Warfighter?”
So I challenge you: if we expect our Warfighters to be in optimal condition because their role, protecting our country, demands it – don’t we also have a responsibility to ourselves, our loved ones, and our country, to improve our health and reduce our healthcare costs? It doesn’t matter what you do to stay fit, only that you do something. Walk the dog, play outside with the kids, join an adult sports league, or go for a run – the possibilities are endless.
According to MedicineNet.com, good friends and family do more than make life worth living. These relationships may help you live longer! A recent analysis of scientific literature suggests that lack of social relationships is a risk factor for death. In other words, people with lots of close friends and family around will likely live a lot longer than lonely people. These findings show that the effect of social relationships on the risk of death are similar to those of smoking and alcohol consumption and have a profound effect on the quality of our life.
- Under age 5: May be shy, demanding or feel guilt thinking they “made Mom or Dad go away,” and may act out more than usual.
- Ages 5-12: May respond happily and talk often about their returning family member, or they may feel ashamed that they were not “good enough” while the family member was gone.
- Ages 12-18: May respond happily with excitement. Interestingly, teenagers will have changed emotionally and physically by the time the reunion occurs, and may feel that they are too old to greet their returning parent with enthusiasm as they arrive home.
Lisa Jansen-Rees from the National Military Family Association describes the Top Things That Military Families Don't Do Well, and states, "Thank goodness!" She lists:
- Drift along without a purpose
- Lose track of loved ones
- Lost sight of their goals
- Hide their patriotism
- Turn a blind eye
- Spoil their kids
Social support after deployment significantly decreases symptoms of PTSD and depression, a recent study found. Individuals who have emotional support from family, friends, coworkers, employers, and community members had less PTSD and depression. Warfighters who received social support immediately following deployment reported substantially reduced symptoms.
A study of National Guard reserve troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their families, identified five stressors experienced by family members: worrying, waiting, going it alone, pulling double duty, and loneliness.
What helped these families most? Keeping busy and involved in activities at home, using technology to stay in touch, and staying connected to each other on a daily or weekly basis.