Tag Archives: militaryfamilies

Returning Warriors: Using Outdoor Recreation for Restoration @ Resilience

by Major John Donovan, MNARNG


This program is nothing short of fantastic.  As a Soldier who has deployed three-times in the last 12 years, I can testify that coming home from a deployment is hard.

During a deployment a Soldier becomes hyper-vigilant because of the environment where he/she serves.  This hyper-vigilance is a much needed skill in a combat environment.

However, the Soldiers comes home that same hyper-vigilance that was so useful in combat, can become a debilitating factor in the garrison, office or home environment.

Recreation programs like those discussed in this webinar can be great outlets for warriors transitioning back to their stateside duties and lives.  The opportunity to recreate in the outdoors with others, to engage in physical activity, can be both physically rewarding and emotionally cathartic.

I applaud your efforts and look forward to learning more about these great opportunities for our Service-Members and honored veterans.


John G. Donovan

Combatting Compassion Fatigue

During our Combatting Compassion Fatigue virtual learning event, there were some informative and interesting conversations taking place in the chat pod. Some questions were prompted by the speaker for the audience to answer, and other conversations were sparked by audience members. Here are a few conversations that you might find helpful.

Who might experience compassion fatigue?

Family Members: Service Providers:
Other family or friends
Social Workers
Domestic/sexual violence
Emergency responders

As a family member, how do I learn/know what are my husband’s triggers to distressing memories, thoughts or feelings?

Response from audience member #1: One thing you can try is to look for ABC – antecedent, behavior & consequences. Try to establish a pattern. Is it a time of day? Is it a crowd of people? Is it a disruption in his routine? Also, look at the behaviors and consequences…then try to adjust your reaction to them perhaps. Sometimes reframing your reaction or the situation may help stem the behavior.

Response from audience member #2: The veteran may not “know” why or what sets them off, control of the surroundings, the situations they are going into, hostility, anger (the only acceptable emotion to use in many settings is anger) and the veteran may not know why they are uncomfortable. 

How have you been impacted by compassion fatigue?

  • Personal therapy – reminding myself it is not about me, rather the client that is in front of me
  • Excessive worry if I’m getting everything done
  • Guilt
  • Loss of interest in friendships/doing things
  • Hypervigilance

Have any of you found that your own experience with trauma or in dealing with those who have experience trauma found that it provided risk or protective factors?

Audiencemember #1: So the stronger empathetic tendencies are more at risk (besides the inexperienced workers)?

Audience member #2: It’s a risk factor for similar trauma, but protective for others

Audience member #3: As a Veteran working with other Veterans and witnessing similar events – felt more like a protective factor.

Audience member #4: By having experience with the trauma (explosions and death), I’m aware of it…it’s not the first time I’ve heard it. Whereas if you’ve never seen or heard of the event this would be a story you may be hearing for the first time.

Audience member #5: Would it be protective in that the individual who experienced similar trauma may have developed coping skills for that particular trauma?

Audience member #6: For those overseas it is also the persistent stress of being in a war zone, effecting physiological changes in the adrenal system, hypothalamus, amygdala, etc… Also, the erosion of values and world view from the European/USA value system when exposed to the horrors of war.

To watch the virtual learning event click here: Combatting Compassion Fatigue.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on December 11, 2015.

Caregiving Tips for the Holidays

Portrait of a young father and his son on Christmas day

Although the holidays can be a joyous occasion, they can also cause our lives to become more hectic and stressful. Caregivers can become overwhelmed by continuing to take care of their service member while also trying to make this time of the year special and memorable. Below are some suggestions to help you make it through the holiday season.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with caregiving duties

Sometimes the things you’re most grateful for are not material things, but help. During the holiday seasons there seem to be more things to do each day, and less time to get it done. Don’t be afraid to make your wish list with caregiving activities on it. Talk to your family and friends about helping you out with running errands, taking service members to appointments, or helping you out around the house. Remember that you need to take care of yourself to, so let your loved ones pitch in this holiday season.

2. Recognize the signs and symptoms of burnout

During the holidays your stress level may reach an all-time high trying to juggle caring for your wounded warrior as well as everything that the holidays entail. Lookout for signs of becoming overwhelmed. If you reach the point of becoming overwhelmed try some mindfulness techniques to refocus your attention and move past the stress.

3. Simplify your holiday activities

The hype of the holidays and the buildup we create with our imaginations is difficult if not impossible to actually manage and maintain. Change your expectations to something that you can obtain without adding more stress to your life. Set limits to help you manage this time. If you are preparing a holiday meal, try choosing foods that are simpler to cook, try crockpot meals, eat out or order a prepared meal.

4. Consider making new holiday traditions

Traditions are wonderful and can be something to look forward to, but sometimes they can become too overwhelming. If this is the case consider starting a new tradition that suits where you’re at better. Go easy on yourself and understand that as a caregiver you are creating a ‘new normal’ which will inevitable cause some changes.

5. Be aware of and anticipate triggers from your service member

Although the holidays are meant to bring joy and happiness, sometimes the holidays may trigger stress and unhappy memories for your service member.  Be mindful and acknowledge their emotions as well as yours. Service members may feel anxious in large holiday crowds; and they may even trigger negative emotions because your service member may no longer be able to participate in the same ways they were accustomed to. Try to stay focused on the positive and remember how thankful you are that they are with you, especially during the holidays.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on December 4, 2015.

MFLNMC Webinar: Financial Planning for Military Caregivers

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

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

Time: 11:00 a.m. Eastern
Date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Event Location: https://learn.extension.org/events/2316

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

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

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

Interested in Joining the Webinar?

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

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

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

Parenting 101

By Kamala Glenn-Taylor, BS, BA, MS-MFT

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Giving Yourself Compassion


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


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


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



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


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

The Scariest Time of the Year: The Holiday Season!

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

By Robin Allen MSPH, RDN, LDN

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

http://www.webmd.com/diet/top-10-holiday-diet-tips-of-all-time Accessed November 16, 2015.

Nutrition 411 Accessed November 16, 2015

Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating by Greta Macaire R.D.  http://www.cpmc.org/about/e-health/11-05%20healthy-holidays.html  Accessed November 16, 2015

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/holiday-meal-planning/planning-ahead.html Accessed November 16, 2015

http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@fc/documents/downloadable/ucm_455757.pdf Accessed November 16, 2015

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/holiday-meal-planning/?referrer= Accessed November 16, 2015

https://www.google.com/http://www.diabetes.org/mfa-recipes/recipes/ Accessed November 16, 2015

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


Preventing Child Maltreatment: A Public Health Approach

By Caitlin Hunter and Heidi Radunovich, PhD

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CEU Credit Available!

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

Interested in Joining the VLE?

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

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


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

Parental Deployment and Children’s Health

By Caitlin Hunter and Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Child waving goodbye to deployment parent
Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, HMS Endurance returns to Portsmouth after long deployment, June 1, 2007] retrieved on September 8, 2015
For children in the military, reunification with a deployed parent can be a joyous time. However, for military families, the stress of deployment is not confined to the parents. The stress of deployment can affect both the physical and mental health of the child. Similar stresses post-deployment, such as combat-related injuries, simply add to the stress military children might have. But how much of an effect does returning from war have on the frequency children need to access physical and mental health services?

A study by Hisle-Gorman and colleagues (2015) examined how parental military deployment, as well as the presence of combat related injuries, impacted children’s need for health care services after parent’s return from deployment [2]. Specifically, the focus was on mental health visits, visits pertaining to injury (not relating to child maltreatment), and visits relating to child maltreatment.

Children of deployed parents were much more likely to require visits to healthcare professionals for mental health, physical injuries, and child maltreatment after their deployed parent returned than did children whose parents did not deploy. For children of deployed parents, the likelihood of requiring such visits in all three categories was significantly higher if the parent returned with a combat-related injury. Child maltreatment visits were even higher when returning parents had sustained multiple injuries. This might be because the increased level of caretaking required for the parent might result in less attention being focused on the child, or greater stress for family members. Interestingly, parental injuries were not associated with child mental health visits or non-maltreatment related visits. This might mean that the overall resiliency a family must have to deal with combat-related injuries might be a significant protective factor for the general and mental health of the child.

Previous research suggested that children have a greater need for health care services while a parent is deployed. However, this research suggests any problems which might be present during deployment might only be made worse post-deployment if proper preventative, proactive care was not in place.

While this study highlights real issues faced by military children, it also found that children are receiving the post-deployment services they need. As military children receive almost half of their health care in off-base civilian facilities [1], it is important that all physical and mental health care professionals understand deployment-related issues and how they can affect the children they treat.


[1] Gorman, G. H., Eide, M., & Hisle-Gorman, E. (2010). Wartime military deployment and increased pediatric mental and behavioral health complaints. Pediatrics126(6), 1058- 1066.

[2] Hisle-Gorman, E., Harrington, D., Nylund, C. M., Tercyak, K. P., Anthony, B. J., & Gorman, G. H. (2015). Impact of parents’ wartime military deployment and injury on young children’s safety and mental health. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry54(4), 294-301.

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