Filed under: Military families
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.
The holidays can sometimes be a difficult time for relationships. Through this holiday season, remember to compliment your loved ones and show them on a daily basis that you care for them. are thinking of them, and love them. Couples who do five positive actions for every negative one are more likely to have long, happy, successful marriages. Contrastingly, unhappy couples are more likely to have one positive interaction—or even less—for every negative interaction.
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.
Once the initial excitement of returning home wears off, getting back into the family routine after deployment can often be difficult. Teenagers, who already have a lot of changes to worry about, can sometimes have a difficult time accepting the return of a family member from deployment. As the returning parent, you can do several things to help ease the transition back home:
- Let your teen know that you are sad to have missed important events in his or her life.
- Ask questions about what is going on in his or her life. Make an effort to get to know his or her friends.
- Finally, be sure to listen when he or she tells you about his or her feelings.
Taking these steps will allow your teen to open up to you and eventually will strengthen your relationship. For more tips, visit Real Warriors.
Strong sibling relationships are tied to good mental and emotional states, and more. A study by the University of Southern California shows that siblings appear to be deeply affected when a brother or sister decides to enlist in the military. While research shows that people in war-zone environments experience many sources of stress, the same sources of stress can in fact help bring family members closer together. As the sibling to a service member, it is important not only to accept the decision your brother or sister has made, but also to provide support—because it truly helps!
Distractions are a great way to help reduce stress, as they allow a child or teen to take his or her mind off of deployment—to a point. A great idea for parents is to provide plenty of opportunities for social activities (i.e., sports, clubs, etc.). Many of the sources of stress from a deployment have no ready solution, so distractions can be helpful. Providing events that families can partake in together (i.e., bowling, arts and crafts, etc.) are a great way to bring families together. Research shows that the most common forms of adolescent distractions are reading, drawing, playing computer games, listening to music, and playing with pets.
Caring for elderly parents, even in the best of situations, can be difficult for anyone. But it can be even more of a challenge for military service members. Trying to make long-term care and emergency decisions for elderly parents while simultaneously carrying a great deal of responsibility at work can cause a lot of worry. Military service members are also often deployed overseas, far away from their aging parents, which makes it more difficult to monitor their parents’ well-being. As parents age, they may need assistance with daily activities such as home maintenance, personal hygiene, and meals. And if a medical emergency occurs without a contingency plan in place, it adds to the burden of guilt and anxiety over what could happen in the service member’s absence.
A service member’s worry increases as the age of his parents increases, according to a study of senior-ranking male officers aged 40-49, especially if the parents have had any prior illnesses. The uneasiness of a service member decreased if he had other siblings and a solid parent-care plan in place.
Here are some preemptive steps that a service member can take to make sure his or her parents are well cared for, even from a different continent:
- Research what community and government resources are available for information and support services in your parents’ neighborhood.
- Ask siblings, extended family members, neighbors, and friends to help with your parent-care responsibilities.
- Schedule regular phone calls or Skype chats for updates on your parents’ health.
- Develop a care plan together with your parents before a medical emergency occurs.
With so many people counting on you, it is important to be organized, mentally solid, and in control of every situation no matter what happens. Strategic planning and communication can make all the difference in caring for your elderly parents from afar and help you maintain performance while dealing with additional stress loads. For more information on caregiver support and eldercare, please visit the National Resource Directory and the Armed Forces Crossroads.
Throughout the duration of a deployment, communication with children is extremely important. Parents sometimes are unsure how much information they should communicate to their children, with good reason: research shows that too much information can be overwhelming and stressful for children. Operation R.E.A.D.Y. provides an interactive booklet that helps you explain the deployment process to your children. It’s important for a non-deployed parent to provide updates with regards to the deployment process, but it’s also okay to leave out some details.
As a non-deployed parent, taking care of yourself is important. Taking time just for you has been linked to better parenting, healthier lifestyles, and greater satisfaction with life overall. Also, parental can model healthy ways to manage and cope with stress that effectively decrease children's worry, as they sometimes express concern over their parents’ health and support. Real Warriors suggests scheduling time to relax with a book, do gardening, or practice yoga. Volunteering at a local charity is also a great way to provide both personal satisfaction and connection to community.
“Capitalization” refers to the process by which people share good news with one another. Studies have shown that responding to good news with support and enthusiasm helps build a stronger relationship between two individuals. Using capitalization with your loved ones can not only strengthen your relationship, but also can ease the transition for returning Warfighters and their loved ones.