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20 Ways to Step Up Your Parenting Skills

Military mom sits with son

Parenting is a perfect example of family readiness — 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.

TIP 1: Engage with your child.

Take 15 minutes each day to play one-on-one with your child. Engaging in positive activities with them can help occupy their time and reduce unwanted behaviors. To get some ideas for activities to engage in with young children, explore the ZERO TO THREE At-Home Activity Guide. For older children, try tic-tac-toe, sudoku, guessing games and board games. To get your child moving, you could organize a scavenger hunt or play a short game of soccer or basketball. You can also explore ideas for healthy activities and living.

TIP 2: Show 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: Connect with a strong social network.

Increase your network of support by connecting with friends, family, neighbors, playgroups and/or 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: Be present and keep your child safe.

Children may learn more and likely will feel more secure when you spend unplugged, face-to-face time with them. Plus, they need your attention so they can avoid accidents at home that may cause injuries. Learn more about keeping your children safe by being actively present with them.

TIP 5: Learn how to manage your stress.

Stress can get in the way of being an effective parent. Managing your own stress can improve your happiness and provide a model for your children to manage theirs. Military OneSource offers stress-release tips and wellness apps to help you cope with stress. Reach out to your local Military and Family Support Center to learn about its stress management classes.

TIP 6: Connect with your baby.

Bonding with your baby is vital. ZERO TO THREE has a variety of resources for parents, including articles and videos about early learning, play and sleep. Check out this tip sheet for some easy ways to bond with your baby. For more ideas, contact your local New Parent Support Program. You can also call Military OneSource to request a New MilParent specialty consultation.

TIP 7: Know the rules for safe sleep.

Do you know the rules for keeping a baby safe during sleep time? They should sleep on their backs in a safety crib and be 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 how to create safe sleeping environments for infants. You can also refer to this MilLife Guide to safe infant sleep and/or listen to this podcast addressing safe sleep practices.

TIP 8: Show interest in your teen.

Respect, talk to and engage your teen as much as you can. Doing things together, having face time at dinner, and showing affection and interest are all things that can help keep teens safe and healthy. Get more ideas for positive parenting 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 through the military — available via your installation’s youth center, 4-H military partnerships, Boys & Girls Clubs, the YMCA and Defense Department summer camps. Check out For Youth & Teens Benefits for more offerings.

TIP 10: Discover ideas for positive parenting.

Get parenting tips and ideas by talking to counselors, doctors, teachers, family and friends. Subscribe to an online newsletter. Or check out the Military Parent Resource Center. You can also take advantage of Thrive, a free online parenting education program from the DOD in partnership with the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State. Thrive offers evidence-based, positive parenting practices for children from birth through age 18.

TIP 11: Help your teen make healthy food choices. 

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.

TIP 12: Get active together.

Download the free Moving to THRIVE resource, which offers suggestions for physical activities and playtime. Your local installation may also provide MWR activities and youth centers that address sports and fitness.

TIP 13: Recognize positive parenting.

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

TIP 14: Support each other.

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: Make use of perks.

Military life presents unique challenges and opportunities. Take full advantage of perks such as child care, tutoring, employment support and 24/7 counseling. Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647, view OCONUS calling options or schedule a live chat to 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 by building family readiness, as well as how to recognize healthy versus unhealthy sexual behaviors in your child.

TIP 17: Protect your teen.

Nobody likes to think about the dangers of bullying, cyberbullying, teen dating violence, sexual assault or 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: Prepare your children 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 for ages 2 through 5, 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 and be there for your LGBTQ+ child.

For youth who identify as LGBTQ+, fear of rejection is likely at the front of their minds. Acceptance from their 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: Support your military community.

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 the reporting lines for child abuse, the Family Advocacy Program and more. 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.

Everybody wins with responsible parenting.

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