Five Ways to Keep Your Family Happy and Strong: For Military Families
As a military family, you face a unique set of challenges and stresses; the changes and transitions of military life, long separations, being far away from other family members, and frequent moves are just some of the challenges of military life that require additional support. Here are five key* ways that you can maintain a happy and strong military family.
- Build your social network. It’s important to have people who you can talk to and lean on—not only in good times, but also when you’re facing challenges. Military life provides many opportunities to meet new people, and many military families excel at making new connections. Friends, family members, and neighbors can provide encouragement, offer good parenting advice, and provide help when you need it most.
- If you live close to a military base, connect with your base family support center, your unit’s family resource group, and other base groups and local support networks. Get to know the families in your unit, base housing, and your neighborhood.
- If you live far from a military base, check out your local parent support group or playgroup. Check the bulletin board at your pediatrician’s office, local community center, or search online for groups in your area.
- Smile and say hi. Making a connection with another parent or a new friend can be as simple as being open and engaging him or her with a smile.
- Ask for help. Military families tend to be great at helping each other out in times of need, but the same families who always provide help may struggle to ask for assistance when they themselves are in need. One of the most important ways you can keep your family strong, healthy, and happy is to make sure that you can cover your basic needs, from diapers to daycare. Knowing where to find help—and knowing people who can help you access support—can make this process easier.
- Practice resilience. The stresses of military life can take a toll on even the most resilient families. Managing life’s stressful moments, overcoming challenges, and practicing self-care are all strategies that you can use to build resilience.
- Take time to care for your health and well-being. Exercise, try to eat healthy foods, and take some time to relax. Everyone needs time to recharge. Schedule time for yourself at least once a week, ideally every day.
- Maintain a positive outlook. The responsibilities of military life, transitions, frequent separations, and stressful deployments can drain everyone. Look for the positive in day-to-day military life. Connect with spiritual leaders to recharge your soul and considering volunteering to help others.
- Manage your stress level. Stress can seem like a constant companion for parents who are juggling busy lives, military training, and working both in and outside the home. If you’d like to learn more about how parents can manage stress, see our expert column at onetoughjob.org/your-family/care/ask-the-experts.
- Focus on parenting. The tempo of military life can be overwhelming at times. Remember to save some time to focus on being a parent. Along with learning new skills, using the wisdom you have gained along the way, and tapping into your natural strengths, focusing on parenting will help you raise and nurture healthy and happy children.
- Educate yourself. Subscribe to an online parenting newsletter, read parenting magazines, or attend a parenting class. Learn more about your child’s development at onetoughjob.org/development.
- Reach out to the people in your social networks. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or share your experiences and your struggles as a parent.
- Share your knowledge of parenting with the world. Talk with family and friends about your parenting successes. Don’t be afraid to brag about something you did well or something new that you have learned.
- Being Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines/National Guard/Coast Guard Strong also means showing your children that you love them. Nurturing your children’s social and emotional growth will help them work through any challenges they may face—both now and into their adulthood.
- Listen to your children and encourage them to express their feelings. Respect their feelings and allow them a safe space to talk.
- Help your children solve problems by allowing them to make suggestions and think through difficulties they may encounter.
- Show your love. Small, simple, everyday gestures are the best ways to show your children that you love them. Click here for ten easy ways to show your children that you love them.
*These five keys are based on years of research, study, and practice of the Strengthening Families model of the Center for the Study of Social Policy, and form the basis for our work at The Children’s Trust.
This information was compiled by Rayna Charles, One Tough Job Manager, and reviewed by the Program Staff of The Children’s Trust.