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Keeping Families / Whanau strong

Every family goes through stressful times occasionally. In this section you can learn why it's important to know the signs of trouble and some proactive ways to build a strong family.

Keeping Families / Whanau strong

5 tips to build a family strong

Make time for family

Life can be very hectic and it’s all too easy to take those closest to us for granted. It’s important to prioritise your family even when it’s hard to find the time.

Keep communication lines open

Whether it’s tackling big issues or just dealing with the day-to-day stuff, keep talking. Sharing thoughts, feelings and problems with those close to you helps to keep relationships strong and shows your support for each other.

Plan healthy and rewarding activities together

Sharing important and meaningful activities can help families stick together. Those activities can easily fall by the wayside when families are under the pump. If your family is going through a stressful period, plan some rewarding activities together – they don’t have to be fun, just important for your family.

Stay connected to friends

It might seem odd but a great way of improving your relationships within your family is to make sure that your outside relationships are healthy as well. In the same way that friends are an important source of support for individuals, communities are important supports for families. Get your family involved in school, sporting or other community groups.

Work out what's important

If you're stressed and overwhelmed, re-evaluating what’s really important to you in the short term might allow you to take some pressure off your family. Talking through what’s important and what can wait gives you breathing room and a sense that you’re working together.

Recognising the signs of trouble 

There may be some good and very explainable reasons why your family is having problems. Maybe you’re dealing with a major life change, the kids are being a handful or your relationship is going through a rough patch.   

Sometimes though, the problem can be caused by mental health issues affecting a family member, which are much more difficult to understand or come to terms with.  

If that person is a serving member or veteran, you might want to find out more about how service, deployment and readjusting to civilian life can affect mental health.  

It’s important to recognise when trouble may be around the corner. This will help you to be more proactive in dealing with any issues and perhaps even cut them off at the pass before they become a problem.  

If you don’t know where to start, here’s a guide. If you or your family member is experiencing any of the symptoms below click on the link for more help or information. 

  • Feeling flat 
  • Lacking energy 
  • Nothing feels fun 
  • Worrying all the time 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Hiding from the world 
  • Having nightmares 
  • Flashbacks 
  • Blocking out reminders of trauma 


  • Grieving 
  • Mourning 
  • Feeling sad and lonely 


  • Feeling frustrated 
  • Wound up 
  • Agro 


  • Difficulties with alcohol 
  • Bingeing 

Drug use  

  • Difficulties with drugs 
  • Doctor shopping 
  • Taking risks 
  • Acting without thinking 
  • Risky sex 


  • Losing too much money 
  • Gambling out of control 


  • Feeling desperate 
  • Hopeless 
  • Thinking about taking their life 


  • Getting into fights 
  • Hurting the ones they love 
  • Restless nights 
  • Nightmares 

Need further help? 

Some useful contacts are provided within the pages of this website.  But if you need further help,  talk to one of our Chaplains, Defence Community Facilitators and Social Workers, who are available to support NZDF members, families and whanau. You can also call the NZDF confidential help line NZDF4U Wellbeing Support for further support 0800NZDF4U (0800 693348).