The first support community we join as human beings is our family unit. Service members thrive best with support from their families, and families in turn cope better with their service member’s active participation in helping the family stay strong in the face of unique challenges they face as part of the National Guard community. Because the wellness of family unit hinges on the wellness of all the individuals involved, it’s important to seek ways to keep your family connected, healthy and united.
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What does “family wellness” mean?
- Family wellness means setting a good example through healthy behavior and creating a safe, stable environment for children during deployments:
Setting a good example with your behaviors helps children adopt good behaviors and habits themselves. Children are more likely to listen and respond positively when you are a good listener and act in ways that promote good choices. An added benefit: teaching your kids to make good choices will create a more peaceful household for you.
Creating a safe, stable environment for children is critical for maintaining family wellness, especially during a parent or sibling’s deployment. Children who feel safe, loved and supported are less likely to develop behavioral or emotional issues, and sustain better health and social interactions.
- Family wellness means devoting time to your family and being an active participant in your household.
Devoting time to your family reasserts that you are emotionally available to your loved ones when they need you, building feelings of trust, affection and loyalty. Families that spend time together are closer, more loving, and weather changes with greater ease than families that associate superficially.
Being an active participant in your household may be difficult if you’re coping with multiple or long-term separations. However, National Guard members who cannot contribute to household chores, financial obligations or child-rearing due to separations can set up routines and strategies the family can maintain while they are away.
- Family Wellness means being flexible and compromising when possible and putting family first when confronted with a choice between acting in self-interest or in interest of the family:
Being flexible and compromising when conflict arises in your family helps sustain family unity and avoid serious conflicts. Couples and families that master the art of compromise express mutual respect for one another and tend to experience less stress and anxiety related to arguments.
Putting family first can be achieved in a number of ways. For healthy families, that includes practicing forgiveness, opening up to your loved ones, recognizing when members of your family need help, and making good lifestyle choices that support your entire family (instead of just you).
Signs of family distress
- Inflexibility and unwillingness to compromise
- Increased impatience and irritability between family members
- Domestic violence
- Sexual, physical abuse
- Spouse/partner infidelity
- Poor financial decision-making
- Lack of routines
- Poor self-care/care of family members
- Acts of self-interest without concern for family wellbeing
Tips for improving family wellness
- Get closer to your spouse. A healthy marriage can create a strong foundation for your household, affecting all the areas that impact your family, including your health, finances, children and community. If you and your partner are experiencing marital problems, programs are available in the National Guard to strengthen your relationship.
- Set aside special family time during the week. Plan a game night, go to the movies together, and tell bedtime stories – these all qualify as ways to share your time with your family. If you’re on a deployment, communicate as often as you can to let your loved ones know that they’re on your mind and in your heart.
- Families who eat together, stay together. This tip relates closely to the one before it, except it refers more closely to doing the little things together in addition to special out-of-the ordinary things. Creating routines that involve all the members of your family – like getting together for dinner – is a way to create stability and instantly fit family togetherness into your day.
- Practice good communication. Good listening skills and open and honest communication are basic components of family wellness. Confiding in your loved ones will also help you feel supported. As a service member, this may include sharing information about your service to the National Guard with your loved ones in order to ease fears and prepare them for potential separations.
Get to know your state/territory family resources. The National Guard provides a number of local resources for you and your family, including your Family Readiness Group, Director of Psychological Health, and more. To learn more about national programs the National Guard Bureau offers, visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.