Tag Archives: militaryfamilies

Part II: Adult Learning – Life Experiences and Knowledge

Adul Learning Series

How can life experiences aid in the way we learn and process information?  As helping professionals many of us “learn from doing” or learn from experience. Did you know that learning from experience is a key principle of adult learning? Malcolm Knowles, the pioneer of adult learning, identified four principles to adult learning: (1) Autonomous and Self-Directed, (2) Life Experiences and Knowledge, (3) Goal-Oriented and Relevancy-Oriented and (4) Practical.

Last month we identified principle (1) Autonomous and Self-Directed and provided strategies for military service providers  who’s clientele prefers to be actively involved in learning and working around personal goals and interests. This month our focus shifts to principle (2) Life Experiences and Knowledge.

Life Experiences and Knowledge

Adults often bring their life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences. This could include family responsibilities, work-related activities as well as previous education.

As a service provider, when providing education and training to military families try to ask the individuals about their life experiences, part-time work, family commitments, schools or university experiences thus far, hobbies and leisure activities. Help your families connect their learning with their life experiences and previous knowledge. One way you could do this is to present a scenario and ask them if they have every experienced anything similar. By having your families connect to their personal experiences and knowledge you are encouraging a better connection to the topic, lesson, or idea you are teaching them.

Over the course of the next few months the MFLN Military Caregiving concentration will be discussing the remaining two principles of adult learning, as well as adult learning styles. If you missed our first post in this series covering Autonomy and Self-Direction, you can find it in our Adult Learning Series homepage. Our goal with this series is to provide service providers working with adults with a better understanding of how adults learn.


This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on August 12, 2016.


Difficulties Military Families with Special Needs Children Often Face

Military homecoming, navy servicewoman with family

Military families face challenges when navigating the demands of military life, however when military families include children with disabilities the challenges are more unique and often more challenging.

On average children in military families switch schools six to nine times between Kindergarten and 12th grade1. Although all children in military families face the struggles of losing friends, familiar surroundings and their routines, the impact can by more detrimental on children with special needs.

In a study conducted by Jessica Carol Jagger and Suzanne Lederer, entitled “Impact of Geographic Mobility on Military Children’s Access to Special Education Services,” military parents of children with special needs were surveyed to describe the relationships between schools following placement.

The following difficulties were encountered with disabilities related to permanent change of station (PCS) and local public schools.

  • Parents feel they must battle school systems.
  • Different state/local educational authorities’ approaches to achieving educational goals lead to parent concerns about quality of services.
  • Uncertainty about place of residence limits proactive planning and precludes warm handoff.
  • Gaining schools are not prepared for student arrival when records were sent in advances.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 non-compliance or inaccessibility.

To find out more difficulties as well as resources and recommendations for military families with special needs children, read the study “Impact of Geography Mobility on Military Children’s Access to Special Education Services.”

Resources Cited:

  1. Jagger, J.C., & Lederer, S. (2014, January). Impact of Geographic Mobility on Military Children’s Access to Special Education Services. Children & Schools, 36(1). Doi:10.1093/cs/cdt046


This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on August 05, 2016.


Called To Serve: A Military Women’s Wellness Series

This week our Friday Field Notes focuses on a program created by two Assistant Professor’s at South Dakota State University to address the needs of an under-served military population…women.    Read on for information on this great program, which utilized cooperative extension specialists as part of the program.

Friday Field Notes

Females associated with the military (service members, veterans, dependents) experience varying stressors.  Today, the United States maintains the largest proportion of females currently serving in the armed forces in history. Females are experiencing more combat than in the past and are returning from combat with varying psychosocial stressors including an increase risk of harassment, sexual assault, mental illness, and unemployment.  Female military dependents may experience impairments in relationships due to the effects of trauma from deployments as well as symptoms of secondary trauma and other mental health issues.

Women associated with the military, including spouses and dependents, are currently an under-served population.  Few programs are available which address the specific needs of females who have a connection to the armed services. A lack of resources can increase stress and negatively impact the overall health and wellness of service men and women. Therefore, programs are needed to provide support and promote wellness among military personnel and families.

To meet this need, we received funding from the Women and Giving Foundation at South Dakota State University (SDSU) to design a series of wellness workshops. Each workshop was informed by one of the Pillars of Wellness established by the National Guard Bureau. In partnership with Michelle Ruesink, Director of Veterans Affairs at SDSU, the workshops were provided to female students and community members with military connections.  The Pillars of Wellness represent elements of one’s overall health including emotional, physical, spiritual, social, and family wellness. SDSU Extension state and field specialists with expertise in the pillars led the activities in each of the workshops. This pilot project was implemented at minimal cost, can be easily replicated, and helped to establish connections with local military organizations.

The following describes each of the workshops in more detail:

Physical Wellness: The health and physical activity extension field specialist facilitated a workshop on healthy eating and physical activity. During the session, participants learned about updated nutritional recommendations from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), as well as mobile apps that could be used to quickly estimate calorie intake. Additionally, participants learned and practiced basic yoga exercises for relieving tension.

Emotional Wellness:  A 4-H youth development and resiliency extension field specialist presented a workshop on the qualities associated with resilient individuals, as well as coping strategies that can foster resiliency. Participants formed small groups to discuss challenges that families may experience during military service and brainstormed coping strategies to help overcome those challenges. Additionally, time was provided for self-reflection related to a personal challenge and the development of an individual plan, which included coping strategies discussed during the workshop.

Spiritual Wellness:  A family, life, and child care extension state specialist presented on mindfulness, which is the process of focusing thought and attention on the present moment.  She led the workshop in a yoga studio in the wellness center on campus. Participants had a chance to engage in various mindfulness activities including a basic body scan, mindful walking, and mindful eating. These activities help limit preoccupation with past stressors or future obligations in an effort to reduce anxiety.

Family Wellness:  A family resource management extension state specialist provided strategies for managing family finances. Participants evaluated their needs versus wants and were provided with budget templates and debt calculators. A common concern among participants was related to student loans as many workshop participants were currently attending college or had college-aged children.

Social Wellness:  The last session served as a relaxing social event to wrap up the series. Participants were invited to a food and canvas painting event. A local merchant who hosts private painting parties facilitated the final session. Each participant had the opportunity to create a military-themed painting on her own canvas. During the session, an emphasis was made on the importance of community and maintaining relationships.

Our goal is to expand the programming to the other universities in South Dakota as well as within rural communities across the state.  By utilizing expertise within the University Extension System, we can provide effective programming to meet the needs of military service members and their families.  For more information on the pilot project, please view our publication in the Journal of Military and Government Counseling.

Bjornestad, A., & Letcher, A. (2015). Called to serve:  A military women’s wellness series.  Journal of Military and Government Counseling, 3(3), 215-228.

Meet the authors:

Andrea BjornestadAndrea Bjornestad, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, is an Assistant Professor and extension mental health specialist in the Department of Counseling and Human Development at South Dakota State University.  She is a licensed professional counselor in South Dakota.  Her research has focused on examining secondary traumatic stress symptoms in military spouses and the impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on military families.  A current project includes designing a wellness inventory for military service members and veterans.  She is a former military spouse who has served on numerous committees to help plan and support events for military veterans and their family members.

Amber LetcherAmber Letcher, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor and 4-H youth development specialist in the Department of Counseling and Human Development at South Dakota State University.  Her research focuses on youth development and risk taking in the context of early peer relationships. Her previous work compared the self-reported and observed attachment characteristics of adolescent couples and the relationship between romantic attachment and risk behaviors.  Current projects are exploring youth risk behavior within rural communities, sexual education programming, as well as the effects of youth mentoring.

Reaching Rural Veterans Program Created Via Community Collaborations

For this weeks Friday Field Notes we will hear from two women who work with the Reaching Rural Veterans program with the Military Families Research Institute at Purdue University about a collaboration between  land grant universities, rural faith communities, and faith-based food pantries to provide food, benefits, services, support and education to low income, homeless and at-risk veterans and their families living in rural areas.

Friday Field Notes

One of the biggest challenges that the Veterans Administration (VA) faces when it comes to providing services to veterans is to reach them where they live. In 2013, the Veterans Health Administration announced a new strategic plan that focused on ensuring that veterans have convenient access to tailored information and services, regardless of their location or circumstances. This kind of strategy has been productively used for many health- and poverty-related initiatives.pic for FFN purdue

Many organizations such as universities and the Department of Labor have created “one stop” offices to make it easier for veterans to meet requirements for education or employment (U.S. Department of Labor, 2011). Because rural veterans are a low-density population, any program aimed at serving them needed to leverage existing community resources in order to minimize expense, assist in sustaining and strengthening existing community programs, and infuse into local communities awareness of, and support for, veterans.

pic for FFN purdue 3Mindful of these principles, the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) partnered with the VA Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the VA Office of Rural Health and the Roudebush VA Medical Center to create Reaching Rural Veterans (RRV). The result: a collaboration between land grant universities, rural faith communities, and faith-based food pantries to provide food, benefits, services, support and education to low income, homeless and at-risk veterans and their families living in rural areas.

The pilot program launched after 10 faith-based pantries located in Indiana and Kentucky were selected through a competitive application process. Each pantry received a grant of approximately $5,000 as well as training, materials and resources to use to reach out to veterans in their service area. About once a month, each pantry held an outreach event, bringing together multiple resources for veterans, making it easy, efficient, and nonthreatening for them to obtain benefits and services while building support with other veterans and the community. Through RRV, veterans gained access to behavioral health professionals, county veteran service officers, personal care providers (e.g. haircuts), veteran service organizations and more. VA facilities participated; so did nutrition educators and SNAP-education paraprofessionals, who provided food samples and information on nutrition and healthy choices.

Our initial goal for RRV was to reach an average of 25 veterans per county or a total of 300 veterans. But we far exceeded that. In six months, RRV reached more than 1,100 veterans in two states. And while the pilot project has ended, each of the 10 participating pantries has shared that the RRV events have been so successful that they intend to continue veteran programming.

pic for FFN purdue 4But the real success of RRV is seen best through the eyes of those on the front lines who work daily with veterans in need.

“My office has been able to help a veteran at least once per each of the last three [RRV] events,” said a VSO for Indiana’s Marion County. “I was able to change the life of two veterans by helping them get signed up for VA healthcare and I was able to help a veteran who was at risk for becoming homeless with a considerable increase in his pension. This veteran was a Korean War veteran and he is a Purple Heart recipient. He never received any services or benefits from the VA previously and has significant hearing loss. He now has access to VA benefits and we are helping him get a hearing aid to improve his quality of life.”

To learn more about RRV, visit the MFRI website at www.mfri.purdue.edu.

Meet the Authors:

bethjohnsonheadshot for FFNBeth Johnson currently serves as the director of external relations for the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University. There she oversees a variety of projects including public relations, community relations, strategic communication, events and government affairs. Prior to joining MFRI, Johnson held public relations and communications positions with the Marine Corps Marathon, George Mason University and Salsa Labs, Inc. She received her bachelor’s degree in communication from Auburn University and holds her master’s degree in communication from George Mason University. Johnson’s military connections include her husband (former Marine captain and OEF veteran), brother (former Army captain and OIF veteran) and father (former Coast Guard officer).

andrea wellkin for FFNAndrea Wellnitz currently serves at the Project Manager for the Reaching Rural Veterans program with the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University.   Andrea has over eleven years of experience working with diverse audiences on a range of social service, community outreach and educational projects and programs.  These audiences have ranged from at-risk youth in the United States, multi-generational populations around the world, and at-risk Veterans and their families. She received her master’s degree in Social Work from The Ohio State University. 

Nutrition, Exercise and Renal Disease webinar discussion. New publication by Dr. Ken Wilund!

Renal and Cardiovascular Disease Research Laboratory University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Renal and Cardiovascular Disease
Research Laboratory
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

by Robin Allen

What a great webinar in June, Nutrition, Exercise and Renal Disease presented by Dr. Ken Wilund. We had 283 attendees and over 100 comments in the chat pod.  The discussion was lively and much information was shared.  If you missed the webinar, Registered Dietitians can still earn CPEUs by listening to the recording and completing the evaluation located on the Learn Event page https://learn.extension.org/events/2655.  Dr. Wilund and his lab recently published a paper in the Journal of Renal Nutrition, Modified Nutritional Recommendations to Improve Dietary Patterns and Outcomes in Hemodialysis Patients in the Journal of Renal Nutrition. This study was discussed in the webinar is now available at the link above and on the Learn Event page.

The following are some of the key takeaways the participants commented on:

  • The renal diet is difficult to follow, and compliance is poor. Dietitians closely monitor lab values individualize meal plans to provide a well-balanced diet.
  • The key to success is getting the entire clinical team involved. Repetition is important to helping patients stay on their diet especially for sodium (Na+) restriction.  Telling them once is not enough! It takes a team approach constantly to repeat the message, including the doctors, nurses, techs, family members and the bus driver.
  • Sodium restriction is vital to avoid chronic volume overload. The recommendation from this webinar is 1 mg sodium/ 1 kilocalorie as the rule. Once again, it takes the entire medical team to reinforce this rule.
  • Education should focus on sodium restriction. Liberalize the diet restrictions and focus on encouraging non-processed foods. Restrictions of potassium (K+) and phosphorus (P) from non-processed/whole foods should be largely eliminated. Differentiate between organic and inorganic P. Few restrictions should be placed on fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and dairy. The health benefits from these foods outweigh the unsubstantiated risks.
  • Intradialytic hypotension has reduced with Dr. Izmir volume control policy: Dr. Izmir’s clinic in Turkey has had great results with strict dietary salt restriction to limit intradialytic weight gain (IDWG) and cessation of anti-hypertensive medications to prevent intradialytic hypotension. This volume control strategy has also been associated with lower rates of hospitalization, lower mortality, normalized blood pressure (BP) in the absence of BP meds, improved cardiac structure and function, improved body composition and markers of nutritional status, and reduced intradialytic hypotension.
  • There is a difference in the way Europe and the U.S. treat end-stage renal disease (ESRD). In Europe dialysis is not started if life expectancy is not good.  Also, Doctors in Europe can stop dialysis if patients are non-compliant.  In the U.S. dialysis is started no matter the life expectancy and continued whether patients are compliant or not.
  • Exercise is an important component of chronic renal disease (CRD) treatment. Demonstrated benefits include better body composition, improved muscle strength and physical function, improved cardiovascular structure and function, improved dialysis efficiency and improved quality of life!

I encourage you to watch this webinar if you have not seen it and share this information with others.  Also please provide your opinion as to whether you would consider some of these options for treatment at your clinic. There are some great opportunities for discussion.


 Ozkahya M et al. Am J Kidney Dis 1999; 34: 218-21 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10430965

Ozkahya M et al. J Nephrol 2002; 15: 655-60 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2770424/

Ozkahya et al. NDT2006; 21: 3506-13 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17000733

Heiwe et al. Am J Kidney Dis. 2014 Sep; 64(3):383-93 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24913219

Barcellos et al. Clin Kidney J. 2015 Dec; 8(6):753-65 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24913219

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 Facebookon Twitterand LinkedIn.


Working Together in Addressing Sensitive Topics – We want to hear from you!

Listening Session IMG

Listening Session: Working Together in Addressing Sensitive Topics

Date: August 10, 2016

Time: 11:00 a.m. Eastern

The MFLN Military Caregiving concentration would like to invite you to join us at 11:00 a.m. ET, August 10, 2016 for a Listening Session entitled, Working Together in Addressing Sensitive Topics. Yep, you read that right…Listening Session. The session will offer an opportunity for your voice to be heard and for you to actively communicate your client concerns with fellow peers and colleagues.

Often caregivers find it difficult to discuss sensitive topics such as finances, asking for help, intimacy, mental health and other topics with military service providers. During the listening session you will have a chance to identify specific sensitive topics that can be found within your field, as well as challenges you face when communicating these sensitive topics. The session will briefly introduce the importance of interpersonal relationships and its effects on varying adult learning styles, followed by an in-depth, engaged session from you, the service provider.

The information we gather from this listening session will set the stage for our Military Caregiving concentration’s three-part Virtual Learning Event (VLE), held this fall on Communicating Sensitive Topics: A Service providers Approach to Working with Caregivers. Be ready to share your sensitive topics, case studies, scenarios and questions with colleagues on August 10th in similar special healthcare disciplines.


Certificate of Completion

The MFLN Military Caregiving concentration will offer a certificate of completion following the webinar.

Interested in Joining the Webinar?

To join the webinar, simply click on Listening Session: Working Together in Addressing Sensitive Topics. The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense APAN system, but is open to the public.

If you cannot connect to the APAN site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on Ustream. Mobile options for Ustream are available on all Apple and Android devices.


 This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on July 29, 2016.


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.


Service Members, Families & Communities Benefit from Outdoor Recreation


The benefits of using nature contact or outdoor recreation with Service members are well documented, including contemplative, recreational, and hands-on habitat restoration activities.  Stacy Bare pic

In December 2015 MFLN Family Transitions hosted a webinar, Returning Warriors: Using Outdoor Recreation for Restoration & Resilience https://learn.extension.org/events/2307 that engaged military service providers to identify the value of transitioning service members’ participation in outdoor recreation;  analyze research related to using outdoor recreation; become familiar with formal and informal opportunities; and prepare to refer Service members to  recreational/outdoor opportunities. Facilitators for the webinar included Stacy Bare, Director of Sierra Club Outdoors and Keith Tidball, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University. Both are Veterans.

Following the webinar MFLN Family Transitions connected with Stacy to learn more about the value of interacting with the outdoors and to seek advice for military service providers.

MFLN Family Transitions (MFLN-FT): When you talk about ‘outdoor recreation’ what does that all involve?

 Stacy Bare (SB): Anything outdoors. Stop and take a look out your window into the backyard, take a walk around the block, cast a fly in your driveway or spend four months hiking the Appalachian Trail, a couple of days attempting to summit the Grand Teton or car camping with your family.

MFLN-FT: Tell us about your favorite outdoor recreational activities and how you became involved.

 SB: I’m lucky enough to do a lot outdoors and have a lot of very kind friends who invite me on some really cool trips. Climbing saved my life and skiing sustains it, but what makes an activity great is the people you are with—and sometimes solo trips. My wife just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and I’ve spent the last month doing a lot of cross country skiing because I’ve enjoyed the exercise and the easy nature of getting out into nature and on skis with a far shorter drive and far more spontaneously then I could go ski touring for example—so right now that’s my favorite.

MFLN-FT: What are the benefits for service members and their families who participate in outdoor recreation?

SB: The benefits are many, I’ll give you a short list here:

  • Experiencing awe, which we’re learning through our partnership with the Greater Good Science Center at Cal-Berkeley and the Great Outdoors Lab has real physical and mental health benefits
  • Camaraderie and connecting with your friends and family, we also are learning it improves overall mental and family health resilience
  • Seeing the country you fought for—the actual physical country
  • Learning a new skill can be a benefit
  • Often times a lot of laughter
  • Creating a sense of purpose

MFLN-FT: How might communities benefit when individuals become involved in outdoor recreation? 

SB: People who spend time outdoors we know are typically more empathetic and more curious, more willing to seek help and more willing to engage with strangers. That means if you have a community full of people who are engaging in outdoor recreation, they’re interested in meeting people, solving community problems, and they put themselves in the shoes of other folks. Who doesn’t want to live in an empathetic, caring community that’s working to help each other and find solutions to problems?

MFLN-FT: Describe the Sierra Outdoors Program. 

SB: I like to think of us as the heart and soul of the Sierra Club. John Muir’s original vision of the Sierra Club was to get people outdoors to experience the beauty and joy of outdoor spaces. We still do that. We get out more than 250,000 people each year through three broad programs: Local Outings, which operate out of our 63 chapters nationwide, there are 400 plus groups doing everything from family picnics to movie nights to ski mountaineering, white water paddling, international trips, day hikes, etc. Inspiring Connections Outdoors works in 50+ communities nationwide to get people outside who otherwise may not have the opportunity. Finally, our newest program, started in 2006, is the Military Outdoors program which connects service members, veterans, and their families to the outdoors. I came to the Sierra Club in 2011 to redesign and relaunch the Military Outdoors program, which as a veteran of the war in Iraq, remains very close to my heart.

MFLN-FT: How can military service providers connect service members & their families with your program or similar programs in their community?

SB: Call us (385-209-5681), connect with us on Facebook, Twitter @SierraOutdoors, Instagram (stacyabare), or email stacy.bare@sierraclub.org. One of the things that is unique to our programs and that I’m most proud about is our volunteer leadership training. If we’re not doing something in your area or something you want to be doing, come get trained as a leader and we’ll have you leading a trip soon after that training. The thing to remember is that we don’t care what your background is or your current state of health—we will work with you so you can enjoy the outdoors how you want to under human power. There’s something for everyone outside.

MFLN-FT: What advice do you have for service members who don’t want to participate in a formal program, but just want informal experiences? 

SB: We really hope that our program isn’t just getting people outside, but is inspiring folks to go out and do more and that people will leave our program and keep getting outside—so that’s a long way to say that I think most people get outside informally. You don’t have to use a lot of fancy gear, for most things jeans and good sneakers will work fine—

Look first in your immediate community, where are the parks? If you’re active duty call the MWR office, see if you can rent gear, go talk to someone at your local outdoor store about where to go and what activities are available in the area and how to access them. Buy a guide book or watch a YouTube video about what you want to do, take a day class, go for a walk—just get outside!

MFLN-FT: What is your vision related to military service members and their families related to outdoor recreation?

SB: Long term I want every service member to be able to use at least a week of permissive TDY to get outside throughout the year. I’d love to see all mental health resiliency programs include an outdoor recreation component and outdoor recreation be a part of all mental health treatment programs vs. an alternative or elective treatment program.

MFLN-FT: Please share any final thoughts (if any).

SB: Go outside!


Stacy Bare  is a climber and skier, the Director of Sierra Club Outdoors (SCO), a brand ambassador for The North Face, Keen Shoes, and a veteran of the war in Iraq. SCO gets out 250,000+ people each year. Under his direction, SCO launched the Great Outdoors Lab with the University of California-Berkeley in 2014 to put scientifically defensible data behind the power of the outdoors to support improved mental, physical, and thereby public health with an emphasis on youth and military veterans. He is also the 2015 SHIFT Festival Adventure Athlete of the Year and a 2014 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. He, his wife, and their new daughter live in Salt Lake City, UT.


Off the Shelf: Conversations with Authors of Children’s Books

The Family Development Early Intervention team is always on the look-out for quality children’s books that help address some of the unique needs of military children.

Seth Kastle Used with subject's permission
Seth Kastle Used with subject’s permission

The following is an interview with Seth Kastle, author of two popular children’s books, Why Is Dad So Mad? and Why Is Mom So Mad?, both dealing specifically with PTSD in parents.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What if any experiences do you have with the military?

I retired from the Army Reserve in 2014, after 16 years in service. During my career I served as a Logistician, Infantryman, a Drill Sergeant, and a Company First Sergeant. I deployed in February 2002 to Qatar, and then in April to Mazar-E-Sharif Afghanistan until September of that year. I deployed for the initial invasion of Iraq in January of 2003 until April of 2004; I spent the majority of this tour in Mosul. I had to have a pacemaker implanted in 2010, which made me ineligible to continue my military career.

What made you decide to write this book? Was there some incident or experience with the military that inspired you?

I wish I could say that I was a completely benevolent person, and I simply wrote this book because I knew there was a greater need, but that is not the case. I wrote this book because of personal need. I was looking for a way to explain who I am now to my children and I could not find resources that achieved this purpose. I sat down and wrote the book along with illustration notes after a bad day at work. It took me about 30 minutes. I then did what a lot people who write do…I filed it away on my computer, never to be seen again. I had a friend who had just published a book on succeeding as a foster child who kept prodding me to take the steps to make publication a reality.

Opening up and talking about my journey with PTSD has been extremely difficult for me. This is not something that is talked about much as there is a stigma that goes along with PTSD. There was hardly anyone who knew I was having problems. In fact, only my wife and two to three friends that I had been in Iraq or Afghanistan with were aware of my struggles. It was because I knew there was a large need for a book like this, that I was pushed into actually publishing it.

What message do you hope that children of families receive as a result of reading these books?

The thesis statements of the books are that even though Dad (or Mom) gets mad often, it is not the child’s fault. In the books I use metaphors to illustrate to children what is happening inside Dad (or Mom) when they get angry. Parenting is tough, even without additional obstacles; parents with PTSD have a harder time dealing with a lot of the common stressors of family life. It does not mean they do not love their children or care about their children’s feelings.


Have you received any feedback from military families after they read your book, and if so, what have they said?

This has actually been the most rewarding part of the entire book project coming to life. I have literally heard from hundreds of military families that have read my books. They have thanked me for writing the books, and they explained how this book helped them explain to their children what is happening with their Dad (or Mom). These books are not a magic fix for PTSD and family dynamics; my hope though is that they are set the stage for starting conversations. One email that sticks out in my head was from a Veteran who wrote to me and said, “You know that look your child gets the first time they understand something, my son got that look tonight when I read your book to him.” I have also had a number of Vietnam Veterans and their families reach out to me and say that they wished they had had this book 30 years ago. Some of them have even said that they bought the book for their adult children to help them understand now why things were the way they were when they were growing up.

Do you have plans to write another book that focuses on the military? If so what is the focus of that book and when might we expect to see it?

I feel like there needs to be a book that explains divorce to military children. The national divorce rate is high and the military is no different. I feel a large part of why my books have been successful is because they were written based on my experience, so they were true to life. Divorce is not something that I have experienced so I may not be able to do the book justice. To do it right I would need to, at a minimum, collaborate with a service member who has been through a divorce.

This post was edited by Robyn DiPietro-Wells Michaelene Ostrosky, 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.

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.