Filed under: Family
Family meetings are important for maintaining communication and cohesive relationships with your loved ones. The environment in which you hold these meetings is just as important as what you talk about. Creating a safe, comfortable, and productive space will help your family get the most out of your meeting times. Just like office meetings, everyone should pay attention, stay involved, feel included, and be respectful too. Before you call your next family meeting, consider these tips to set up a productive meeting space.
- Minimize distractions and ban devices. While some people think they’re good at multitasking, research suggests otherwise. So, turn the TV and other devices off. That includes phones, tablets, and video games. This will help ensure that everyone is focused on the issues at hand.
- Set a comfortable room temperature. A room that’s too hot or too cold can be a distraction. And it can take away from the focus of your meeting.
- Make sure everyone has eaten. It’s difficult to focus when your stomach is growling. Hold family meetings after mealtimes or eat snacks beforehand, so your loved ones don’t get hungry when it’s time to talk.
- Set up effective seating arrangements. Make sure that everyone has “a seat at the table.” Everyone should be visible—not sitting off in a corner or behind other family members. This will help ensure that people are engaged and involved in your conversations.
It might take a few tries to figure out the best environment for your family meetings. Still, be flexible and open to trying new things to get the most out of your time together.
Caregivers are a pillar of strength for Warfighters who struggle with trauma, illness, or injury, but caring can come at a cost. Perhaps as many as 1 million spouses, siblings, parents, and friends are former or current caregivers for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans alone. Military caregivers serve a critical role—from managing day-to-day activities, to being a legal advocate, to helping navigate a complex health system—all the while juggling career and family responsibilities. If you’re a caregiver, here are a few ways to build and maintain your resilience:
- Grow a robust support network. Just because others rely on you doesn’t mean you don’t need your own support system. The kinds of support most helpful for caregivers include sources of medical information, training opportunities, and networking with other caregivers. Within your family, be sure to regularly strengthen ties with each other and find opportunities to experience positive emotions.
- Set collective goals. Caregivers often abandon their own personal goals and aspirations to care for others and feel guilty when doing things for themselves. Creating shared goals that you can reach for together can shift the perception from caregiver and care-receiver to a partnership. Overcoming obstacles in areas outside of recovery can increase teamwork and boost morale and motivation.
- Embrace the suck. Cultivating optimism offers many benefits in the recovery process, but unrealistic optimism can impede effective problem solving and lead to feeling disappointed. It also can feel oppressive having to “always be positive” on days when nothing seems to be working. When you have bad days, practice acceptance and compassion. Suffering makes way for meaning, and if today isn’t a good day, reflect on what you might learn from it, and let it go.
Caregivers enable Warfighter resilience, but they often need to bolster their own ability to bounce back. You also can try these other helpful tips for caregivers. November is Warrior Care Month. For more information, visit the Office of Warrior Care Policy.
Siblings provide companionship throughout your life if you maintain a connection, especially during your deployment. If you have a brother or sister, your relationship with your sibling(s) can be supportive and satisfying as you age.
Sibling connections are unique in that they often are your longest, enduring relationships. Sibling ties also are involuntary: You don’t get to choose your brothers or sisters. And as a child, whether or not you realized it, your siblings influenced how you socialized with others, your vocabulary, and how you managed conflict.
As you grow older, sibling relationships can change along with the life events you experience. Particularly between the ages of 18 and 25, when siblings often move away from home, the involuntary nature of the relationship shifts to one that might be worthwhile. Older siblings who move away might leave their younger siblings feeling a sense of loss in their absence, perhaps as they head off to boot camp or basic training. It’s normal for these close-knit connections to dip in early adulthood as you live on your own, start a career, and form new relationships.
Yet most sibling relationships stabilize into adulthood—and that’s good for your health! A supportive, affectionate relationship with your sibling can boost happiness and self-esteem and decrease loneliness. It can protect you from developing depression during stressful life events too.
No matter how far apart you live from your sisters or brothers, a strong sibling relationship is still possible. So, stay in touch with your siblings during your deployment and otherwise.
As summer vacation comes to an end, the transition back to school is just around the corner. Now’s the time to review the ABCs of a Total Family Fitness transition back to school: Awareness, Bedtime, Calmness, Diet, and Exercise. This is your chance to lay a foundation for your family’s healthy habits throughout the school year. HPRC's Total Family Fitness approach focuses on the health, wellness, and resilience of your family. It can help optimize and strengthen your family’s performance by integrating strategies that impact their mind, body, relationships, and environment—many of the same strategies used in the Total Force Fitness model for Warfighters. Read more...
Plan some indoor and outdoor adventures with your kids this summer and enjoy free admission to national parks and museums across the country. Hiking, camping, and learning activities are good for their minds and bodies.
The amount of time children spend outdoors is steadily decreasing. Kids now spend more time inside—staring at screens—and less time outside. Your feelings about outdoor recreation likely impact how much time your kids spend outside too. Still, children who camp and hike tend to have more positive attitudes towards nature and the environment. Those who enjoy the outdoors tend to enjoy it as adults too.
Kids get more exercise at parks and playgrounds. So, shake things up by taking them to any national park: Free annual passes are available to current U.S. service members and their families, as well as Reserve and National Guard members.
Military families also can enjoy free admission to over 2,000 nature centers and art, science, history, and children’s museums through Labor Day. Museums encourage active learning and impact kids’ social and mental development. Little ones especially enjoy hands-on activities, interactive exhibits, and new learning experiences with their parents at children’s museums. And it keeps them on the go.
More teen driving accidents happen during the summer because school is out and teens are driving more—and some are driving while distracted. If the summer sun’s shining and your teen’s asking for the car keys, hand them over cautiously. And do this only after demonstrating safe driving and discussing the danger of driving while distracted.
During the summer months, it’s estimated that 10 people will die each day as a result of accidents involving teen drivers. Distracted driving often leads to crashes. This is especially true for teens distracted by their cell phones, passengers, and other things inside their cars. Anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or even mind away from driving is a distraction: Texting and using a cell phone often involves all three.
Distractions impair teens’ driving performance (regardless of their attention spans), reduce safe driving practices, and disrupt traffic flow. If your teen’s friends text and drive—and don’t see a problem with it—your teen is likely to think it’s acceptable and normal.
Discussing the dangers of distracted driving with your teen is an important first step towards prevention. And demonstrating safe, distraction-free driving yourself is key. Teens tend to think their parents are distracted while driving, sometimes more than parents realize.
As a parent, make sure to wear your seat belt, put away your phone, and concentrate on the road. Set driving rules for your teen too (for example, silencing his or her cell phone and putting it away when driving). Review the rules often, and enforce consequences when they’re broken. And ask your teen to sign the pledge, promising to be a safe, distraction-free driver.
Creating shared meanings about events, especially adversities, is a trait of strong, resilient families. So what’s the story you tell your kids about Independence Day? What meaning do you attribute to this holiday? And how might this meaning link to your own personal philosophies about life?
Do you tell your kids a story of overcoming oppression? Fighting for freedom? Is it a story about justice? Or perhaps one about taking risks? Is it about uniting behind a common goal? Or maybe it’s about creating something new? Perhaps it’s a story about everyone being able to pursue his or her own happiness?
Families develop and share common understandings about events that grow from their strong beliefs. Especially in times of stress, shared family beliefs and the meaning families attribute to their struggle can impact how well a family copes. The stories told within families create a family culture and cohesion. It also becomes part of how families assess challenges.
As a parent, you can strongly impact your children’s beliefs and nurture joint understandings. Faced with a new situation, your kids look to you to help them make sense of what they don’t understand. They’re likely to mimic your physical reactions too.
You can create meaning through your own life experiences as well as the explanations you attribute to events and circumstances. The meaning you pass on to your kids comes from your own personal philosophy, morals, and impressions of the world, yourself, friends, and family.
This 4th of July, think about how you frame the story of Independence Day and what that tells your kids about their country and perhaps about their own family.
A mom with the right mindset feels that she can “get things done” and be a good parent, which impacts more than her to-do list. It can affect her satisfaction with family relationships and work-life balance too. The good news is that about half of younger moms (between the ages of 18 and 34) feel they’re very good at parenting. This is true if you’re married, living with a partner, or single-parenting—whether working inside or outside the home. Yet this means nearly half of younger moms feel less confident about their parenting skills.
Why does a mother’s confidence matter? Self-assured moms feel less overwhelmed when managing multiple responsibilities. And they can feel less stressed. Confident moms feel happier and pleased with their family relationships overall. Many experience greater satisfaction with their partners too.
Moms who work outside the home often juggle household tasks along with their job responsibilities. What helps them feel confident in their ability to accomplish everything? Those who are comfortable with their childcare decisions feel more effective at work. Good relationships with a supportive partner and encouraging supervisor also help keep your work-life balance in check. And when you feel confident at work, you feel capable of managing work and family needs—successfully and simultaneously.
Confidence is a mindset that needs nurturing. If you waver in your confidence as a mother, you might’ve fallen into a thinking trap—and you’ll need to work your way out. Take the Parenting Confidence Assessment to see where you stand. Parenting alone during your partner’s deployment? Check out Military OneSource for helpful tips and resources.
Mother’s Day is set aside to honor mothers, but for service members who can’t celebrate with their moms or who can’t take time to celebrate being a mom, it can be hard. But still do your best to take time and recognize the special moms in your life.
- Show your appreciation with a handwritten note or ecard. If you’re feeling creative, make a card from scratch—just like you did as a kid—and drop it in the mail.
- Enjoy a physical activity together. Go walking, running, biking, hiking, or do yoga. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, together or apart, can help you both enjoy Mother’s Day in the future too.
- Nourish your mom with healthy treats or a homemade meal. And consider inviting a mom who doesn’t have family nearby. Good food and conversation can make her day special too.
If you can’t be with your mom, then schedule a time to talk or video chat. Let her know how much you cherish your relationship. And ask any questions you might have wondered about, such as:
- How are we alike or different?
- What did you really think when I joined the military (or married someone in the military)?
- Is it easier being a mother now that your kids are grown?
- What do you hope the next few years will bring for our family?
If you’re feeling some sadness or anxiety, make a point to manage your stress. “Perfect” moms and/or children could evoke stress, even if you love them dearly. Consider mindfulness or other ways to cope, and make the best of this day.
Happy Mother’s Day to all military moms—service members, spouses, and mothers of service members!
This spring, create a “family tree of health” by collecting your family medical history. The information you gather might help you to take steps to manage health conditions that run in your family.
Record the health information of at least 3 generations in your family, including children, siblings, parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles and their children. Collecting your family medical history is a way to find clues about any medical conditions that might run in your family. Share the information with your doctor to help her/him see patterns that could affect you. If your family members have medical issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, and diabetes, you might be at increased risk for these conditions. Then your doctor can recommend lifestyle changes and/or treatments to reduce the chances a medical condition will become a problem.
So, get asking! And write down the answers. Ask your family members about their chronic conditions. Ask if they’ve had any serious illnesses such as cancer or stroke and when they developed. Also ask about problems with pregnancy or childbirth. If you’re missing some important information, consider searching for obituaries or death certificates of relatives who are no longer with you.
My Family Health Portrait is an online tool where you can enter your family’s health history, print it to share with family members and healthcare providers, and save the information so you can update it over time. Collecting your family medical history will not only benefit your own health, but also the health of generations of your family to come!