As we settle into fall, the big military moving season is behind us. And if you experienced a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) over the summer, your family is likely working hard to establish new routines at home, in the community, and at school. Whether your family members are seasoned PCS warriors or this is your first relocation, your children are most likely experiencing strong feelings about the change, including changing friends, teachers, coaches, activities, weather, places of worship, family schedules and activities, medical providers, and expectations.
The role of an advocate is to support, speak on behalf of, promote, protect, and champion. Children, even if they are nearing legal age, require a champion in their corner (and the more the merrier). This is especially true when a mental health struggle is present. For military children, given their unique experience, a caregiver who takes on the role of champion plays an important part in promoting the overall well-being of a child, including their mental health.
Topics: Military Families
“We are the children of warriors. And although it was initially a role not of our choosing, it is a role perpetuated by many of us with pride … It is an attitude, a way of being.” (Wertsch, 1991, p. 350)
April is the Month of the Military Child, with purple ribbons signifying support and gratitude to the young family members who sacrifice alongside their military moms and dads. There are nearly two million U.S. military-connected children and adolescents living at home and abroad for overseas assignments. Unlike the careers of many civilians, service in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines affects all aspects of life and has great implications on each family member. For the military child, the lifestyle presents with many opportunities for strength-building and has potential to also create unique challenges.
When children are struggling with mental health issues, their performance at school is often one of the first indicators. Your child’s teachers are in the unique position to observe their academic performance, day-to-day mood, interactions with peers and authority figures, and overall functioning in an environment full of social rules and expectations. Teachers have their eyes on many factors that indicate your child’s well-being; and they also have the ability to see changes over the course of the school year. Depending on the size of the school and community, teachers may also have knowledge of your child’s activities and social life outside of the classroom.
Resilience is a word that military families hear often, so often that it may just sound like a modern buzzword tossed out at briefings and townhall meetings. While the term speaks to toughness, the more important meaning is the ability to bounce back, recover, and be flexible. Unfortunately, the latter often gets lost. As both a mental health professional within the military community and a member of the community personally, I too have had my moments of cringing at what seems like the overuse of “resiliency.” And then I met a military family who helped refresh this term for me.
The time leading up to your spouse returning from deployment is often a frenzy of varied emotions, tasks in preparation, and expectations for the time together to come. Whether your spouse has been deployed for four months or 12, to a combat zone or in support of a training mission, the transition back home is an adjustment worth considering. Here are some suggestions for how you can support your serving spouse through the re-deployment phase.
Topics: Military Families