Category Archives: military families

Military Families

The Military Child’s Experience: Part Two

Sailor and daughter
USS Anzio sailors depart Norfolk (Photo by: Petty Officer 2nd Class Rafael Martie) CC BY 2.0

Recently the MFLN Family Development Early Intervention team published Part One of an interview  with Kellie, a young woman who grew up in a military family.  You can read Part One of that interview here.  Today we bring you the final thoughts of our guest.  This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Did you move frequently? If so, what strategies did you use to get used to your new “home” and make new friends? What recommendations do you have for adults to help military children through these transitions?

I moved every 2-4 years depending on my dad’s job at the time. I have moved a total of seven times since I was born. I think the best strategy I used to adjust to my new home when I was younger was just getting involved in activities and not being shy. One thing a lot of kids don’t realize is that everyone truly wants to be friends with the new kid!

As I got older it got harder. I was in the same place for all of middle school and I got very comfortable with that place. I was on a dance team, I had a set group of friends, and activities I was involved in. I then found out I was moving to a new school, in a new state, at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. That was devastating news for a teenager. I focused on a goal: I was going to make the high school dance team, no matter what I had to do. I started emailing my new school’s dance coach; I set up a video audition, and ended up making the team. I met my team the summer before school started, which meant I had thirteen friends on that first day of school. It made the transition so much easier.

I did this again when I moved to Florida the summer before my junior year. This time, my parents drove me from Missouri to Florida in order to try out for my new dance team in person after months of contact with my new coach. Once again, I made the team, gained new friends, and even lived with a girl on my team for a month because my dad couldn’t leave work yet, and I had to be in Florida for dance practices. Having friends before school helped me so much, and I will forever be grateful for them because they made my transitions so much easier!

My advice for a child before moving is to make goals and get involved in things you love. Just because you move does not mean you cannot do your favorite things. There are ways for you to meet new people when you move finding something in common with them makes this easier. For parents, support you children, push them to be involved, and go above and beyond for them. My parents worked so hard to make sure my adjustment was as easy as it could possibly be.

If you could talk to your “young” self today, what would you tell him or her about concerns or anxieties you might have had as a young child with military parents?

  • I would tell myself not to worry and that everything truly does happen for a reason. I would tell myself that because of what I am going through, I am becoming a stronger person and gaining leadership qualities that most kids do not have.
  • I would tell myself to push for my goals and do anything I can to reach them.
  • And finally, I would tell myself that as much as it feels like your world may be crashing down around you, it is going to be okay, you just have to stay strong and be positive.

What are some of the things you can remember that your teachers did for you at school that helped you adjust/cope with military family life?

I was blessed with amazing teachers who cared about where I was from, what I was learning before, and what my interests were.

  • They helped to facilitate friendships.
  • They cared when I was behind and took extra time to get me to where I needed to be.
  • If I was ahead, they continued to challenge me.

Teachers should build relationships with their students; that is the greatest gift they can give a child. I know it really seems simple, but I remember those teachers because of their relationship with me and how much they cared for me. Those are the things that matter, because teachers will establish trust with a student, who is then able to look to that teacher for help when they need it.

From your own experience growing up in a military family, what one piece of advice would you give to:

  • Military parents who currently have young children?
    • Get them involved. What they are involved in when they are young is what they will grow to love and set goals for when they are older.
    • Support them in everything they want to do. Do not ever tell a child that they cannot do something. Parents are their child’s lifeline and should do everything they can for them.
  • Other children military or civilian?
    • Follow your dreams and set goals for yourself. No matter what boundaries you may run into, you can beat them and achieve your goals.
    • Do not be afraid to dive into something new.
    • Think of the positives about being a military kid, not the negatives, and learn from your experiences. Be proud of yourself and where you came from, because you live a much cooler life then most kids!
  • Other adults about military children?
    • Be open-minded and try to understand what the child is going through before you make assumptions. So often military children get ignored or pushed to the side. Do not be the person who lets that happen, especially if you are a teacher. As a teacher, you are their go-to person to make them feel comfortable, and you can truly be the person who makes their experience a more positive one. I may be just a little bit biased, as I am a future teacher, but it is so obvious how powerful a teacher is in a child’s life, so use that power!

This post was edited 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, and YouTube.

Personal Finance Ethics Webinar

Dr. Michael Gutter and financial practitioner Jerry Buchko are presently a highly-anticipated webinar on ethical issues for financial professionals on Tuesday, August 2. Register now for Personal Finance Professional Ethics & Standards of Practice  – A Professional Dialogue.

Image by Mark Morgan
Image by Mark Morgan

This webinar training will be offered and conducted as a facilitated professional discussion and participation in the discussion will be encouraged. Participants will be expected to review the professional ethics and standards of practice for their respective certification bodies ahead of the discussion session. A high level introduction to the subject of ethics will be offered as a primer for understanding the basics of ethics (for those who may not have had any previous formal education or training in ethics) and this will, along with the pre-session readings, help to serve as a framework for approaching the discussion of case studies. A number of brief case studies will be presented, and participants will be given an opportunity to respond in text to questions posed about each case study, including how they might respond in these situations. We will then consider and discuss the case study scenario and our various responses.

This webinar is approved for 1.5 CEUs for AFC-credentialed and CPFC-credentialed participants.

From our evaluation surveys, we know many of you have been requesting a session on ethics we anticipate a highly engaged audience for this webinar. Join us on Aug. 2 for this great session.

Cybershopping Saving Strategies

 By Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

Online shopping has a lot of appeal because it is fast, easy, and convenient. Last year, consumers spent $2 billion online on Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving. As more and more purchases are made online, consider these tips to score the best deals:

  • Before you buy, look for coupon codes. Coupon codes are normally a series of letters or numbers that you enter when checking out online. If you are a member of the website’s mailing list, you probably regularly receive coupon codes via email. If not, simply type the name of the online merchant and the words “coupon code” into an internet search engine. Typically, the coupon code will be for free shipping, upgraded shipping, or a percent off merchandise purchased. Be certain to check the expiration date and details of the coupon code; you may be required to spend a certain dollar amount to receive the benefit.
  • When checking out at the mall, are you consistently asked to provide your email
    Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.
    Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.

    address after the purchase? Although the idea of receiving extra coupons to stores where you shop is appealing, the idea of filling up your in-box with spam is often enough to make you pass. Consider setting up a free email account that you can use only for retailers. You will not need to check the account often, but when you are ready to make an online purchase, you can search the account for recent coupons.

  • If you are not in a hurry for your purchase, consider leaving your virtual shopping cart hanging for a few days. If you have created an online account with a merchant, place your items in the shopping cart but do not complete the purchase. After a day or two in limbo, a merchant will often email a coupon to encourage you to complete the transaction.
  • Daily deal websites are growing in popularity. Daily deal sites offer products and/or services at discounted prices, often 50% or more off retail. Typically someone who has signed up for daily deals will receive either email or social media alerts to the “deal of the day.” There is no doubt that daily deals offer the opportunity to grab some great items at significant discounts; however, you may also be tempted to buy an item or service that you don’t really need or hadn’t planned on purchasing. Normally, daily deals are offered for a limited amount of time and have limited quantities available, often encouraging the buyer to make an impulsive decision in an attempt to avoid missing the big savings. If the daily deal is for a product or service that you use often, it may make sense to snatch the item quickly, but be cautious not to just click buy because it is such a great deal. Be certain that it is an item or service that you need and will use.
  • Remember to safeguard your personal information when online shopping. You are entering a tremendous amount of personal information (your name, phone number, address, etc., not to mention your credit card information). Always make certain that you are using a personal/home computer for online shopping. Public computers, such as those at work or the public library, may store your information that someone could access later. Be certain that the website you are using is secure. Once you enter into the shopping cart phase of a website, the web address should have a “s” after the http. The “s” indicates that your data will be transmitted securely. Also, be certain that you are on a legitimate retailer’s site. Knock-off websites do exist and at times it may be difficult to tell the difference from the real thing.
  • Use a credit card, as opposed to a debit card, when shopping online. When you pay with a credit card there is a period of time between when you make the purchase and when you pay your credit card bill. This gives you time to dispute a charge if something goes wrong with the transaction. When you pay with a debit card, you are authorizing the retailer to go ahead and debit your account. Most likely you will still be able to successfully dispute a charge, but the money will be missing from your account until the dispute is settled.

Contact Jennifer at jhunter@uky.edu

 

 

War on the Homefront

By Elizabeth Newton and Angellica Wentworth

Man with clenched fist
pixabay[fear-1131143_1280 by Alexas_Fotos, January 12, 2016]
The occurrence of domestic violence is an unfortunate reality that persists among families of all SES backgrounds, geographic locations, and ethnicities.  Military families fall victim to remarkably higher rates of domestic violence compared to civilian citizens [3]. Military culture fosters unique strengths and needs among their population, which are studied more and more today in the realm of family science research.

Since the 9/11 attacks on America’s home turf, domestic violence, specifically intimate partner violence rates, have sky rocketed among military and veteran communities [1].  This increase in DV has been reported in the homes of combat veterans returning from the ongoing war in the middle east.  There has been an apparent link between PTSD and Domestic Violence that is being researched more today than ever before.

Domestic violence within military families has been a difficult topic to study due to the underreporting of incidents.  Many assume the primary reason for the lack of reporting can be attributed to the culture of secrecy that is perpetuated throughout this population [2]. It appears as though Military culture in America tends to discourage emotional influence when making decisions with the assumption that rational thinking alone is most efficient. Having said that, victims and perpetrators in this community alike may lack the ability to recognize and process emotional and relational dysfunction effectively.

American military culture is less progressive than civilian populations throughout the country today.  The traditional, patriarchal influence that the military lifestyle fosters shapes the unique needs of this clientele.  If potentially working with a military demographic, familiarize yourself with the resources available that will help you learn more about these families in efforts to devise effective treatment plans. These resources offer insight on the different life transitions a military family may encounter such as deployment, reintegration back into the family, living with PTSD, and so much more. An excellent website to refer to as a service professional is: http://blogs.extension.org/militaryfamilies/military-families/, which offers an array of research findings, information, and resources in regards to working with this population.

As service professionals, we must be aware of barriers that may be silencing military families in need.  Even if reported, mental health intervention and maintenance tactics, such as therapy, are often stigmatized in this community.  Learning how to best reach out to this population can spread mental health awareness throughout military communities.  This in turn can aid in lifting the stigma of mental health services, shed light on the dynamics within these families, and can help service professionals offer effective services to this unique population of people.

Online Resources:

 

References

[1] Bannerman, S. (2014, April 7). High risk of military domestic violence on the home front. Retrieved November 17, 2015 from: http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/High-risk-of-military-domestic-violence-on-the-5377562.php

[2] “Domestic Abuse and How to Find Help Through the Family Advocacy Program.” Militaryonesource.mil. Web. 17 Nov. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.militaryonesource.mil/abuse?content_id=266706.

[3] Domestic Violence in the Military. (2014, October 1). Retrieved November 17, 2015, from https://www.domesticshelters.org/domestic-violence-articles-information/domestic-violence-in-the-military#.VkqATa6rQb0

 

This post was written by Elizabeth Newton and Angellica Wentworth, guest bloggers for the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals orking with military families. Elizabeth and Angellica are masters-level marriage and family therapist (MFT) in training enrolled in the Marriage and Family Therapy Department at Valdosta State University. They also work as MFT interns at VSU’s FamilyWorks Clinic, a community-based family therapy clinic. You may find more about the authors, here. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD team on our website, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

 

Military Caregiving Webinar Reminder

TRICARE ECHO blog imgDon’t forget to join us next week at 11:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday, July 27 as we provide a special healthcare needs webinar for military service providers on the TRICARE® Extended Care Health Options (ECHO) program.

Presenters from the Defense Health Agency (DHA) will provide participants with an overview of the ECHO program, which provides supplemental services to active duty family members with qualifying mental or physical disabilities, and highlight services beyond those offered by the basic TRICARE® health benefits program. Learning objectives include:

  • Understanding conditions to qualify for ECHO coverage
  • Identifying benefits to program
  • Review ECHO Home Health Care services
  • Determine how ECHO and the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) work together
  • Understand ECHO and the Autism Care Demonstration (ACD)

You can register for this free professional development opportunity by going to learn.extension.org/events/2680. Continuing education (CE) credit will be provided to credentialed participants from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), as well as certificates of completion for those interested in receiving training hours.

For more information about this webinar including the speakers, continuing education credits and how to join, please visit our announcement blog from June entitled Upcoming Webinar – TRICARE® Extended Care Health Option (ECHO).

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on July 22, 2016.

 

Clip and Save: Stretching Your Grocery Dollar

By Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

Regardless of the reason, whether it’s to save a few extra dollars or the thrill of scoring a good deal, couponing has become very popular. Have you seen TLC’s popular television show, Extreme Couponing, highlighting families who save hundreds of dollars at the register by using coupons? Do you ever wonder how someone can actually save that much at the grocery? Although most of us will not be able to reduce our grocery bill to a few dollars, there are a few simple couponing strategies that you can use to stretch your military family’s grocery dollars.

The first step before even setting foot in the store is to get organized. Planning ahead for meal time can help you save both time and money, whether you use store ads or coupons. At the beginning of every week, spend a few minutes planning the meals you will need for the week. It is often helpful to look at a calendar, keeping in mind which nights your daughter has softball practice or your son has guitar lessons.

Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.
Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.

Planning ahead will prevent the last-minute panic of trying to figure out what to serve for dinner or turning to fast food from the drive-through. As you prepare your list, don’t just think about the evening meal, but also think of all meals that you will be serving for the week, including breakfast and lunches for both school and work. Also, consider meal options that include items you already have at home, especially perishables such as meat and dairy products.

Once you have your meal plan for the week, search your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, making a list of the items to pick up at the store to complete your menu. You will also want to add any kitchen staples that you may need. After your list is complete, search your local stores’ weekly sale ads and coupons to find the best price. Sale ads, as well as coupons, can normally be found online, at the store, or in the Sunday edition of your local newspaper. You may also request coupons directly from manufacturers, although there is no guarantee that they will respond. Be flexible with your meal plan; if you see a great bargain on an item, such as beef or chicken, consider rearranging your list to incorporate it into your menu. However, once you are at the store, stick to your list. A last-minute change at the store could leave you without key ingredients to complete your meal plan.

As you review weekly sales ads and coupons, keep in mind that if you are able to purchase the item for 50% off or more it is a good deal. For example, let’s assume macaroni and cheese normally costs $1.20 per box, but is on sale this week for $1.00, and you have a $0.50 coupon. If the store doubles coupons, your mac and cheese will be free, but if not, it would only cost you $0.50, a savings of nearly 60%. This is an item that you would definitely want to grab, but only if your family likes mac and cheese. Do not buy a bargain, just because it is a bargain. If no one at home likes a particular food item, but it is a good deal, either pass on it at the store or purchase it and donate it to a local food bank or charity. Also, you will need to become an informed consumer to know whether a sale is really a good deal. Maintaining a spending diary is a good financial practice to monitor monthly expenses. A detailed grocery-spending diary will help you quickly recognize a bargain price. Track the prices you typically pay for common household goods. You can reference your grocery diary to see whether an advertised sale price is really a good deal and if you should stock up on it or wait for a better price.

Scanning weekly grocery ads and coupon circulars can seem like a time-consuming task for a busy person. Consider using internet search engines, social media, and both store and coupon websites to make the process faster. There are several websites that can help you locate the best deals and coupons quickly. Be cautious of fee-based websites; there are several reputable free sites available. Talk with friends and other couponers to find the best online resources. If you are considering a fee-based site, make certain you understand the fees and services provided. Be cautious about coupons on the Internet. Coupons can be counterfeited the same as money, and it is illegal to use fake coupons. Make certain that you are printing coupons from a legitimate source, such as www.redplum.com or www.smartsource.com. You might recognize the names RedPlum and SmartSource from the coupon circulars that are normally in the Sunday paper. These are examples only and there are many other sources of Internet coupons.

Learning to coupon takes time and patience. Try not to become overwhelmed in the beginning. Remember, small savings are still savings, and they provide you with additional

Contact Jennifer at  jhunter@uky.edu

Stumbling Upon Mindfulness: One Veteran’s Afghanistan Experience

By Reg McCutcheon, Lt Col USAF (Retired)

Tree at Sunset
Flickr [Sunset Tree by der LichtKlicker, February 5, 2016, CC BY-ND 2.0]
I personally define mindfulness as the space between cause and effect where our expressed differences define our relationship with the present.  I know it’s not the definition with which you might be most familiar, but my mindfulness journey is rooted in a story of chaos, desperation, and survival.  This is my narrative of how I accidentally discovered mindfulness and how it created in me a new perspective and an enlightened way to experience my circumstances.

As a retired military officer with over 30 years of service, I have seen many things during my career.  But the single most life-changing experience for me was a combat tour in Afghanistan in 2011.  Although I was 25 years their senior, I approached this experience with many of the same feelings that our young men and women experience during their first time in a combat zone – energized and ready to “go, fight, win.”  I shared in their desires to do my part.  But by the end, many of us left with conflicting feelings of confusion, loss, remorse, and regret.

We were confronted with the harsh reality of that environment very soon after our arrival.  Just four days into our tour, a single rogue attack on our base took the lives of nine fellow soldiers, all within the perceived safety of our walls.  One was a friend of mine named Ray, with whom I had trained and traveled just weeks and days before the attack.

I responded and coped with this event by increasing my focus and pace, and I soon fell into a pattern of working 14-16 hour days, 7days a week.  I told myself that if I stayed busy, then the time would fly by and I would be headed home soon.  But I was beginning to feel the breakdown of my own connectedness and I needed to catch my breath.  I look back now and see that, like everyone else, I was playing a mental game with myself in a world that really required a new way of thinking and experiencing the moment.

As a military officer, I am familiar with the works of military strategist Carl von Clausewitz, who coined a term “the fog of war.”  It is a cornerstone concept at every level of command and in senior leadership training.  But a lesson plan about combat operations and real live war are two very different things.  After a particularly challenging day, I was desperate to clear the fog in my own head and experience some separation.  I often did this with the aid of my iPod, listening to various podcasts and music as I would lie in my bunk.  I would have my trusty ear buds perfectly placed, the world securely muted outside this metaphorical cone of separation.  But on this one evening, the damned thing would not work no matter what I tried.   So I found myself lying there frustrated, angry, and tired.  All I could hear were the sounds of my heart beating faster and louder and the air passing through my nostrils.

In retrospect, I believe this was an existential moment, as I realized at that point that I had to make a different choice.  I had to use whatever resources were available to me, but that amounted to a non-functioning iPod (with ear buds) and solitude.  In the stillness, I began to focus on my racing heart and the pace of my breath.  I slowly began closing off the outside world, which left me to deal with the inside.  I started by feeling my breath slowing and listening to my heart following that lead.  I began to feel a sense of control over my anxiety and adrenaline, and a sense of calm for the first time in weeks.  Little did I know that my iPod malfunctioning was actually a gift that had provided a way out of the fog and a path to resolving the present.

Let me also say here that I had no knowledge at all of what mindfulness actually was or how it could be used as a therapeutic technique.  I just happened upon this in a moment of desperation.  But I began to take those times of solitude as an opportunity to experience what I was really feeling and examine moments between cause and effect.  Over time, I rarely played the iPod anymore and just left its ear buds untethered, listening to my breath and heart providing a predictable rhythm in a chaotic place; a gift of insight through reflection and projection.  As I left Afghanistan, I thought of this exercise as something I had only needed to survive war and shifted my focus to getting home.

In reality, I needed mindfulness all the more when I returned stateside.   Back home, people are twice as aggressive and truly just focused on what they have going on.  They talk over you, they speed past you, cut you off, and are sometimes selfish, inconsiderate, lack good manners and that’s just the people in our families.  The combat experience is a bell that cannot be un-rung when a soldier steps back on American soil.  There is something – actually, many things – unique and different about veterans who have been exposed to the challenges of war.  As soldiers, we are trained to be the “biggest, strongest, and baddest” fight force on the planet.  But with all the bravado and armor outside, what is fragile and delicate inside cannot be ignored.  The dilemma for a returning combat veteran is that the fragile inside wants to come out and experience the world it once knew, while the armored outside wants to retreat from a world that it doesn’t know.

For me, emotional confusion came from these ongoing contradictions, and my frustrations grew as a “fog of war” had turned into a “fog of being home.”  I “checked out” at times and was not always intentional in my actions and reactions.  I sometimes didn’t recognize consequences, and I found I was not driven by the same motives, ideas, or beliefs that I once was.  I was having difficulty taking moments in context, slowing things down, and processing them appropriately.  I had lost my relational insight.  I cared about things that didn’t matter and didn’t care about things that did.  Mindfulness for a warrior is survival-focused; for a citizen, it’s relational-focused.

Eventually, with the help of a supportive spouse, things equilibrated.  I went back to what had worked for me in the chaos of Afghanistan.  I found that a mindfulness journey at home was filled with many more insights than just survival.  Over the past few years, I’ve been able to build up my focus and my mindfulness journey to capture what I believe is the center of being – the present.  For many, the time it takes to make a choice – the space between action and reaction – is inconsequential and but a nanosecond.  But for those who practice mindfulness, choices are so much more meaningful and are not measured by time but by space — the space between cause and effect where our expressed differences define our relationship with the present.

Mindfulness allows me to slow down to capture a moment’s essence and meaning, so that I can create the effect I desire within myself in relationship with everything around me.  I believe it’s in that state in which we are all able to make the best choices.

Your success depends on your next move, statement, or expression…they all hinge on your relationship with the present.

 

This post was written by Reg McCutcheon. Reg is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel with over 30 years of military experience.  He is currently a MFT intern at Valdosta State University and holds a bachelor’s degree and masters in business.  He is a graduate of the Air University Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, and Squadron Officers School.  In addition he has graduated from several USAF occupational schools, to include Undergraduate Missile Training, Undergraduate Space Training, and Senior Leader Development Training.  Reg’s awards include three combat medals: Bronze Star Medal, NATO Medal, and Afghanistan Campaign Medal.  He also received two Meritorious Service Medals and three Commendation Medals during his career of leadership and dedication to the Air Force.

Caregiving Facts and Statistics

In June 2015, the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute published Caregiving in the U.S. 2015.  This report compiled data from multiple research studies about caregivers and care recipients.

Below is a collection of some of the statistics found in the Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 report.

Click here to read or download a copy of the report.

caregiving-in-2015_block_1 caregiving-in-2015_block_2 caregiving-in-2015_block_3 caregiving-in-2015_block_4 caregiving-in-2015_block_5 caregiving-in-2015_block_6 caregiving-in-2015_block_7

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on July 15, 2016.

FD Webinar|Picking up the Pieces: Helping Couples Overcome Infidelity

Picking up the Pieces: Helping Couples Overcome Infidelity

Date: August 11, 2016

Time: 11:00 am-12:30 pm Eastern

Location: https://learn.extension.org/events/2675

Mosaic Heart
Flickr [IMG_2625 by Vortexas32, March 29, 2012, CC BY-ND 2.0]
This session is being presented by Emily Brown, LCSW.  Emily is the director of Key Bridge Therapy Center in Arlington, VA. She works with individuals, couples, and families regarding the underlying issues in relationships, marriage, divorce and betrayal. In this webinar, Emily will be assisting service professionals in the identification and treatment of affairs in couples. This will include special difficulties for military families when it comes to affairs in addition to the different types of affairs, how to handle the surfacing of an affair, how to intervene and work with couples effectively, and how to assist with forgiveness and closure. Join us on August 11th at 11:00 am Eastern!

We offer 1.5 National Association of Social Worker CE credits and CE credits for licensed Marriage and Family Therapists in the state of Georgia for each of our webinars, click here to learn more. For more information on future presentations in the 2016 Family Development webinar series, please visit our professional development website or connect with us via social media for announcements: (Facebook & Twitter)

The Military Child’s Experience: Part One

Coast Guard child
US Coast Guard families and service members march in New York City’s Veterans Day Parade (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Robert Harclerode) CC by 2.0

The MFLN Family Development Early Intervention team brings you an interview with Kellie, a young woman who grew up as a military child.  She is currently a college student pursuing a degree in early childhood.  Look for Part Two of her interview on July 27.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What are some of your favorite memories of being a military child?

A favorite memory I have is seeing new places. It is so cool to be able to relate to so many places now and claim a little bit of everywhere that I have lived as home. I also loved moving, because you get a new house and room every time. There was always something new to explore, and that’s how I made my memories, just by exploring new places. Everywhere I have lived has become a memory but also has shaped me into who I am today.

What, if anything, was challenging?

The most challenging part about being a military child was not knowing what you were going to find. For instance, every time you moved you found yourself in a new school, with new teachers, new classmates, the list goes on and on. With so much “new” thrown at you all at once, it can be difficult to adjust. I was able to learn how to adjust with practice and it really helped me throughout my college years. My flexibility is one of my strongest leadership traits.

Was your parent deployed while you were a child? How frequently?

I was lucky compared to most military children. My dad is going on 30 years of active duty service but was only deployed one time for six months. It was hard but I am so glad he never had to deploy again.

What did your parent(s) tell you about their deployment?

I remember my parents telling me that my dad would be leaving to go overseas for a few months. They told me what he would be doing so I wasn’t very nervous. I was proud of my dad for serving our country.

How far in advance were you informed?

As soon as my dad knew for sure that he was being deployed, he told all of us. I don’t remember it being a big deal, I just knew it was something he had to do and that he would come back. I know it was something my family expected since he left less than two years after 9/11. At that time so many people were getting deployed.

What would you suggest to other parents that need to prepare their children for an impending deployment?

Make sure you let the children know what is going on. I was lucky enough that my dad was not in battle, so it was much less likely that something would go wrong, and it was easier for my parents to assure me that it was going to be okay. It is a hard situation to explain to children and it is important to let the children know that their parents are serving our country and making it better. My dad is a hero to me, and knowing that made it easier to understand why he was gone.

Be honest with your kids, give them as much time as possible to know a parent is deploying before he/she leaves, and give them comfort, because regardless it is not going to be easy.

What were some of you concerns while your parent was deployed and what strategies did you use to manage these concerns?

I was really young, so it was hard to understand all of the risks. I saw my mom upset sometimes, and didn’t quite understand that because I was so young. I know that my concerns mostly had to do with missing him and not really knowing when he would be back. I tried to think of the positives rather than the negative things that could happen. I was only in 4th grade, but I stayed busy, which made me less worried.

How can parents support their children through all phases of a deployment (pre, during, and post)?

  • Honesty is the most important aspect of support. Before a parent leaves, make sure to focus on the time you have with them before they leave, not on the fact that they are leaving.
  • While they are gone, don’t hide your feelings from your children, because they are there to comfort you just as much as you are there to comfort them.
  • Be open as a family while a parent is deployed and discuss your feelings. Your family is truly your greatest support system.
  • When a parent finally comes home, make it a celebration, because as hard as it may have been to be away from each other, the most important thing is that they are home and safe.

This post was edited 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, and YouTube.