Emotional Well-being for Military and Caregiving Families
Sesame Street in Communities
May 1, 2023
The pandemic disruption over the last three years has been challenging for all children and caregivers, with added stressors affecting their emotional well-being. This is especially true for military families and caregiving families who experience additional stress. That’s why our partners at Sesame Street in Communities have created 5 new videos highlighting simple strategies for self-care and emotional well-being that families can watch together.
Self-care isn’t selfish. If you are going to care for others, you first have to care for yourself. The healthier you are, the more energy, patience, and support you can direct toward others. Sometimes, little moments of self-care can have a big impact.
Watch this video about how to recognize what went well in your day to learn more.
Focusing on what went well in your day can help you feel happy, relaxed, and centered. It can be especially important on hard days. You don’t have to pretend things aren’t difficult, but it’s helpful to remember that even the worst days might have a few bright spots.
- To practice this self-care routine, you might:
- Find a quiet spot to sit by yourself for a few minutes.
- Take a few deep breaths to make sure you are calm and relaxed.
- Think about small positive moments. In the video, it was a good cup of coffee, successful therapy, and setting up a game with a child.
- Try it on the go; remind yourself of a few positive moments while in the car, on the subway, or even walking from one room to another.
You might also tell someone else what went well, especially if it has to do with that person. You might say, “That conversation we had earlier today was really nice.” Saying it out loud can help our minds and hearts better understand what went well.
One way to care for yourself is to be flexible with routines and expectations. Sometimes, just choosing to do routine activities in easier ways can have a big impact.
Watch this video to learn how to keep it simple.
Routines are important, but sometimes it’s okay to drop the routine and go with something easier. In the video, Elmo’s mom, Mae, realizes they’ll have more time for family fun if she chooses to order a pizza rather than cooking dinner. Every night can’t be a pizza night, but sometimes foregoing your routine to enjoy a special, spontaneous moment with your family is a great form of self-care.
Other ways to ‘keep it simple’ might include:
- Watching a movie or show together, even if it’s a school night.
- Skipping regular chores for one day so you can play a game, listen to music, or take a walk as a family.
- Doing a more relaxed version of a routine (having a picnic dinner or listening to an audiobook instead of reading at story-time).
Routines can often change because of forces outside of our control, so it’s okay to change them ourselves from time to time, if it makes life a little easier.
Sometimes, self-care can be as simple as being still and quiet. Taking a few minutes to relax, focus, and listen can have a very positive effect on your health and happiness. Watch the video to learn more.
In the video, Elmo and his dad simply sit still and listen carefully to the world around them. Believe it or not, this is a great form of self-care. It can help you feel more calm, focused, and present. It can lower your heart rate and clear your head. All of this can help you feel more ready to support others around you.
To practice being still and quiet, try a few of these tips:
- Find a place to sit where you can relax. It doesn’t have to be silent, in fact, it can be better if there are a few calm sounds to listen to.
- Take deep breaths, breathing in for a count of four, holding that breath for a count of four, and breathing out for a count of four.
- Try to notice the little sounds that are all around you. It might be a breeze, voices in conversation, passing cars, or falling rain.
- If you are with someone, take turns naming what you hear.
- It might help to close your eyes while you listen. When it’s possible, give yourself at least a few minutes to sit in stillness.
Remember, you don’t need a perfect spot to be quiet and still. You just need to take a little time to sit and listen.
One way to take care of yourself, and your body, is to make sure you are eating healthy food. Healthy eating can become a regular habit if you plan out your week’s meals in advance.
Watch this video to learn more.
Eating healthy means making sure your meals are balanced and have lots of vegetables, fruits, and grains. The best way to do this is to plan out at least a few meals in advance. Planning ahead means you will put a little more thought into what goes into your meals. It’s a great way to save money, too, because you can buy certain ingredients in bulk to be used in multiple meals, and plan exactly how you are going to use your leftovers.
To start making a meal plan for healthy eating, here are a few tips:
- Turn meal-planning into a fun, family game. Involve everyone in making a menu for the week and discuss new foods to try.
- Think about how one ingredient can be used in multiple meals, so you don’t waste food. The same vegetables might pop up again and again through the week, but you get to use them in different ways.
- You don’t need expensive cookbooks to find great recipes. The internet is full of recipes shared by people who know how to create healthy meals that don’t take a lot of time.
- Pick a few meals to make ahead of time. There are plenty of recipes that can be made on the weekend then stuck in the fridge, or even made in bulk so they can be used more than once over a month.
Healthy eating can be straightforward and even fun, especially if you have a good plan.
Getting just a little bit of exercise can go a long way. Regular movement every day can be a fun family activity.
Watch the video to learn more.
After the video:
Turning daily movement into a fun family game can make it feel less like a chore and more like a party. In the video, Elmo and his dad have regular dance parties, and chart their progress to make sure everyone in the family is moving throughout the week. Just this little bit of exercise can help you stay healthy, keep you focused, and even make you feel happier. And doing it as a family is a great way to bring everyone together.
You can try using a dance party and chart, like in the video, and try a few of these other tips as well:
- Set up weekly challenges with specific movements. None of them must be too intense, just as simple as “Can we do ten jumping jacks before brushing our teeth in the morning?” or “Can we jog in place for thirty seconds before walking out the door to school?”
- Taking a walk is a great kind of daily movement. Turn these walks into adventures or scavenger hunts, asking “How many red things can we spot?” or “Can we find all the letters of the alphabet on signs and license plates before we get back home?”
- Dance parties are always easy to do together. You can make a ritual out of a five-minute dance party after dinner, letting a different family member choose the song each night. Or, you can even incorporate dance parties into a chore, like “dance and dishes”.
A little bit of movement can go a long way, and is a great form of simple, daily self-care.
For more resources, visit Sesame Street in Communities’ Veterans & Changes webpage.