MFLNMC Webinar: Financial Planning for Military Caregivers

Military Saves Week, a campaign that seeks to motivate military families to save money, is scheduled to run from Feb. 24 to March 1. Through the Airman and Family Readiness Center at Langley Air Force Base, Va., and the Army Community Service at Fort Eustis, Va., service members can utilize the program and its resources to help them achieve their financial goals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Areca t. Wilson/Released)

Mark your calendars for our upcoming MFLN Military Caregiving professional development webinar on Financial Planning for Military Caregivers.

Time: 11:00 a.m. Eastern
Date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Event Location:

Worries about finances may be a source of great stress for caregivers and their families. For military family caregivers, finances may have a big impact on their ability to manage day-to-day and, eventually, retire. As the holidays approach we begin to take an especially hard look at our budget and financial responsibilities and challenges.  In this webinar military helping professionals will learn about practical resources to help caregivers better manage their finances, ensuring  families and service members live more comfortably while planning for the future.

Our presenter for this webinar is Nancy Granovsky, a professor and extension family economics specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. We are honored to have her present on the topic of Financial Planning for Military Caregivers.

Registration is required to join the webinar, but can be completed on the day of the event. Also, we will be offering Certificates of Completion for those that may be interested in receiving training hours for attending the event.

Interested in Joining the Webinar?

To join the webinar, simply click on Financial Planning for Military Caregivers.  The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense Connect System (DCS), but is open to the public. It is strongly suggested that when using the DCS system to open the webinar on Google Chrome for both PC and MAC connections. If this is not an option, Internet Explorer may be used if connecting via PC. Safari and Firefox are not compatible with this DCS platform.

For those who cannot connect to the DCS site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on Ustream.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on November 27, 2015.

Adapting Environments for Children and Families

By Rosa Milagros Santos

Military Family
[Flickr, OpLove_10-05-09-1971 by Rob Bixby, CC BY 2.0, Oct. 2, 2009] Retrieved on Nov. 19, 2015
During our November 12th webinar on Social Emotional Development in the Early Years: Creating Supportive and Inclusive Environments, Dr. Micki Ostrosky and I highlighted specific characteristics of children’s physical environments such as housing quality, noise, street traffic, crowding, and access to transportation that impact their social emotional development. In whatever environmental conditions we (children and adults) live, it is part of human nature for us to learn to adapt to our specific situation. For example, it is not unusual for military families who reside on and off base to learn to live with constant aircraft or artillery noise.

Learning to adapt to our environment enables us to function and go about our regular routines and activities. However, for young children these adaptive behaviors can negatively impact their overall development, thereby having both positive and negative consequences. For example, children living in noisy environments can learn to ignore the constant noise around them, a potentially positive thing. However, some children may not be able to discriminate what environmental noise and sounds they should and should not ignore. In an effort to tune out noise, children also may disregard important auditory input like conversation initiations and responses by others.

Researchers have noted that children who are constantly exposed to these conditions are less likely to pay attention, less motivated to perform tasks, can become socially withdrawn, and have less interactions with peers and adult caregivers — all these are necessary skills for academic and school success.

Fortunately, as parents, teachers, or military family service providers, we have the capacity to create and promote supportive environments to alleviate the chronic and toxic environmental conditions to which some children may be exposed. One of the ways adult caregivers can support children living in these situations is to engage with them through literacy activities. My colleagues, Dr. Angel Fettig and Dr. LaShorage Shaffer and I wrote in our 2012 article, Helping Families Connect Early Literacy with Social-Emotional Development that literacy activities can support children’s language and communication skills as well as positively impact their social-emotional development. In this article, we share some strategies for using literacy activities, such as book reading and storytelling, to promote social emotional development.

Creating multiple opportunities to read together whether it is part of a bedtime routine or at different times during the day, provide children and adults those important one-on-one times to interact. Reading together can provide children and adults with a chance to engage in an activity that is calm and quiet — away from the chaos and noise that might be present in their environment. Reading together can also be a time where children can focus on one activity and not be distracted by multiple inputs in their environment. Most importantly, reading together provides a chance for a child to have an adult’s undivided attention especially on those busy days.

In our forthcoming webinar on Social Emotional Development in the Early Years: Enriching Social Emotional Literacy (December 3, 2015) we will focus on strategies to support the development of children’s emotional literacy, including building their vocabulary skills. Literacy-rich environments are linked to increased success in school — not only academically but just as importantly, socially and emotionally.

Remember, as parents, teachers, or military family service providers we play an important role in designing and creating environments from which children learn and grow, and thus we must choose wisely when we do so!

This post was written by Robyn DiPietro-Wells & Amy Santos, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Parenting 101

By Kamala Glenn-Taylor, MS

Picture of a family portrait gone wrong
Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, Family Portrait-Reality Edition, October 26, 2008] retrieved on September 9, 2015
Parenting. Such a benign word. But anyone who has been a parent knows that the title comes with much more than what they could have bargained for. With the plethora of material available on the topic of parenting one wonders how it is that so many families still find themselves in turmoil with the introduction of this tiny dependent new life. Halas (2014) puts it this way, “We’ve all been there. You look at your new baby and deep joy settles into your soul, but the days to come may not be exactly what you planned. The joy is soon colored by the realities of sleep deprivation, worry and more advice than any human being could ever possibly use” [2]. Parenting sometimes is not at all what new parents expect!

The question becomes how do clinicians effectively tackle this multifaceted stage in newly parented families? Tackling any therapeutic problem often involves the asking of more questions before one can get to a working solution. The first question to ask ourselves is, how much do we know about each individual’s ideas about parenting? And how much do they know about each other’s ideas? Oftentimes the reality is that two individuals have come together and decided to engage in family building while not being cognizant of their partner’s views surrounding parenting. So, is the couple on the same page? Have they considered division of child care, religious beliefs, discipline, family traditions, and the influence of other voices in child care decisions among many others? For military families, have they considered these topics and the changing factors that future military deployment will bring? How will they decide what parenting looks like with one parent away and when that parent returns? What are the types of conversations that have occurred?

Now typically, a therapist or helping professional, will probably be introduced to the family after disagreements surrounding childcare have already escalated. Parents will be frustrated, maybe even angered by their partners inability to see their point! Whatever the case clinicians have the responsibility of slowing down the conversation and getting to the heart of the matter. Can our parents see eye to eye? Can they get to a place of understanding the other partners view? Oftentimes the couple neglects to consider all of the influential factors that have helped create them into the people they now are and the influential factors that continue to influence who they are. Why is this important? Each aspect of our combined life experiences influences the lens through which we view our world and the decisions we make in that world. Becvar, Becvar and Bender (1982) state that, “We all select and edit our reality in order to make it conform to our personal theories” [1]. In that context we can expect that no two individuals will be alike and thus no two parents will have the same views. Clinician responsibility entails being able to be cognizant of that reality and aid clients in recognizing the utility in those differences.

So how do we get there? While the particulars of technique, intervention and “languaging” may differ from clinician to clinician and from modality to modality, one thing remains true. We must listen. We must listen in a way that minimizes our biases and beliefs of how people should be as parents while maximizing on the shared goals and dreams that these parents have for this new life. While they may differ on the process of raising a happy, successful child their end goal is the same. How will you help them to get there?


[1] Becvar, R.  J., Becvar, D.  S., & Bender, A.  E.  (1982).  Let Us First Do No Harm.  Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy, 8(4), 385-391.  doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.1982.tb01464.x

[2] Halas, M. (2014). Parenting facts and fairy tales. Huffington Post. Updated 11.18.2014

Kamala Glenn-Taylor is a Master of Science degree recipient of the Marriage & Family Therapy Department at Valdosta State University. She is an independent contractor with Palm Tree Psychological Services and a guest blogger for the MFLN Family Development team. Love what you read? Be sure to visit Kamala’s personal blog site, here, for more.

Giving Yourself Compassion


We tend to strive for perfection in many aspects of our life including our role of spouse, parent, friend, caregiver and colleague. However by putting so much pressure on ourselves to excel, we often create an abundance of stress in our lives. In episode three of the MFLN Military Caregiving Virtual Learning Event (VLE) audiocast series, the narrator encourages us to let go of the pressures and need to solve others’ problems.


The episode, Giving Yourself Compassion, shows us that it is common that thoughts and worries about those we help will follow us home after the work day is done. Giving Yourself Compassion focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards us and others. Research shows that focusing on the positive emotions increased feelings of joy, contentment, gratitude, hope and decreased self-criticism.


Download the mindfulness audiocast episode, “Giving Yourself Compassion,” to learn how you can “refuel your reserves” and learn how to send loving kindness to others in order to ease our concerns and refresh our empathy.



To listen to all mindfulness audiocasts episodes provided during the 2015 VLE go to, ‘Reflect! Keep Calm and Carry On.’


This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on November 20, 2015.

The Scariest Time of the Year: The Holiday Season!

Day 359 The strawberry Santa Army Dec. 25, 2013
Day 359 The strawberry Santa Army Dec. 25, 2013

By Robin Allen MSPH, RDN, LDN

Halloween but for some people the scariest time of the year is “The Holidays”, especially if you are struggling with obesity, diabetes, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.  Cocktail parties, office parties, dinners, entertaining, and “forbidden” foods are everywhere!  The temptation is sometimes too much to overcome.  Holidays can be wonderful or can be a time of great anxiety for people because it is so focused on food.

People often do gain weight during the holidays, but how much weight? In 2000, a study of 195 adults showed an average holiday weight gain of between .75 pounds (lb.) and 1 lb.  However, 14% of those studied gained 5 lb. or more! In this study, those who were overweight or obese gained more holiday pounds than those who were normal weight.  Another study indicated the average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is between .4-1.5 kg (.8 lb. to 3.3 lb.).  Some people reported gaining up to 4.1 Kg (9.02 lb.).  The range of weight gain was large and increased in adults who are already overweight or obese.  Compounding this seasonal weight gain is the tendency not to lose the weight despite those New Year’s resolutions.  Holiday weight gain is one factor contributing to the obesity epidemic.

There are many resources that give tips for facing the holidays.  I have gathered some of my favorites that I have used with patients and clients over the years and added some other interesting ones I found.  Maybe these tips will help you in your practice or with your own family.

  • Keep exercising. A study indicated that those people who participated in 150 minutes/week of moderate exercise were less likely to gain fat mass. Lack of physical activity is one reason that people have problems managing diabetes and weight during the holidays. Off from work or school? Use this extra time to do some physical activity.
  • Treat all evening events as your Dinner. Don’t plan on going out to eat later.  No matter what your good intentions are you will always eat more calories than you intended according to Brian Wansink.
  • Don’t go starving to a party. Have a protein rich snack before a party that keeps you feeling full, more satisfied and in control.
  • Scan the buffet before you begin. Only choose your favorites.  You do not have to sample one of everything, especially if you can get it any time of year.
  • Use smaller plates. Research has shown that the bigger the plate, the more food you will eat.  You can reduce your intake by 15%-45% by using smaller plates or even just a napkin.
  • Fill your plate with veggies, skip the dip, but enjoy the low-calorie salsa.
  • Don’t hover around the buffet. Enjoy the conversation, not the food.
  • Go easy on the beverages especially the ones containing alcohol. Alcohol can lessen inhibitions and induce overeating. Eggnog contains an average of 340+ calories per cup and even more with alcohol. Alternate alcohol with water.
  • Bring sugar-free mints, gum or your toothbrush. Clean, fresh breath can slow down or stop those food cravings.
  • Bring your own healthy dish to a holiday gathering.
  • Go for the passed Hors d ‘Oeuvres. People tend to eat more from buffets than from passed trays, and the best food is usually passed.
  • Choose lower-calorie and healthy festive foods. Go for crudités, lean deli meats, chicken kebabs, boiled shrimp (22 calories for four large shrimp), and vegetables.
  • Try healthier versions of your favorite holiday foods. Many times the casserole will taste just as good with fat-free or light sour cream instead of regular? Can you steam green beans instead of sautéing in butter?

What are your tips for navigating the holidays?  What tips do you give to your patients?


Wansink, B. Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, N.Y. 2013

Roberts SB, Mayer J. Holiday weight gain: fact or fiction? Nutr Rev. 2000;58:378-379. Accessed November 16, 2015.

Nutrition 411 Accessed November 16, 2015

Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating by Greta Macaire R.D.  Accessed November 16, 2015 Accessed November 16, 2015 Accessed November 16, 2015 Accessed November 16, 2015 Accessed November 16, 2015

This post was written by Robin Allen, a member of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the MFLN Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and LinkedIn.


Preventing Child Maltreatment: A Public Health Approach

By Caitlin Hunter and Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Norwalk Students' Visual Statement to End Child Abuse
Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, Norwalk Students’ Visual Statement to End Child Abuse, May 14, 2013] retrieved on September 10, 2015
A recent article by Chahine and Sanders (2013) provides an overview of our knowledge regarding child maltreatment, and presents ideas as far as what can be done to better approach this issue, suggesting the use of a public health approach [1]. The following represents a synopsis of this article.

It is impossible to report an accurate number of confirmed cases of child maltreatment annually because there are no commonalities between definitions, tracking procedures, and handling of child maltreatment cases across the various disciplines that encounter it. Furthermore, there are likely many instances reported as accidents that comprise maltreatment, as well as other unidentified cases. Professionals should not wait for media outlets to report on tragic child deaths or serious injuries resulting from child maltreatment cases, allowing them to paint the picture of a failed system. Instead, professionals need to work to become accountable for failures and have a system in place to prevent future tragedies.

If there is a plane crash, do we stop traveling? If there is a lab explosion, do we stop using science? No. We find the root cause, learn to catch problems before they have disastrous effects, and we fix them early. Shouldn’t it be the same for child maltreatment? A public health approach is best here because the child welfare system only knows about reported cases of child maltreatment. Making this issue a broader public health one will allow a larger population to be reached by prevention services.

The first step in preventing child maltreatment is establishing measurement and classification criteria that are consistent across state, local, and national levels in multiple disciplines, which have previously used different legal and regulatory standards (medicine, law enforcement, child welfare, and the judicial system). Using this new criteria and a public health approach, professionals will be able to engage in surveillance, or defining and monitoring the problem in order to determine prevalence and risk, which will help them begin to formulate a plan to address the issue.

Next, professionals should look to identify both risk and protective factors and combine these with surveillance data to get a better picture of what a good prevention strategy might look like. Identifying high-risk families and the times when risk is highest will help provide professionals with opportunities for early intervention strategies. Instead of the media only reporting on child fatalities or serious injury as a result failure by the child protective services, public information campaigns can be used to prevent child maltreatment. They can also be integral in explaining that child safety is a community responsibility, rather than the responsibility of a single agency, and that all citizens can do their part to help.

In order to create these prevention programs, there must be ongoing collaboration between local, state, and national levels as well as a wide variety of service agencies and community partnerships. Having everyone on the same page is essential for improving outcomes, and the public health approach is the best option to achieve effective results.


[1] Chahine, Z., & Sanders, D. (2013). The road ahead: Comprehensive and innovative approaches for improving safety and preventing child maltreatment fatalities. Child Welfare92(2), 237.

This post was written by Caitlin Hunter  & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Military Caregiving Virtual Learning Event #3 – Coming Next Week!

Join the MFLN Military Caregiving team for our Virtual Learning Event (VLE) session #3: Recharging! Combating Compassion Fatigue at 11:00 a.m. EDT on Wednesday,  November 18.

The experience of trauma, also known as compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress, can extend beyond those who are directly impacted, to those who provide care to traumatized individuals, including military service professionals. As such, military caregivers are at a high risk for the negative impact of compassion fatigue that can lead to impairment in social and occupational functioning.

Upon completion of the VLE Session #3, you will have gained an understanding of the concept of compassion fatigue, and will be able to describe the symptoms of compassion fatigue, and discuss strategies to minimize the negative impact of compassion fatigue.

The VLE is centered on the theme of reenergizing and rejuvenating your work environment. This FREE web-based learning opportunity is open to the public and will be similar to a professional conference – no travel involved! Registration is required.

If you missed any of the previous sessions, and you would like to catch up before our final session, make sure to check out: 2015 MFLN Military Caregiving VLE.

CEU Credit Available!

The MFLN has applied for 1.5 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) continuing education credits for credentialed participants. Certificates of Completion will also be available for training hours as well. For more information on CEU credits go to: NASW Continuing Education Instructions.

Interested in Joining the VLE?

Go to “Recharging! Combating Compassion Fatigue” the day of the event to join. The event is hosted by the Department of Defense Collaboration System (DCS), but is open to the public. It is strongly suggested that when using the DCS system that you open the webinar on Google Chrome for both PC and MAC connections. If this is not an option, Internet Explorer may be used if connecting via PC. Safari and Firefox are not compatible with this DCS platform.

For those of you who cannot connect to the DCS site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on Ustream.


This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on November13, 2015.

FD Early Intervention Webinar: Enriching Social Emotional Literacy

Social Emotional Development in the Early Years: Enriching Social Emotional Literacy

Date:  December 3, 2015

Time:  11:00 am – 12:30 pm Eastern


Dad reading book to child
Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, Reading with Daddy by Madgerly, April 26, 2010]
Michaelene Ostrosky, PhD, and Kimberly Hile will discuss the importance of supporting children’s social emotional development by building their early social emotional literacy and vocabulary skills.  Specific topics will include:

  • Research evidence on the importance of early social emotional literacy and vocabulary skills on children’s social emotional well-being.
  • Selecting age-, developmentally-, and culturally-appropriate books for children to support their social emotional development.  We will highlight topics that may be relevant to military families, such as: loneliness, friendships, understanding and acceptance of disability, separation, transitioning to new locations, bonding, dealing with family stressors, and grieving.
  • Evidence-based strategies for embedding early literacy activities to support children with disabilities within their typical routines and home, school, and in the community.
  • Parent coaching strategies to support parents’ and caregivers’ implementation of early social emotional literacy and vocabulary activities to facilitate the children’s social emotional development.


MFLN FD Early Intervention webinars offer CE Credits through the Early Intervention Training Program (EITP) at the University of Illinois. The EI team is actively pursuing more CE opportunities in states other than Illinois. Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, & Virginia participants can obtain a certificate of completion to submit to their credentialing agencies for review for CE credits. Please check back frequently to the webinar Learn Event web page to receive updates on our progress. Access to the webinar Learn Event page can be found, here.

For more information on future presentations for MFLN Family Development, please visit our professional development website or connect with us via social media for announcements: (Facebook & Twitter)

Partnership helps build capacity to assist veterans and military families

Today, on Veteran’s Day, we’d like to share how important agreements between the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the historic home of Cooperative Extension, and the Department of Defense have led to an important partnership to assist veterans and military families during times of both peace and conflict.

As service providers who work with our military members and families in our current programs, USDA/NIFA and DoD, we strive to build capacity among service men and women and their families, and even the communities within which they live.

The Military Families Learning Network recently launched this exciting new concentration area called “Community Capacity Building” which will work to accomplish three things:

  • Build mutual awareness among Cooperative Extension faculty/staff, Military State and Family Programs Directors and Military OneSource consultants about how all participants can contribute to efforts to build community capacity among service men and women.
  • Host compelling and useful training with each of the above identified audiences via easily accessed webinars, virtual workshops, and face-to-face meetings.
  • Enhance the DoD’s Family Readiness System’s assets by explicitly including the Cooperative Extension assets and resources.

Cooperative Extension has a long history of assisting veterans and military families during times of both peace and conflict.  During the last decade or more of conflict in the Middle East, many Cooperative Extension programs have worked tirelessly to assist military families to enhance the capacity of military members and their families to thrive during and after their service to their country.

In the Department of Defense, support to military families includes mobility and financial readiness, mobilization and deployment readiness, and personal and family life readiness and is delivered in the Military & Family Support Center located on the military installations, and through National Guard, and Reserve Family Programs. They, along with your and other civilian counterparts, make up the Military Family Readiness system.

This system is designed to prepare service members and their families to effectively navigate the challenges of daily living experienced in the unique context of military service.

Ready individuals and families are knowledgeable about the potential challenges they may face; equipped with the skills to competently function in the face of such challenges; aware of the supportive resources available to them; and make use of the skills and supports in managing such challenges. Family readiness services are intended to emphasize personal growth, positive development, and improve individual and family functioning.

Please continue to visit us here to learn more, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on future MFLN Community Capacity building opportunities. We will be reaching out to you directly in the near future.

If you need more information or assistance, please contact Dr. Keith Tidball (CE) at or Pam Cunningham (DoD) at

MFLN Personal Finance at AFCPE 15

By Molly C. Herndon

The Personal Finance team is honored to be presenting a workshop at the 2015 AFCPE Symposium on Friday, Nov. 20. Our 50-minute presentation, Best Practices for Conducting Web Conferences, Writing Blog Posts, and Using Social Media to Increase the Capacity of Financial Counseling and Education Professionals, will give attendees a chance to see “behind the scenes” of our webinar and programming delivery. Dr. Barbara O’Neill will discuss best practices for delivering financial education through online webinars. I will discuss blogging techniques and Jerry Buchko will cover social media strategies.

From left: Jerry Buchko, Molly Herndon, Dr. Barbara O'Neill & Dr. Michael Gutter
From left: Jerry Buchko, Molly Herndon, Dr. Barbara O’Neill & Dr. Michael Gutter

Our team, directed by Dr. Martie Gillen, is eager to engage with our community in a live presentation, so we hope you’ll be in attendance and share with us your own experience of being in one of the more that 50 webinars we’ve presented over the past 4 years, reading one of our blog posts, or connecting with us on social media.

If you’re unable to attend the AFCPE Symposium this year, or just unable to make it to our workshop, check out the resources we’ll share here:

Have a question about our workshop? Share it here!