As a service member, spouse or survivor you know the importance of being a good guardian – of country, community and family. Responsibility is nothing new.
Just like a position in the military, parenting is an “always-on” job that requires smarts, skills, support and attention to detail. And just like any job, there’s always more to learn and room for improvement. You can take steps to up your parenting game even higher.
Tip #1: Show them love
It may sound simple, but one of the best things you can do to help your child thrive is make sure they know how much you love them.
- Tell them. Talk to your children about how much you care for and appreciate them.
- Cuddle. From the moment they are born, nurturing touch is one of the easiest and most fundamental ways you can show your children they are loved and safe.
Tip #2: Give them your time
Children know when they have your full attention and when they don’t. Put down your smart phone and turn off the television and video games so you can spend time with them, face-to-face.
Distracted parenting is linked to an increase in injuries and accidents at home. But more importantly, spending unplugged time with your child contributes to their healthy growth, boosts communication skills and increases their sense of well-being. Taking just 15 minutes a day to play with your child, doing what he or she wants, can help reduce the need for negative discipline.
Tip #3: Do your homework
Powerful parenting can be learned. Learning about child development and understanding what to expect at various ages and stages is key. There are lots of resources for you to learn about your child’s developmental phase:
- Explore Thrive – the free, online parenting-education program with courses on positive parenting practices for children ages 0 to 18.
- Talk to experts like doctors, teachers, family and friends.
- Seek out books, newsletters and online resources like Sesame Workshop products and apps, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Milestone app, ZERO TO THREE resources and the ZERO TO THREE Annual Conference app.
- Take a class or join a parenting or play group on or off the installation.
Check out other Military OneSource parenting supports and read about the importance of understanding your child’s developmental stage to get started.
Tip #4: Find and offer support
Remember, the military community is also a parenting community, and there are lots of ways you can find the support you need:
- Know that Military OneSource and military and family life counselors are available to help talk through parenting challenges and military life stresses.
- Understand that your installation’s Military and Family Support Center can provide information on local resources, tools and support networks, from classes for expectant parents to child care to programs for youth. Information, good ideas and social media support groups are available 24 hours a day on Military OneSource.
- Discover Sesame Workshop products and ZERO TO THREE resources, which offer DVDs, books, apps and games that are helpful, fun and specially geared to military children and families.
- Find support in friends, neighbors and support groups beyond the military community.
Don’t forget that you, too, are part of the parenting community. If you see a parent who could use a helping hand, offer yours. Babysitting, cooking or even a kind word can mean a lot to a parent in need.
Tip #5: Get healthy
Healthy habits start at home. Eating nutritious meals, getting plenty of physical activity and adequate sleep can make a huge difference in your child’s health and well-being – and in your own.
- Limit sugary snacks and beverages. Offer your child a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy each day. Be sure to check out Fitness, Nutrition and Active Living – The Essentials.
- Make physical activity a part of each day. Take walks together, play active games, visit the playground. Check out your installation’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation offerings.
- Encourage restful sleep by keeping electronic devices out of your child’s bedroom. Have your child turn off screens at least one hour before bedtime. Create a bedtime routine that helps your child unwind from the day, such as a bath, brushing teeth and reading a bedtime story.
Tip #6: Cut stress
Too much stress makes it hard to be an effective parent. Learning how to manage stress can improve your happiness, help your kids and show them they can handle it, too. Talk to a Military OneSource counselor or check out the online stress management tools and mobile solutions to help you improve your mood.
Of course, if you think a child may be at risk of harm or neglect, you can report your concerns by reaching out to Military OneSource or the Family Advocacy Program on your installation. You can also contact the Department of Defense Child Abuse and Safety Hotline at 877-790-1197 (OCONUS, call collect 571-372-5348) or the National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-4-A-CHILD or 800-422-4453.