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Parenting is a perfect example of family readiness and resilience — it’s an “always-on” job. Like a military mission, responsible parenting requires attention, smarts, skills and support. Here are 20 tips to help you step up your parenting and improve your child-rearing skills. Everyone wins with responsible parenting.
TIP 1: Up your playtime.
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. For activity ideas for young children, explore the ZERO TO THREE At-Home Activity Guide. For older children, try tic-tac-toe, sudoku, guessing games and board games. Looking to get moving? Organize a scavenger hunt or play a short game of kickball, soccer or basketball. For more ideas, check out these activities you can do together.
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 stress. Military OneSource offers stress release tips and recommended wellness apps, including Chill Drills, 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. ZERO TO THREE’s “Explore Our Topics” has a variety of resources for parents, including articles and videos about early learning, play, sleep and more. Check out easy ways to bond with your baby and contact your local New Parent Support Program. You can also call Military OneSource to request a New MilParent specialty consultation.
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 safe sleep by contacting your local New Parent Support Program or check out this information on 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, having 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 and helping your teen manage stress. Military OneSource also offers child and youth behavioral military and family life counselors and health and wellness coaching for teens.
TIP 9: Sign up for fun.
Youth and teens can engage in a variety of recreational opportunities, camps and more offered through the military — available through your installation’s youth center, 4-H military partnerships, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA and Defense Department summer camps. Check out For Children and Youth — Benefits for more offerings.
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 DOD 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, talk to a health and wellness coach or tap into your local commissary for savings on healthy food choices for your family.
TIP 12: Step up your activity.
Download the free Moving to THRIVE resource with suggestions for physical activities and playtime. Your local installation also offers Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities and youth centers which offer fitness opportunities for your children.
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 children. 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, view OCONUS calling options or schedule a live chat to help you get connected.
TIP 16: Stay ahead of problems that may 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, as well as recognize healthy versus unhealthy sexual behaviors in your children and youth.
TIP 17: Stand up and protect your teen.
Nobody likes to think about the dangers of bullying, cyberbullying, 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. It’s also important to encourage your teen to create safe and healthy relationships.
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 emotional health as well, so you can better care for your children. Help your child prepare for deployment, support your children during deployment, and explore When a Parent Deploys and 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.
Visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to search for a Family Advocacy Program at your installation or in your postal code. For more information, call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647, view OCONUS calling options or schedule a live chat.
Take your parenting skills to the next level with Military OneSource. Tap into the resources and support available through your military community, including the military parent resource center. Access information and ideas that will empower you as the guardian of your child. Everybody wins with responsible parenting. Get more MilParent Power resources.
The DOD is committed to supporting the health and well-being of all military children and families. That’s why the department partnered with the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State to develop a parenting-education program that promotes positive parenting, stress management and healthy lifestyle practices for children from birth to 18.