Filed under: Families
This week we offer some practical strategies to help you to keep the lines of communication open with your teens about deployment and post-deployment reintegration.
Week #3 tips: Maintain open communication with your teenager.
- The most important strategy to use especially with teens is to maintain open communication about concerns, emotions, and questions.
- Encourage your teens and children to speak out about their thoughts and feelings to their loved ones. It not only helps manage their emotions, but it also helps foster closer family relationships.
- Stay close to your teen or child while you are deployed using the technology they love: smartphones, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc.
- Reinforce your teenager’s growing autonomy while you rebuild and maintain your relationship in new and flexible ways. Let your teen choose how much he or she wants to stay in touch; take a hint from how—and how often—they respond to you reaching out.
- You also can encourage your teens and children to create a “scrapbook” of videos, pictures, stories, and relevant events that took place while their parent was deployed so experiences can be shared during and after deployment.
Here are some additional practical strategies and tips you as a parent can use to help your children and teens cope with deployment and the post-deployment reintegration process.
Week #2 tips: Easing deployment and reintegration
- Before deployment: If you’re being deployed, try recording your own audio books so your child can listen to your voice during your deployment. This also will help your child stay connected to you by continuing family routines such as reading before bed.
- During deployment: Depending on their age, kids don’t understand timeframes as well as adults do. If you continue to remind them of future plans during and after the deployed parent’s return, it will help them deal with the separation and reunion.
- Try referring to the deployed parent’s absence as work instead of just saying that he or she is gone. This helps children realize that the absent parent didn’t simply choose to leave them, which could make for a better reunion.
- Before the deployed parent returns, talk about what issues to address when he or she does. And plan activities you can share together.
- Throughout the deployment cycle: Be aware of mental health symptoms for children of all ages. If needed, join your children or teenagers in group counseling; it can be a helpful forum where everyone can discuss experiences, feelings, and thoughts.
Many children and teenagers born and raised in military families learn to adapt to their parent’s deployment and return and become more resilient as a result. However, no family is immune to stress. Learning what strategies work best for your family—and each family member—is important for optimal performance over the long run.
Over the next five weeks, HPRC will suggest some practical strategies that you can use as a parent to help your children and teens to cope with deployment and post-deployment reintegration.
Week #1 tips: Try talking with your child about any phase of deployment.
- Help your children stay in touch with their deployed parent—whether through phone calls, videos, or email. Keeping the absent parent up-to-date with events on the home front helps make the homecoming easier.
- Talk about changes that occur during deployment. If your child doesn’t want to talk, encourage expression through playing or drawing.
- Allow and encourage your children to ask any questions they may have regarding deployment—before, during, and after—and give them open, honest, and age-appropriate answers.
At the U.S. Army Garrison in Kaiserslautern (Germany), the base is trying to find more ways to include families in physical fitness. They are providing classes— called “Binkies and Babes” —that spouses can do with their babies. These classes are great ways for spouses to workout with their young children, socialize with other military families, and get a great individual workout!
Overseas military families can sometimes find it difficult to both exercise and manage child care. This is one way overseas bases are moving towards Total Family Fitness. Renee Champagne, the Fitness Coordinator for the Army bases in Germany (and a military spouse herself), sees how “working out and staying physically fit may help a spouse cope during a deployment… which in turn could provide peace of mind to the military member downrange.”
For more information, see the article and video on Stars and Stripes.
Warfighters have specific physical activity requirements, but their spouses, children, parents, and other loved ones also have physical fitness requirements for their own individual and family missions. HPRC's family section has a new area that summarizes recent guidelines for physical activity for U.S. adults, and children, and identifies military resources, interactive tools, and exercise workouts and videos. Check it out here!
With the holiday season upon us, finding time for our usual workouts can sometimes be difficult. Two great physical fitness resources are the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Each has online workouts that you can try for free.
For a total body workout that you can do at home with free weights, try this total body workout from ACE that includes videos of the warm-up, the workout, and the cool-down. For a total body workout without additional equipment, try this at-home workout.
If you have less time, try this Basic Bodyweight Strength Training Program from ACSM.
Fit in these workouts in at home through the holiday season to keep you on track.
In this final entry in our holiday season series, we remind you to foster a good friendship with your loved ones. Try these ideas:
- Discuss each other's goals and dreams for the future.
- Listen to the your partner talk about the daily things that interest him or her, and share what interests you.
- Do things together that you both enjoy.
Friendship with your partner is an important part of long-term marital satisfaction.
When having a disagreement with your spouse or partner, defusing the situation helps calm things down and helps you and the other person reconnect and repair your relationship. You can defuse most situations by:
- agreeing to disagree;
- bringing humor into the conversation;
- using gentle statements; or
- being intimate.
Sometimes what works in one conflict doesn’t work in another. Be flexible and see what works—make the effort to use one or more of these techniques in every disagreement.
Last week we started a series on survival tips for couples during the holiday season and discussed how many positive interactions couples need to do to make up for one negative interaction. This week, we're focusing on the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”—a term coined by researchers for four features of communication that can destroy a relationship over time. Try to avoid these when communicating with your loved one:
- Criticism: Don’t made global negative statements about each other.
- Contempt: Don’t be sarcastic (in a mean way) or mocking towards your loved one.
- Defensiveness: Don’t respond to defend your behavior without first listening.
- Stonewalling: Don’t withdraw or ignore your loved one.
Too much of these characteristics has been linked to unhappy relationships over the long term. As stress and tensions rise throughout this holiday season, remember to be vigilant about avoiding these four kinds of behavior.
Research on couples relationships over time has found that around 70% of problems among couples remain the same throughout the relationship, which means that only about 30% of problems can be resolved. Therefore, learning how to work on the problems that can be resolved and engaging in an ongoing discussion around perpetual problems is the key to happy long-term relationships. Recognizing that the perpetual problems are not going to be directly overcome can help couples be less frustrated at their partner for issues that just cannot be resolved. Therefore, learning to live with the perpetual problem, and talking to your loved one about it as needed, can help ease couples relationships in the long run.
For more information on how to optimize your relationships, see HPRC's Relationship Skills section.