Between deployments, TDYs, training in the field, and preparing for missions at training centers, frequent separations are a common reality for military families. This can mean a lot of change and disruption that is stressful for everyone, especially your children. Yet even through transition and separation, there are things you can do to before the separation and during to reduce stress and promote well-being for everyone in your family.
As the parent of a child dealing with mental illness, you spend a lot of time and energy focusing on your child’s day-to-day well-being. Whether you are coordinating with your child’s teachers and mental health professionals, helping your child cope with classwork and extracurricular activities, or dealing with a full-blown meltdown, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed trying to manage it all. Left unchecked, these stressors can take a toll on you and your child, ultimately harming your own physical and mental health.
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.
Is your child normally engaged and motivated but suddenly having trouble paying attention? Are they more withdrawn than usual? It might be tempting to write this off as just laziness or a passing “phase.” Yet this might be a sign of a larger problem. In fact, social withdrawal and isolation is often one of the first signs of a possible eating disorder.
It’s your child’s bedtime and you’re dreading it. Instead of the calm process you wish it was, it’s filled with tears, pleading, and excuses after excuses. Peacefully reading bedtimes stories is a thing of the past while the stubborn phrase “I’m not tired!” is here to stay. Why is your child avoiding going to bed? Is this normal?