Filed under: Military families
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.
This Father’s Day, HPRC salutes the many fathers who serve their country, families, and children. Dads play an essential role in families because they teach their kids about being healthy, smart, and kind. And it makes a difference.
So how do fathers teach their kids to become good people? Some dads help their children tune in to their own emotions as well as what others are thinking and feeling. Empathic kids are able to tolerate some degree of anger and guilt. And they use these emotions to look out for themselves and others.
School-age children with involved fathers are more likely to earn better grades and enjoy school. Dads can get more involved by helping their kids with homework and attending school events. Ask your kids about what they’re learning and help foster that curiosity.
Try to volunteer when your schedule allows it too. Coach your child’s sports team or serve as a scout leader. Pick whatever activity he or she enjoys—and your athlete or “mathlete” will shine.
Dads also can help put the fun in family fitness. Organize a bike ride, challenging hike, or fun day at the pool. Fathers with healthy-exercise habits help motivate their kids to be physically fit and active.
Remember to teach your children how to fuel their bodies. Set a good example for your kids to follow. Choose healthy snacks and drinks often because your kids are likely to eat and drink “what Dad’s having.” And ask them to help create your favorite salsa, pancakes, and chili in the kitchen. Make sure to involve the entire family during cleanup too.
Fathers near and far: Thanks for all you do!
When there’s consensus among family members about your military service, life is much easier. It’s normal for loved ones to have differing views about service and/or levels of commitment over time. But when there’s a big difference, some families might feel an extra burden of stress or sadness. Here are some tips to help build a bridge to family harmony. Read more here.
The military lifestyle can sometimes make parenting especially challenging, but there’s a website designed to help active-duty military and veteran parents. It’s a joint project between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Center for Telehealth and Technology. The website offers a free parenting course and additional resources, including tip sheets and videos. There’s an opportunity to provide feedback on the parenting course too.
Course topics and other resources include:
- Communicating with your child
- Helping your child manage emotions and behaviors
- Taking a positive approach to discipline
- Managing your own stress and emotions
- Talking about deployment
Have you decided to separate from the military? If your estimated time of separation (ETS) date has arrived, you’ve probably checked off your long to-do list and officially become a veteran. This can be an exciting and emotional time. Regardless of your reason for separating, this is a time of transition for your entire family. Here are some tips for easing your path to civilian life. Read more here.
We all want to serve healthy, nourishing food to our families. But sometimes we let our best intentions get in the way. You wouldn’t head into the woods without a plan, map, or GPS—so why begin your day with little thought about eating well? Start this year off right by learning and putting these easy meal-planning practices into place. Once you’ve established these habits, you’ll be amazed at how good it feels to map out your meals. The more you practice HPRC’s strategies—the faster and fitter you’ll be—a huge savings to your body, time, and wallet. Read more here.
Identity theft can completely disrupt your life and ruin your credit history if you don’t catch it quickly, so learn what you need to do. So, what is identity theft? It’s a serious crime in which someone assumes your identity by using your personal information or property—typically your Social Security number or credit cards—without your permission. There are three basic types of identity theft:
- Unauthorized or attempted use of existing credit cards
- Unauthorized or attempted use of existing checking accounts
- Unauthorized or attempted use of personal information to obtain credit cards, accounts, or loans or to commit other crimes
If your home is unoccupied for an extended time, it may be a goldmine for thieves to dig through trashcans, dumpsters, or storage areas for documents with useful pieces of information. Even if you’re home, it could be as easy as stealing a credit card from your mailbox or wallet.
When you’re getting ready for deployment, you can place an active duty alert on your credit reports that lasts for one calendar year. For more information about protecting your credit, review the Federal Trade Commission pamphlet Identity Theft – Military Personnel & Families. If it’s too late for prevention, visit FTC’s Identity Theft web page for information about how to recover.
Deployment and other military-related separations can be tough on families, but many families can (and do) learn how to adapt to them. The regular rounds of separations that come with military life require constant adaptation. Naturally, when a partner is away from the family for a certain period of time (such as during deployment or training), those at home have to shift their roles and responsibilities to cover for the person who’s away, especially with regard to childcare. When the service member returns home, then the family must shift roles again. These “accordion families” continuously contract and expand as members of the family are physically present or absent. Some families handle this smoothly, but others find it to be one additional hurdle to overcome again and again.
There are two important things you can do to help manage these repeat transitions:
- Work on everyone in the family communicating well.
- Try to stay as emotionally connected as you can while apart.
Of course, these tips are easier said than done. Think about how you usually handle separations: Do you emotionally distance yourself from your partner? Do you become more “needy”? How does your partner respond? Do you both do the same things, or do you have opposing emotional needs when apart? If you have children, how do your children respond?
If you have different emotional needs, this can create instant conflict and feelings of distance. One way around this is to talk about what you each need, figure out where there’s common ground, and make a game plan that can fulfill each person’s needs as much as possible while at home and when apart.
You can use the strategy on HPRC's card on communication skills to help better navigate these kinds of conversations. Plus, remember to not fall prey to these common thinking traps that create misunderstandings in relationships.
Want to see your children equipped to persevere in the face of challenges? To instill “grit” in your kids, the trick is challenging with care, not just pushing harder.
Here are some tips to help your children develop grit:
- Praise your children for working hard and using their talents, not for already having talent. Calling them “gifted” or “talented” doesn’t help if these labels become an excuse not to work hard.
- Reward commitment by giving your children more chances to develop their interests. For example, if your child is always painting, try to encourage it by sending him or her to art camp.
- Big goals usually require a lot of sustained effort for a child—more like a marathon than a sprint. Encourage persistence with words such as “Hang in there!” or “You can do it!” But remember that children have a much shorter attention span than adults.
- Teach your children that failures and setbacks are an essential part of learning. Remind them that excellence comes from both triumphs and mistakes.
- Give your children some space to become independent, so they can be self-reliant and self-motivated and learn from their own choices.
Grit doesn’t develop overnight. It takes time. But remember that children are children and need lots of free time and play time to develop optimally. For more insight into specific parenting styles, check out HPRC’s article about how to be a warm leader, not a drill sergeant.
Tired of having family members “push your buttons” or inadvertently pushing theirs? You’ll be glad to learn it’s something you can fix. How you relate to people as an adult is shaped by the relationships you had early in life. It’s easy to get drawn into old patterns with family members. But there are some things you can do to stop taking the bait and stop putting bait out there for your loved ones to take.
For example, an old rivalry can re-emerge between siblings, even if you don’t do this with any one else in your adult life. Or it can feel like you’ve gone back in time, and you’re an adolescent again rebelling against your parent. Keep these old patterns in mind, because they can creep into your present.
Here are some tips to avoid reliving familiar conflicts or other unpleasant interactions:
- Don’t put out bait: You can’t control other people’s behavior, but you can control yours. Be aware of what you feel drawn to do, and stop yourself if you know your next move might cause friction (such as calling someone a name, or more subtle moves).
- Don’t take bait: Others will (consciously or unconsciously) do things that trigger your emotions (such as a snarky comment or an overly long story). Slow down and take a breath rather than responding out of impulse.
- Assume good intentions: When you feel baited, assume that the other person isn’t intentionally triggering you and that he/she means well. Even if this is untrue, your different style of interacting with him or her can help break the pattern. And it could even start a new, more positive dynamic!