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Filed under: Military families

Fostering children’s shut-eye

Sleep needs depend on age. Children need more than adults, but the amount depends on age. Find out how much your child needs and how to make sure he or she gets it.

Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a day, but do you know how much sleep your children should be getting? Pre-school children (ages 3-5) need 11–12 hours a day, school-age children (ages 5-12) need at least 10 hours a day, and teens (ages 13–18) need 9–10 hours a day. But many children and teens are not getting the recommended amounts. For example, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights how almost 70% of teens are not getting the sleep they need.

Don’t know how much sleep your child is getting? Keep a sleep diary to track his/her sleep for two weeks.

Not sure how to help your child get the best sleep possible? Try the following tips. (They’re great for adults, too.)

Make sure your child has a consistent sleep schedule, including a consistent bedtime.

Provide the same quiet, dark bedroom environment for your child every night.

Help your child or teen have a relaxing bedtime routine that helps them prepare for sleep.

Avoid stimulation near bedtime. That means no sodas or other drinks with caffeine* and no TVs or computers in the bedroom.

Exposure to daylight helps set up a sleep rhythm, so make sure your child spends some time outside every day.

Turn the lights down to help your children wind down about an hour before bed and avoid using TVs or computers during this time as well.

Provide a low-stress family environment. Read HPRC’s “Family relationships affect your child’s sleep” for more information.

* Some experts recommend not giving children any caffeine, but if your child or teen does consume some, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children should not exceed 2.5 mg/kg per day and teens should not exceed 100 mg/day. 

Fuel your adolescent athlete for optimal performance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships, Nutrition
Fall sports are under way for many adolescent athletes. Help your teen gain the edge by knowing what he or she should eat and drink.

Fall sports are under way for many adolescent athletes, making it important for teens to know what and when to eat and drink to be at their best. HPRC has created a resource—“Fueling the Adolescent Athlete”—to help your adolescent athlete fuel his or her body for optimal performance. This table provides general guidelines for what teens need to drink and eat before, during, and after practice or workouts.

Staying hydrated goes hand in hand with peak performance. But knowing whether you are hydrated can be difficult. Check out this urine color card from the U.S. Army Public Health Command to get an idea of what to watch out for. And see if your child’s school has the chart posted in the locker rooms and nurse’s office.

For more adolescent and family nutrition information, check out HPRC’s Nutrition section.

Family rituals matter

Rituals can enhance your performance as an athlete, Warfighter, and family member.

Athletes have rituals they engage in to ensure their best performance. Warfighters have rituals around paroling, shooting, and other mission-specific tasks to create the right mindset for the situation. Families can benefit from rituals too.

Consider the types of rituals your family typically engages in. There are probably more than you think. Celebrating holidays, personal traditions such as pancakes on Saturday mornings or memorializing the death of a loved one, and simple everyday acts such as bedtime stories or morning tea are all rituals.

When a couple comes together and starts a family, each person brings along his/her own rituals. Consider it an opportunity to build something new together—a blending of histories. For example, let’s say you grew up celebrating Christmas with your family, but your partner’s family celebrated Hanukah. As a couple you can take the rituals that are meaningful to each of you personally and celebrate all of them to create a new combined holiday tradition for your own family.

Rituals certainly can help your own performance, but they also help deepen bonds and create a distinct family identity that can be supportive in both happy and stressful times.

Happy Father’s Day!

HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships
HPRC salutes Father’s Day with special recognition of the many fathers out there who honorably serve their country, their family, their children, and themselves.

HPRC salutes Father’s Day with special recognition of the many fathers out there who honorably serve their country, their family, their children, and themselves. Thanks for all you do! HPRC works to help keep all men—current fathers, future fathers, and sons of fathers—healthy, happy, and fit so that every day can feel like Father’s Day!

How to reconnect with your child after deployment

When you return from deployment, keep in mind your child’s current developmental needs and use these tips to help you reconnect.

Reconnecting with your family when you return from deployment presents unique challenges, especially with young children. Depending on how long you were deployed—a few months to a year or more—a lot could have happened in your child’s life while you were away. If you’re finding it hard to reconnect with your child, you’re not alone. Military Parenting’s website has tip sheets that describe typical behaviors for different stages: infant, toddler, preschooler, school-aged, and teen. Just knowing what’s typical for you child’s age can help you reestablish your relationship.

Reconnection can occur in small, everyday moments when you respond to your children’s needs and provide them with support and nurturing, such as holding them when they cry, playing games or sports together, being silly and laughing, taking a walk together, or eating dinner together and talking about your day.

For more tips on reconnecting, check out “Reestablishing Your Parental Role,” also from Military Parenting, a website devoted to parenting resources for Warfighters. For more tips on returning home, check out “Building Family Resilience...During and Following Deployment.”

Appreciate your spouse this month...and always

Write a “gratitude letter” this month to show your spouse you appreciate all he or she does.

The daily grind can make it easy to forget to tell your spouse how much you appreciate him or her. This month, focus on showing your partner how much he or she means to you. There are many ways to show appreciation. One way is to write a “gratitude letter” in which you tell your partner in writing how his or her actions have affected your life in a positive way. Describe all the little things that you appreciate—from kindness toward others to making you a special dinner. Try to be specific so that he or she knows you put a lot of thought into it. And try not to expect something in return. The essence of gratitude is to give without expecting something in return.

For more ideas on fostering gratitude, read “Just the Facts: Resilience—Gratitude” from afterdeployment.org.

Create meaning out of your experiences

Creating a shared understanding of challenging experiences is an important resilience-building skill for families.

One key resilience-building skill for military families is to create meaning from experiences. And as a family, you can share your understanding of challenging experiences or situations by having each family member explain his or her experience and perspective of a particular event. The event can be a specific situation or a period of time, such as the time when a family member was deployed. Together, your family can create a “picture” of the experience. Be creative! This can be with talk or with art or both.

Parents and other caregivers are essential to help children make sense of upsetting and/or challenging experiences. In addition, spouses can feel distant from each other due to their differing experiences, so creating a shared understanding can help bridge the divide. The process of creating a common understanding of a challenging event can help family members bond, understand the past better, and look to the future with more hope.

This is one of the resilience-building skills taught in the Families Overcoming Under Stress (FOCUS) program. To learn more about FOCUS (and their online resources) check out FOCUS World.

A 30-day challenge for families!

Challenge your family to 30 days of relationship strengthening activities with FOCUS’s calendar of activities.

Having a resilient family isn’t something that just happens—it takes some effort. You can develop and improve your family’s resiliency by honing the skills you already have and developing new ones as needed. To give you a jump start, try doing 30 days of activities that will improve your relationships. The Families Overcoming Under Stress (FOCUS) resiliency program created a calendar of events you can do with your children that covers an entire month. Each activity teaches a skill that will strengthen your family over time. They highlight activities such as family fun nights and family meetings and teach skills such as deep breathing, goal setting, communication, and self-care. They also have many activities specifically for military families and children.

To learn other family-strengthening skills and activities, check out HPRC’s Rock Solid Families section.

Stress: Learn to deal with it together

When dealing with stress, manage the source of the stress as well as the stressful feelings.

Think of stress as a balance scale. All the situations you find stressful are heaped up on one side. How you deal with them is on the other side. The trick is learning to balance the two sides (or even better, having your coping resources outweigh the causes of your stress).

Everyone feels overloaded at times, when stress seems too much to handle. This can be compounded with multiple family demands—from finances, children’s needs, managing work and family demands, and fostering your relationships. Here are two suggestions to help you find balance:

  • Find out what practical needs are causing your stress and come up with possible ways to address them using HPRC's problem-solving tips. For example, you know that you need seven to eight hours of sleep a night, but you and your partner seem to manage only five hours or so. So discuss possible solutions with your partner. For example, set a bedtime and stick to it no matter what chores aren’t done; put the kids to bed at an earlier time; create a wind-down routine 30 minutes before bedtime in order to get that eight hours—and stick to it! Then pick one of these possible solutions, try it out for a week, and then re-assess. If it doesn’t work, pick another; or if it does work, maybe tweak it a little to make it even better.
  • Once you have plans to deal with the sources of your stress, then you can focus on managing your stressful feelings. There’s no need to continue feeling stressed out while you put your plan into action. Try some of the “behavioral strategies” in HPRC’s Managing Emotions that you can do anywhere with minimum fuss, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or other relaxation strategies. You can even teach them your children and do them together as a family. Learn how in “Calming & Grounding Activities” from the FOCUS Family Resiliency Training Manual, which describes several shared activities.

And check out HPRC’s Mind-Body Skills section for resources that are geared more for you as an individual.

First steps to a financially fit force

Saving money can be difficult but with some planning, it is possible to turn $200 a month into $2400 in a year in savings.

A lot of money-saving challenges have been sprouting up all over the web. These savings challenges may seem like one-size-fits-all easy-savings plans, but can they really help Warfighters save money?

As for most for financial questions, the answer is “it depends.” For some, using one of these challenges can be a fun, easy way to set aside additional savings, but for others it could be a futile attempt ending in frustration. Problems arise when the lofty savings goals touted by such plans just don’t fit your lifestyle.

So what then? Should you give up and do nothing? No! Have a savings goal, but make sure it’s one tailored to your own financial abilities. Start with an understanding of what you can save, and be realistic about your savings goals and how they can fit into your life. If $200 a month is too much, then don’t aim to save $2400 by the end of the year.

If you decide you can save $1400 a year, that averages out to be $26.50 per week, or about the cost of two pizzas. Maybe you can save more some weeks than others. If so, then just keep track of what you’ve saved. As long as you average about $115 per month, you can reach your goal of $1400 by the end of the year. If you start to see that your goal was too ambitious, don’t be afraid to adjust it instead of being disappointed at the end of the year or, worse, giving up.

For more information, visit Military OneSource’s “How to Save” web page.

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