Filed under: Military families
Children benefit from summer camp experiences that enable them to gain skills, build confidence, and learn responsibility. Summer is typically a time for kids to unwind from the rigid schedule the school year can bring. While parents often want their children’s summer to be relaxing, they want it to be educational as well. Summer camp offers both experiences.
At camp, your children can meet new kids and form friendships. This can build their competence in social situations, as they gain experience getting to know new people, asking questions, and sharing their own thoughts and ideas.
Camps can expose children to situations where they can practice leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills too. Whether it’s working together to build a fire or establishing camaraderie on a sports team, children can spend the bulk of their days interacting with peers and exercising decision-making skills. Camps also can help your kids explore what it feels like to take on leadership roles in a group.
The learning component of camps can lead to skill attainment. When they face new adventures and implement newly learned skills, kids’ self-esteem grows. Their confidence blooms when they work through the successes and failures of new experiences as well.
Your children’s time at summer camp also can help them learn responsibility and independence, especially if it’s a sleep-away camp. When kids have to take care of their own belongings and share team responsibilities, they grow as individuals. They also learn about cooperation and how to be self-sufficient.
Kids can learn to appreciate nature through their experiences in summer camp too. Children who spend time in nature develop a deeper sense of gratitude for the outdoors.
With summer around the corner, plan your kids’ summer camp experiences now. The 4-H Military Partnership offers clubs and summer camps for military kids. And check out your local military installation's programs and activities: Make sure to select Youth Program/Centers from the drop-down menu.
As a military spouse, it can be challenging to sustain your career along with your PCS moves. The good news is there are ways to help manage the stress of job searching and cope with setbacks along the way. These tips also can encourage a positive mind-set and help you feel more prepared to meet with potential employers. Consider these strategies to help stay resilient during your job search. Read more...
Military families play an important role in supporting Warfighters. Partners, children, and extended family members can strengthen their service member’s performance optimization by supporting total force fitness. Try these tips to help encourage your Warfighter’s health, well-being, and performance.
- Keep open lines of communication, despite the distance. Contact with family members during deployments helps service members feel supported and less lonely, so they can focus on the mission at hand.
- Be a team. Your family is stronger when you face life’s stresses together. A Warfighter benefits from knowing his or her family is a safe and consistent haven to return to, where—as a team—you’ll make it through tough experiences together.
- Offer helpful feedback. Spouses, significant others, and family members can provide vital feedback that enables thoughtful reflection on their Warfighter’s performance in uniform and at home. Colleagues and acquaintances might notice things that are going well and praise your Warfighter’s performance. Yet Warfighters are likely to depend on their families to help point out struggles or where there’s room for improvement.
- Move more. Physical fitness is critical for your Warfighter’s performance and readiness, and exercise often is a required part of daily activities. Plan time in your family schedule for your Warfighter to get his or her regular exercise. Working out on a regular basis is likely a high priority for Warfighters, and it’s a duty that shouldn’t be overlooked. Exercising as a family can help create an appreciation for the kind of physical fitness your Warfighter’s job requires.
- Fuel up for peak performance. Proper nutrition is vital to your Warfighter and other family members. Weekly meal planning can help ensure that your loved ones are properly fueled every day. Cooking together can bring your family closer and help relieve stress too. If your Warfighter is deployed, consider sending a care package with gum, spices, or favorite healthy snacks. And tell your loved one about favorite meals you’ll prepare upon her or his return!
Making and sustaining friendships is an important part of children’s growth and development. But military kids, who move often, might have to make new friends several times throughout childhood and adolescence. The ability to engage in conversations and openness towards others helps kids develop friendships.
What can you do to help your military kids make new friends?
- Model friendly behaviors such as greeting new people, asking questions to encourage conversation, and treating others with respect. Be open to making new friends yourself when you move to a new location.
- Emphasize the qualities that make someone a good friend. Encourage your kids to share and take turns. Children who are cooperative, helpful, and considerate tend to be more liked by their peers.
- Talk openly about what it means to be someone’s friend. Friends are honest, supportive, and fun to be with. They share common interests and don’t bully or make you feel left out.
- When your kids are younger, organize play dates with kids you think will complement your child’s personality. Before the play date, brainstorm with your child how to spend the time doing fun games and activities your child enjoys that will help build friendship.
- Allow your school-age kids to choose their own friends while passively supervising the interactions.
- Practice conversations your kids could have with new friends. Sharing thoughts and ideas is basic to any relationship, but especially friendships. Get your kids comfortable with telling others what’s on their mind and asking what their peers are thinking.
- Discuss with your kids how to effectively manage through conflicts to sustain their friendships. Encourage them to be assertive and considerate.
Helping your kids make friends can impact them in the short and long term. Acceptance by peers can affect children’s self-esteem. As kids get older, friendships provide a sense of security and an outlet to relieve stress. Having good-quality friendships in childhood has long-term consequences, too. Having few or no friends in childhood has been linked to worse health in adulthood. As a parent, you can guide your kids toward making healthy friendships today.
Posted 03 April 2017
In a new HPRC video, Bob Tewksbury, EdM and a mental skills coach for several major league baseball teams, discusses with Tim Herzog, EdD, how military families can effectively prepare for deployments using aspects of performance psychology. These can help service members and their families prepare mentally for challenges that can arise during deployments. The video highlights how families can benefit from getting in touch with their thoughts and feelings during this time period. According to Mr. Tewksbury, managing through a deployment requires mental toughness and the ability to focus on what you can control.
In a previous HPRC video, Mr. Tewksbury and LTC Craig Jenkins, PhD (a former SOF operational psychologist, now with the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence [USAICoE]), explore how military families can stay connected through deployments and TDYs. This new video (below) continues the conversation to help you learn more about preparing for deployments.
Emotion coaching is a strategy parents can use to teach their kids about healthy emotion expression. During emotion coaching, parents openly discuss and validate the feelings their child expresses. Parents encourage their kids to find ways to calm themselves when a wave of strong emotion hits. Kids whose parents practice emotion coaching have better self-control and fewer behavioral problems.
Parents engage in emotion coaching when you’re actively and purposefully responsive to your child’s emotions. It requires that you be aware of your child’s emotional state. It also challenges you to see emotions as an important part of your child’s experience. During emotion coaching, parents accept those feelings and teach their children how to manage positive and negative emotions. Read more...
While the holidays often are times of joy and celebration, it can be especially hard for those serving away from home. And if you’re unable to be with your loved ones during the holidays, this time of year sometimes can leave you with mixed emotions. Still, take time and enjoy the special family members who bring goodness to your life.
HPRC offers these tips to help you take care of your loved ones and yourself this holiday season—whether you’re at home or abroad. Read more...
Returning home after a deployment can be exciting but stressful. Still, coming home might present even greater challenges, especially when a service member is injured. Explaining an injury—either visible or invisible—to your children can seem overwhelming, but there are ways to help them cope with things.
It’s normal to worry about your children’s reaction to physical or mental injuries. If possible, talk with them about their other parent’s injuries before your family reunites. Children, family dynamics, and injuries are all unique. So, keep these in mind during your talk:
- Use age-appropriate words to describe the other parent’s injury. For example, what you say to your six-year-old is different than what you discuss with your sixteen-year-old.
- Talk about what happened. Be honest when explaining the injury, how it occurred, and any expectations about recovery. Not knowing what’s going on might cause kids to imagine scary, wrong, or bad things.
- Give it time. Everyone responds differently to difficult news. Don’t force things. Be patient with your kids and yourself too. Support your children however they respond. And encourage them to share their feelings and ask questions.
- Be a role model. Children take cues from their parents. If you cope well with your service member’s treatment, your kids are more likely to as well.
- Reassure your children. They’ll want to know that even though their injured parent looks or acts differently, he or she is still the same person who loves and cares about them.
Remember: There’s no perfect explanation you can give your children. What’s most important? Talk, listen, and avoid judging their responses. And visit HPRC’s Returning Home/Reintegration and Post-Deployment sections to learn more.
Divorce often means big changes for a family. When kids are involved, it’s essential to put their needs first and help them feel secure.
Children are less likely to feel stigmatized or “labeled” by their parents’ breakup since divorce is more common and acceptable today. Still, the changes that go along with it often result in some stress and pain for a family. Children might experience sadness, worry, regret, and longing for the family to remain intact. After learning that their parents plan to divorce, most kids go through some short-term behavioral or emotional issues too. However, most adjust well to their new family structure and tend to improve their behavior over the long term. 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.