Parenting Advice for Military Families

by | Nov 9, 2021 | Blog

Thursday is Veteran’s Day, when we honor all the brave men and women who have served our country. In addition, all of November is Military Family Appreciation Month, when families are recognized for their commitment and contributions in support of our military and nation.

Our country is facing one of the most challenging times in our history, as the pandemic continues to impact our children, who are experiencing uncertainty, anxiety and depression.

Sadly, some children are dealing with the grief of having lost parents, grandparents or other beloved family members.

For military families, these worries and losses are compounded by unique challenges. Children in these families often must deal with lengthy separations from their parents—difficult on their own, but add to that the fear that a loved one may not come home, and it’s clear why these kids are under enormous stress and experiencing heightened anxiety and depression.

Plus, military families relocate 10 times more often than civilian families—on average, every two or three years, so children face separation not only from their parents, but from their friends.

Not surprising, studies show that one third of school-age military children show behaviors such as being anxious, worrying often and crying more frequently.

Below are 20 tips from Military One Source to help military families stay strong:

TIP 1: Up your play time

Take just 15 minutes a day to play one-on-one with your child doing what he or she wants. Engaging in positive activities together reduces the need for negative discipline.

TIP 2: Speak up about your love

Let the children in your life know how much you appreciate and care for them. All children deserve to have someone who encourages them and loves them unconditionally.

TIP 3: Link up with a strong social network

Up your resilience by connecting with people who support you and make you feel good – friends, family, neighbors, religious groups, playgroups and parent groups that support families. Be sure to reach out to your installation’s Military and Family Support Center for local activities and support offerings.

TIP 4: Power up parenting. Put down the phone.

Children learn more and feel more secure when you spend unplugged, face-to-face time together. Plus, they need your attention to keep them safe. Distracted parenting is linked to an increase in injuries and accidents at home. Learn more about keeping your children safe by being actively present with them.

TIP 5: Stress up? Calm down

Too much stress makes it hard to be an effective parent. Learning how to manage stress can improve your happiness and provides a model for children to manage their own stress. Military OneSource offers stress release tips and recommended wellness apps to help cope with stress management. Reach out to your local Military and Family Support Center to find out about their available stress management classes.

TIP 6: Cuddle up to your baby

Bonding with your baby is vital. The attention you give now will last forever and help your baby grow into a healthy and happy child and adult. Check out easy ways to bond with your baby and contact your local New Parent Support Program.

TIP 7: Study up on safe sleeping

Do you know the rules for keeping a baby safe during sleep time? Babies should sleep on their backs in a safety crib and dressed in sleep clothing with no blankets or pillows. Get more information about how to create safe sleeping environments for infants.

TIP 8: Talk it up with your teen

Respect, talk and engage with your teen as much as you can. Doing things together, face-to-face time at dinner, showing affection and interest – all these can help keep teens safe and healthy. Get more ideas for positive parenting your teen. Military OneSource also offers health and wellness coaching for teens.

TIP 9: Sign up your kids for fun

The military has many recreational opportunities, camps and more for youth and teens – through your installation’s youth center4-H military partnerships and Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA and Department of Defense summer camps.

TIP 10: Study up on powerful parenting

Powerful parenting can be learned throughout your child’s life. Pick up tips and ideas by talking to experts like counselors, doctors, teachers, family and friends. Subscribe to a good online newsletter. Read or take a class that is offered by the Family Advocacy Program. Classes are available for new or expectant military parents. You can also take advantage of Thrive, a free, online parenting-education program from the Department of Defense partnership with the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State. Thrive offers evidence-based, positive-parenting practices for children from birth to age 18.

TIP 11: Pick up the right foods. 

Check out the MyPlate website or the Start Simple with MyPlate app for help with healthy eating, strategies for a picky eater and ways to customize a healthy cookbook for your family. You can also explore these healthy snack tips.

TIP 12: Step up your activity.

Download the free Moving to THRIVE resource with suggestions for physical activities and play time.

TIP 13: Talk Up a Positive Parent

Compliment a father – someone you know or someone in public – on something positive you see him do with his kids. Dads contribute uniquely to children’s development (and could use the props). Moms, too!

TIP 14: Prop up another parent

A helping hand from a neighbor or friend can make a huge difference for a family under stress. Offer to babysit for the child of a friend, neighbor or family member, even if it’s just to help them rest or recharge for an hour or two. It’s also important to support a military family in the middle of a move. Check out these ways to support a MilFam before their move.

TIP 15: Thumbs up for military

Military life presents unique challenges and opportunities. Smart parents take full advantage of perks like child care, tutoring, employment support and even 24/7 counseling. Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to help you get connected.

TIP 16: Problems add up over time

Child abuse and neglect have long-term consequences for children, families and communities. That’s why it’s important to learn how to protect your children from health risks by building family resilience.

TIP 17: Stand up and protect your teen

Nobody likes to think about the dangers of bullyingcyberbullying, teen dating violence, sexual assault or even child trafficking – but it can happen in any family. Learn the signs, symptoms and how to keep your teen safe.

TIP 18: Help get tots set up for deployment

Babies and toddlers can sense stress in their homes. As a caregiver, you can help them manage their strong emotions. Attend to your own emotional health as well, so you can better care for your children. Help your child prepare for deployment and explore Sesame Street for Military Families. The Talk, Listen, Connect resources are designed to help military families and their young children cope with deployments, changes and grief.

TIP 19: Listen up if your child is LGBTQ+

For youth who identify as LGBTQ+, fears of rejection are at the front of their minds. Acceptance from the family can have a positive effect, not only on a youth’s self-esteem, but also on their health and well-being. Listen, talk and learn more.

TIP 20: Step up and help a child

Strong communities strengthen families. You can help by being informed, attentive and supportive. If you are concerned about the safety or well-being of a child, help is readily available. Military OneSource has connections to reporting lines, the Family Advocacy Program and other places to turn. Find out how to report suspected child abuse.

Remember, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is here for your family! Call us at (516) 626-1971 for help.

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