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“Feeling Thermometer” for children

Children often have trouble expressing their feelings in words. The FOCUS program provides a tool to help them communicate how they feel.

Everyone has feelings—and by the time people become adults, most have a vocabulary for talking about them. Children, however, often don’t yet have this skill and are more likely to act out how they feel. A great way to strengthen your family is to help your child(ren) learn how to talk about feelings in an age-appropriate way. The Families Overcoming Under Stress (FOCUS) program for enhancing family resilience has created a “Feeling Thermometer” that you can use with your child so he or she can show you where his/her feelings fall. This is a great way to understand what your child is feeling and to start talking about emotions such as anger when a child gets too “hot,” so he or she can learn how to control such feelings and make that anger temperature go down.

For more ideas to strengthen your family, check out HPRC’s Family & Relationships domain.

Celebrate family fitness!

USAF FitFamily helps families “Get up. Get out. Get fit. Together.”

Make family fitness a fun affair with tips, games, goal trackers, and incentives from USAF FitFamily! Families can use the website’s resources to set family fitness goals and then track progress. And check out the recipes and activity ideas that can add a little fun to getting healthy—you can even submit photos. To begin, watch FitFamily’s online video, which describes the different resources available on the website. It also provides information on activities that are available at local Air Force installations, such as community resources, outdoor adventures, and family activities.

Interested in more family fitness information? Visit HPRC’s Family & Relationships domain for more resources.

Small changes can pay off in a big way

HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships
Resolutions don't have to daunting—making small, not big, changes that fit easily into your lifestyle are good options for family health and weight loss over time.

It’s the New Year! If you’re already despairing about resolutions, keep in mind that making small changes in behavior that fit easily into your lifestyle are good options for family health and weight loss over time. For one month, try choosing three small habits to focus on changing that you can apply to any situation, whether you’re at home, overseas, or travelling. Try setting up email or calendar reminders if that helps you, or put up tangible reminders such as sticky notes around your house. To get you started, here are some ideas:

  • Keep unhealthy foods such as potato chips, cookies, etc. out of sight so they are less tempting.
  • Put down your fork and knife between bites.
  • Portion out “snackable” foods that come in large bags/containers into smaller one-serving containers, so you don’t keep dipping in.
  • Choose water over soda.
  • Keep fresh fruit on hand to replace fatty, high-calorie snacks.

For more help, Military OneSource has a Health and Wellness Coaching Program that can help you lose weight and improve your overall fitness. Finally, for more information on making healthy food choices for you and your family, visit HPRC’s Family Nutrition section.

Start your children’s good sleep habits early

Sleep is an essential part of post-exercise recovery, and good sleep habits begin in childhood. A recent Canadian report on bringing up children as athletes provides valuable input for children at various ages.

Do you know how much sleep you and your loved ones are getting—and supposed to be getting?  Keep in mind the recommendations differ by age group. According to a report from Canadian Sport for Life on optimal sleep for athletic performance at all life stages:

  • Children under the age of six need 13–16 hours of sleep daily, including longer nighttime sleep and fewer daytime naps as they get older.
  • As girls reach the ages of 6–8 and boys reach 6–9, their sleep needs drop to 10–11 hours of sleep a night.
  • Girls 8–11 and boys 9–12 need 9 ½ to 10 hours of sleep a night.
  • Girls 11–15 and boys 12–16 need around nine hours of sleep a night.
  • In addition to their nightly sleep, girls 6-15 and boys 6-16 need a 30-minute-plus nap between 2–4 pm every day.

For young children, meals—particularly breakfast—are an important part of establishing a reliable sleep routine, and as children age they should start developing a 15–30 minute routine before bedtime to get ready physically for sleep. This is also a great opportunity for some quality time between parents and children that you can all look forward to each night.

To make this goal easier, be sure your kids avoid computers and TVs (anything with electronic stimulation) for one to two hours before bedtime. Allow an hour to unwind before bed—try soothing music, reading, and dim lighting.

As children become teenagers, make sure they don’t start incurring a sleep debt by sleeping less than needed. Encourage them to keep regular sleep hours, get early morning light exposure, and carefully gauge their caffeine consumption close to bedtime.

The report mentioned above suggests using a sleep log (and provides a sample log) to get an idea of your and your child’s sleep patterns. Remember that the warrior athletes of tomorrow need to develop good sleep habits today!

Thankful for you?

A little appreciation can go a long way in keeping the relationship with your significant other at its best, especially when deployment means you are apart for a time.

Do you show your loved one appreciation? Gratitude is an essential element in happy relationships. Couples who feel appreciated by their significant others in turn are more appreciative back to the other person. Also, when shown appreciation, people tend to be more responsive to their significant other’s needs. In short, gratitude is contagious! Try it. When you next talk to your significant other, find something to be appreciative about and see if it has any positive ripple effects. This can also help maintain intimacy when you are apart from your loved one due to deployment or TDY.

For more ideas to enhance your relationship, check out the Performance Booster on Couples Communication and Relationship Enhancement section of the HPRC’s site.

Tips for families separated during the holidays

Just a little effort can help keep the holiday spirit alive when a family member is away on deployment.

The holidays can be hard for families when a loved one is deployed. This blog entry from the Defense Centers of Excellence, “Preparing Your Family for the Holidays Apart,” has some tips for the holidays for the family at home, including:

  • Continue gift exchanges even if family members are apart, as traditions are important.
  • Socialize with your friends and family as usual; don’t isolate yourself.

Family members can even get creative with holiday traditions, such as making holiday ornaments with names of loved ones and/or writing letters to be opened during the holiday season.

Be mindful during the holidays

Stressed out by the holidays? A bit of mindfulness can help.

The holidays can sometimes be a stressful time filled with loved ones and activities. This year, try practicing one of the healthy stress busters you can find on HPRC’s website—by yourself or with your family. For example, give brief meditation a try.

You can even try this as a family: Have someone lead the meditation and give occasional cues. Note that this generally works better with older children!

For more information on strategies for stress, visit the Stress Control section in HPRC’s Mind Tactics domain.

Does your child lose sleep over worries?

School age children are often burdened with a lot of worries; more so if if one parent is deployed. Here's a simple strategy to help worrying minds.

Not being able to quiet your mind at night can be very frustrating— and it’s not just an “adult” problem. If your child has difficulty sleeping because of a restless mind, try setting aside some “worry time” during the day. Help your child create a “worry box” and personalize it through art. Children can write down their worries—each on a separate index card—and deposit the worry in the worry box. Doing this while getting ready for bedtime can be a good way to spend some quality time with your child every night. For more information on sleep strategies, visit HPRC’s Mind Tactics section.

MHS highlights Total Force Fitness

July was the Military Health System’s “Total Fitness Month.” HPRC offers lots of resources to follow up on their recommendations for healthy living.

This past July, the Military Health System focused on promoting Total Force Fitness, giving priority to seven top areas: tobacco-free living, drug-abuse prevention, healthy eating, active living, injury-free and violence-free living, reproductive and sexual health, and mental and emotional well-being. They suggest managing your own health and wellness by making healthy choices between doctor’s visits. For inspirations and ideas that can help, check out HPRC’s ways to:

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has now been launched to answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Visit the OPSS section of HPRC’s website now to learn more!

Activities help kids during times of deployment

Children feel lots of different things while their parent is deployed. There are organizations that can help kids through physical activity, peer mentoring, and other social gatherings.

Having something to keep children’s minds and bodies busy can make time pass faster and give them a sense of pride while their mom or dad is away. There are various organizations to help support children of deployed parents and keep them active and involved in their community. The U.S. Army has Operation Military Kid, which connects families to local resources to achieve a sense of community. Our Military Kids specifically reaches out to dependents of the National Guard, reservists, and active-duty wounded warriors. The Department of Defense has a new campaign, Operation Live Well, which includes resources to keep military children active and resilient during their guardian’s deployments. There are also numerous non-profit organizations that offer programming for military children—check out the National Resource Directory section for children’s programs near you.

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