Category Archives: child care

Preparing Caregivers to Communicate Effectively Using Three Types of Communication Skills Webinar

iStock_000011132527LargeBy Carlee Latham, MFLN–Military Caregiving

Remember to mark your calendars for this Thursday, April 10 at 11:00 am EDT, as the Military Caregiving concentration hosts a professional development webinar on caregiver communication skills.

Preparing Caregivers to Communicate Effectively Using Three Types of Communication Skills will focus on preparing caregivers to have those difficult conversations with a variety of individuals, including military professionals. The presenter, Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., will help caregivers and professionals:

  • Distinguish between the communication skills of “I messages”, Assertive, and Aikido and the types of situations they are best used in.
  • Identify caregiver situations where professionals could use one of the communication styles.
  • Prepare to use one of the communication skills.

For more information on Thursday’s webinar visit the eXtension website here. Event materials, like the presentation slides and handouts are available within the eXtension Learn site.

The Military Caregiving concentration has applied for 1.00 continuing education credit hour from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Credentialed participants may contact for more information.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on April 8, 2014.

Family Factors Affecting Child Well-being

By Kacy Mixon, PhD, LMFT

Aaron Gilson, 2012Family dynamics, and most notably parent-child interactions, play a large role in children’s educational, social and emotional well-being [1]. Children learn how to manage their emotions through observation, modeling, and social referencing [2] experienced not only in school and community contexts but also in their home life.

Researchers have reported significant associations between the family dynamics, children’s school readiness and children’s approaches to learning which is conceptualized as characteristics and behaviors children display while engaging in learning [3, 4]. Researchers have also reported positive associations among parental nurturance, discipline, teaching and children’s language and school readiness factors [3]. Studies looking at family factors such as parental emotional distress, parenting styles, and home activities have also shown that these can moderate child well-being [5].

For children who have been exposed to traumatic events in the home such as domestic violence, the negative impacts to mental health, social and academic functioning is often severe. A recent study found that parent’s level of stress can mediate the effects of child trauma on mental health [6].

What does this mean for professionals?

These research findings demonstrate a need to tailor child and family interventions to include developing healthy bonds and interactions. It may be useful to help families implement strategies that not only build healthy parent-child interactions but also assist in finding ways to decrease parenting stress


1. Bodovski, K., & Youn, M. (2010). Love, discipline and elementary school achievement: The role of family emotional climate. Social Science Research, 39, 585-595.

2. Morris, A.S., Silk, J.S., Steinberg, L., Myers, S.S., & Robinson, L.R. (2007). The role of the family context in the development of emotion regulation. Social Development, 16(2), 361-388.

3. Brooks-Gunn, J., & Markman, L.B. (2005). The contribution of parenting to ethnic and racial gaps in school readiness. The Future of Children, 15(1), 139-168.

4. Hair, E., Halle, T., Terry-Humen, E., Lavelle, B., & Calkins, J. (2006). Children’s school readiness in the ECLS-K: Predictions to academic, health, and social outcomes in first grade. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 21, 431-454.

5. Linver, M.R., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Kohen, D.E. (2002). Family processes as pathways from income to young children’s development. Developmental Psychology, 38(5), 719-734.

6. Roberts, Y.H., Campbell, C.A., Ferguson, M., & Crusto, C.A. (2013). The role of parenting stress in young children’s mental health functioning after exposure to family violence. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 26(5), 605-612.

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, PhD, LMFT, Social Media Specialist. She works with other members of the Family Development team to support the development of military professionals working with families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network here and on Facebook.

Resource Discovery: Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey Report

By Kacy Mixon, PhD, LMFT

Did you know image

Blue Star Famlies LogoBlue Star Families, a non-profit organization founded by military spouses in 2009 to raise awareness of military family struggles, spearheaded an online survey in November 2012 to examine major obstacles that military families may face. Today’s “Resource Discovery” features the website that houses the findings of this survey in which over 5,100 military family members participated. The major themes covered included pay/benefits, retirement, military spouse employment, effects of deployment on children, and education of military children. The survey revealed financial as well as health and wellness concerns as the top military family issues. Below are a few of the other findings:

  • 35% of respondents listed pay/benefits as their top military family life issue.
  • 77% of respondents indicated having 1 or more children living at home.
  • 30% of respondents participated in mental health counseling to assist with the negative impacts of deployment.
  • 24% of spouse respondents reported post-traumatic stress symptoms in their service member.
  • 72% of participants reported that social media was important in communicating with their service member during deployment.
  • Of the service members who contemplated suicide, 30% reported not seeking suicide support services.

The Blue Star Families website provides not only the comprehensive survey results, but also an abridged version supplying the highlights in PDF format. It is accessible to the public and can be used by professionals providing services to military families to explore unique concerns that these families they may have.

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, PhD, LMFT, Social Media Specialist. She works with other members of the Family Development team to support the development of military professionals working with families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network here and on Facebook.


Resource Discovery: Childhood Maltreatment Effects on the Brain

By Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT

NPR-Childhood Maltreatment


“Maltreatment during childhood can lead to long-term changes in brain circuits that process fear, researchers say. This could help explain why children who suffer abuse are much more likely than others to develop problems like anxiety and depression later [in life].”

We have discussed effects of trauma on children in previous posts. Today’s Resource Discovery focuses on new research findings that add to the numerous effects that children often experience. A recent National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast of All Things Considered reported findings from a study exploring the effects of childhood maltreatment on the brain. Researchers found that abuse experienced in childhood can change brain circuits that process fear and show connection to adolescents developing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Furthermore, girls demonstrated increased vulnerability to brain changes caused by stress or trauma. For more information on this study, listen to the full web broadcast here.

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT, Social Media Specialist. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network here and on Facebook.


Single Military Parents: Prevalence & Effects

By Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT

Parenting demands can be incredibly difficult to manage, especially when coupled with work obligations. It comes as no surprise, then, that single parents who are juggling the day-to-day responsibilities associated with caring for their children can feel increasingly overwhelmed when faced with parenting demands. Circumstances surrounding single parenting roles can involve added responsibilities of household management and less time for themselves to socialize with other adults. One study found that 31% of single fathers felt that time was their major concern. Research has also shown single mothers report less satisfaction with their emotional support systems, more stress, and poor well-being including feeling lonely, strained, and tired.[1] There are around 73,000 active-duty single parents in the military. [2] These individuals comprise over 5% of the overall active-duty military population.[2] The image below shows the breakdown of single parents by military branch [2]:

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 5.57.10 PM

Single military parents face the dual challenges of military family life and single parenthood. For this reason single military parents often need complex strategies for balancing their military career with family life. [1]

Beyond financial hardship commonly experienced by single parents, 53 % of single military mothers and 55 % of single military fathers have reported difficulty managing work and family stress.  Research indicates few differences among single military mothers and fathers and occupational stress. [1] However, one difference shown for single fathers was that as the number of years in the military grew, the number of supportive people in their lives decreased. Within the civilian population, there are more single mothers. [3] In the military, however, there are more single fathers. In fact, for every single military mother, there are 2.8 single military fathers. [1]

Single Military Parents and Deployment: There are some beneficial military programs that assist with deployment and parenting demands of military personnel such as family readiness groups and some policies can help to optimize the length and timing of deployment to meet needs of families. For single military parents, relocation of children during deployment can be an added stressor causing additional family stress as relatives or child caregivers may be located hundreds of miles away. To relocate their children before they have to deploy, single parents may have to take personal leave time and pay for travel expenses out of pocket. [4] 

The predominance of single parents in the military coupled with documented added stressors associated with this family configuration, mean that this is an important issue for professionals who work with military families to consider.  Awareness of common struggles faced by single military parents may be useful when coming up with strategies for prevention and intervention.


1. Kelley, M.L. (2006). Single military parents in the new millennium. In C.A. Castro, A.B. Adler, and T.W. Britt (Eds.), Military life: The psychology of serving in peace and combat (pp. 93-103). Wesport, CT: Praeger Security International

2. Wilson, E. (May, 2010). Single moms juggle military, home demands. American Forces Press Services. Retrieved from 

3. Blanchard, S. (2012). Are the needs of single parents serving in the Air Force being met? Advances in Social Work, 13(1), 83-97.

4. Goodman, P., Turner, A., Agazio, J., Throop, M., Padden, D., Greiner, S., & Hillier, S. (2013). Deployment of military mothers: Supportive and non-supportive military programs, processes and policies. Military Medicine, 178(7), 729-734.

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT, Social Media Specialist. She works with other members of the Family Development team to support the development of military professionals working with families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network here and on Facebook.


Why Pre-Deployment is Difficult for Every Member of a Military Family

saying goodbye to son_Navy_croppedThe separation of deployment is a difficult time for military families – there’s no doubt about that! What may be less obvious, especially for those who haven’t seen it up close, is that the months before deployment are also very difficult. Understanding the unique circumstances and stressors of pre-deployment and how they affect young children is the first step toward helping them cope.

Preparing to Leave: Parents’ Experience

The stressors of pre-deployment fall squarely on the shoulders of the parents in the family. Most will experience some if not all of the following challenges.

LOTS to do! During this time, service members and their spouses must attend to many, many financial, legal, and other administrative affairs. In addition, the parents may need to make arrangements to ensure that the family’s needs are met while the service member is deployed, such as relocating to be nearer to extended family.

Distancing of the service member. As the deployment draws near, the service member often spends time away from the family for training and preparation with his or her unit. He or she begins bonding with the other unit members and focusing on the upcoming mission. Though necessary for the service member, the result for the family is psychologically distancing even when he or she is at home.

Making the most of the time together. On the other hand, the spouse may very well be trying to make the most out of the final weeks and days together, both relationally and practically. Spouses create long “honey-do” lists for the service member and plan memorable occasions together as a couple or family before the long separation.

More conflict. With one parent pulling away and the other trying to hold tighter, all while under the pressure of a mile-long “to-do” list, it’s no wonder that big arguments between couples are very common in the final weeks before departure.

Anxiety. Underlying everything for both parents is worry about what will happen once the service member is deployed. The worries that each wrestles with are too numerous to list here but the point to remember is that anxiety about the future creates an underlying level of stress that makes everything else harder.

For single parents preparing for deployment, the circumstances may be somewhat different but they are no less stressful, and perhaps even more so, as the service member must make arrangements for alternative care for their children while they are away.

Children’s Experience

pensive boy_close-upSo how do these adult challenges impact their young children? Though they are not old enough to understand the reasons for changes in their parents, even very young children definitely notice them. The stressors that parents experience as they prepare for deployment inevitably show in their faces, voices and behaviors, even if they aren’t aware of it. But young children are keenly aware that something is different. They notice that a parent is less attentive and more distracted or occupied with other things. They notice that a parent is more irritable and less happy than usual. They notice the faces and voices of their parents when they are talking (or arguing). They notice when their daily routines are disrupted as parents try to manage all the tasks that must be completed. They notice when a parent isn’t as available to play, read or talk to them.

These changes in their parents usually cause feelings of confusion and insecurity in young children, which they express in their behavior and mood. These troubling changes in their children can add yet another layer of stress and anxiety on already burdened parents.

Mother comforting her son

A Safety Net of Care

The good news is that a knowledgeable, attentive, compassionate child care provider can do a lot to ease young children’s anxiety and, in turn, provide parents with the comfort of knowing they have a trusted partner who will help their children cope.

Coming up in a future blog post, we’ll talk about some specific strategies for supporting young children and their parents during the pre-deployment phase. In the meantime, explore our articles and recorded webinars, many of which deal with young military-connected children’s stress and strategies for reducing it.


This blog post was written by Kathy Reschke, Child Care Leader at Military Families Learning NetworkSource:

Resources Discovery: When a Child’s Parent Has PTSD

 By Kacy A. Mixon, M.S., LMFT

DoD DaddyThis week’s RESOURCE DISCOVERY features a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website housing a factsheet about how children typically respond to parents struggling with PTSD. The factsheet outlines the relevance of looking at how PTSD in parents affects military children and also provides insight into how children respond. The social and behavioral problems that these children may show are addressed, along with potential risks children may experience related to emotional problems and secondary traumatization. The factsheet also offers steps that parents can take to prevent and alleviate the effects of PTSD on children. Professionals working with military families can utilize this resource to not only become more aware of how parental PTSD impacts children but also to better inform military parents struggling with this issue.


Book-Finding my wayAlso featured is a book called Finding My Way: A Teen’s Guide to Living with a Parent who has Experienced Trauma. Authors, Michelle D. Sherman, PhD and DeAnne M. Sherman, offer a three-part book that can help adolescents address issues related to having a parent struggling with PTSD.

“This honest and respectfully written manual serves as a roadmap for teens who are trying to find their way.”

This is an interactive book that not only explains PTSD but also co-occurring problems (such as substance abuse) commonly associated with PTSD. In addition, this resource for teens encourages readers to address the uncomfortable emotions and provides opportunities to learn about and develop healthy coping strategies including finding expressive outlets.


This post was written by Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT, Social Media Specialist. She works with other members of the Family Development team to support the development of military professionals working with families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network here and on Facebook.

Resource Discovery: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

By Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT

Book-The War at Home

Our previous post discusses the signs and symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a pervasive problem affecting many who have and continue to serve in the military. We have also differentiated between PTSD and Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms (PTSS) that present problematic, yet less debilitating effects on those that have experienced trauma.  One of this week’s featured resources is a book called The War at Home: One Family’s Fight Against PTSD. The author, Shawn J. Gourley delves into her own experience of her husband returning home after a tour in the Middle East where his ship was deployed to assist Operation Enduring Freedom. Professionals working with military families who experience the effects of PTSD can utilize this book to gain insight into what some families experience and/or provide families with which they work with this resource. Here’s one reviewer’s synopsis:

“Cracks were already showing in his personality, cracks that would widen dramatically into full-on fractures by the time he returned home in June 2004 from his third tour that marked the end of his military career. For the next 4 1/2 years their relationship was very difficult, and at times, downright terrifying for her and the children. It wasn’t until January 2009 that Justin was able to get treatment. He was finally diagnosed with PTSD in August 2009. Those are the broad strokes of their story, but the details of how Shawn fought to save her family will leave you transfixed until the end.”


logo PTSD Military-Family Support

Finding support when dealing with family members who have been diagnosed with PTSD can be difficult and often requires great courage. Another resource that we’ve found is a non-profit Facebook (FB) page called Military with PTSD which offers a support network for families affected by PTSD. The page was started by Shawn J Gourley, author of the aforementioned book. The FB page offers an online community for veterans, spouses, and all caretakers to learn about and understand PTSD. It also serves as a space where:


“…both peer support and peer education through connection to others who really do understand and can relate. On the page, nobody sugarcoats any aspect of PTSD including the domestic violence that can happen.”

The online support group also aims to educate families so they know what to expect so they can be prepared if PTSD affects their home as well as educate law enforcement so they understand and recognize signs and symptoms of PTSD.

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT, Social Media Specialist. She works with other members of the Family Development team to support the development of military professionals working with families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network here and on Facebook.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Prevalence & Effects on Couples

By Kimberly Quinn & Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT

In the last 12 years, the United States military has diagnosed over 103 thousand new cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in deployed service members and over 25 thousand new cases in non-deployed service members.[i] To receive a diagnosis of PTSD, individuals must meet diagnostic criteria inclusive of displaying a certain number of symptoms that cause significant distress and/or disruption.  In addition, there must be some sort of traumatic stressor leading to these symptoms. Full diagnostic criteria for PTSD can be found here. Those that suffer from the effects of trauma without being diagnosed with PTSD are considered to have post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). The intensity of PTSS varies, however, the impact does not reach the severity level of PTSD.  The table below highlights PTSD symptoms included in the new Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-V): 

PTSD Symptoms Table

Did you know imageSpouses and children of service members who deploy can experience secondary traumatic stress (STS)–or significant levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms. [ii]  This can also be termed vicarious trauma, secondary trauma or secondary post-traumatic stress disorder. These symptoms have negative effects on couple [ii] and family functioning.  Specific symptoms of post-traumatic stress [iii] that negatively affect couple and family functioning include:

STS symptoms 1

The good news is that there are steps families can take to prevent the negative effects of PTSD and STS. The following links to resources that can help military families and those that play a supportive role in their lives gain awareness about common stressors, preventative strategies and interventions related to PTSD.


This article is written by Kimberly Quinn, University of Florida M.Ed./Ed..S. Candidate, 1LT Florida Army National Guard and Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT. Both work with other members of the family development team contributing to the professional development of those working with military families. You may find more about this aspect of the Military Families Learning Network on this site and on Facebook.

Resource Discovery: Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness

By Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT

clearinghouse logoLooking for helpful gems to put in your resource toolbox? Today we’re featuring the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness (Clearninghouse) website. This is an organization whose mission is to provide professionals serving military families with the tools and resources necessary to promote strength and well-being in military families. Clearinghouse has created an interactive database where professionals working with the military can search for effective programs targeting families, children, couples, and parents that have been evaluated for evidence-based outcomes meeting the needs of military families. Clearinghouse aims to highlight these programs and practices to assist professionals and families with:

“make[ing] informed judgments about which programs are both right for your situation and worth the investment.”


This site outlines information on both military and civilian programs targeting some of the following topics:

claringhouse program topics

In addition to information about programs and practices that may be of use for military families, the site also connects to webinars, videos, social media networks and virtual learning opportunities.

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT, Social Media Specialist. She works with other members of the Family Development team to support the development of military professionals working with families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network here and on Facebook.