Posts Tagged ‘ deployed parents ’

Children Of Deployed Parents: New Responsibilities And Stressors

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

The goal of my last post was to start bringing attention to the many challenges that our military families face when a parent is deployed. The intent was to raise awareness of this issue amongst people who are not part of military families, and to stimulate conversation about ways that individuals and communities could offer support. The many statements by parents in response to this post have clearly shown us that there is a great need to have their voices heard, and I will develop ways in the near future for them to share their first-hand experiences within this blog.  That said, I encourage all readers to begin to explore this issue in more depth by reading real stories from military families. A great place to start is the terrific blog by Semper Fi Momma, where you can find first-hand experience and lots of information offered via a mission to “… bridge the gap between the civilian and military worlds.”

In this same spirit, this post is intended to start a dialogue about the challenges facing the children of deployed parents. My perspective comes from published research, which serves an important function by quantifying how many families are affected. Current work by Dr. Anita Chandra and colleagues at the RAND Corporation have shown how parental deployment can have especially strong effects on children’s social and emotional well-being – a finding that can certainly be expanded upon by parents in military families (so please do educate us more about your experiences). Here’s Dr. Chandra’s perspective on the results from these studies:

While these youth are taking on new leadership roles in the household and new responsibilities that give them a sense of pride and accomplishment, the stress of these responsibilities can also make life difficult. It is clear from our work and other recent studies that a significant percentage of youth (about one-third) are reporting at least moderate emotional difficulties and anxiety symptoms. This is particularly true for youth whose parent has been deployed for more months.

This work raised my awareness of the need for friends, neighbors, and communities to start thinking about ways – whether big or small – to support the children and parents of deployed soldiers who are experiencing challenges that most of us cannot begin to imagine. I recently learned about one wonderful organization called Celebrate the Military Child that attempts to bring a little distraction and fun into the lives of children with a deployed parent. Please do check out their website, but here is the essence of what they do:

Celebrate the Military Child will bring parties to the Military Child. We recognize the importance of parties in the Military Child’s life and we believe that the gift of a celebration will provide normalcy, happiness, and hope in these military children’s otherwise ever changing lives… If the spirit of these children is lifted for just one day then Celebrate the Military Child’s mission has been accomplished.

Celebrate the Military Child was co-founded by Courtney Faith Vera and Frances Wolf based on their experiences as moms and as wives of a member of the military. I had the great pleasure of speaking with Courtney Faith and she shared with me how important it can be for a child with a deployed parent to take a little time away from their worries and enjoy a party with friends and celebrate who they are. I encourage you all to learn about ways to support their efforts on their website.celebrate-the-military-child

I’d love to get more ideas from other parents (dads as well as moms!) on ways in which friends, neighbors, and communities can offer support to children and parents in military families. For example, consider the comment by Heather in response to my last post:

Richard… Its simple things that help. My husband and I were both in the military. While he was deployed, I gave birth to our daughter. I had six weeks to recover before returning to work. That meant working long days, then coming home to take care of an infant and get ready to do it all over again the next day. I would get up at 0415 every morning and not get to sleep until about 2100. 9 out of 10 times I didn’t even eat dinner because I was just too tired. With how often my little one woke up, I averaged 4-5 hours of sleep. I would have LOVED if one of my neighbors just brought me over some dinner one night, or offered to cut the grass. Anything small that helps with the day-to-day life.

So … what are other ways we can help military families dealing with deployment?

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When A Parent Is Deployed: The Challenge Of Being A Non-Deployed Parent

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Current research has revealed that children of deployed parents are experiencing heightened levels of emotional and behavioral problems. To learn more about the challenges facing military families, I had an opportunity to speak and correspond with Dr. Anita Chandra, who is a Behavioral Scientist and the Manager of the Behavioral and Social Sciences group at the RAND Corporation.

Dr. Chandra and colleagues have conducted a number of studies to examine the effects of deployment on families. Some of the most important findings concern the challenges facing non-deployed spouses and changes in family functioning. Here’s what Dr. Chandra had to say:

Our research shows that non-deployed parents are facing new household responsibilities, changes in employment (e.g., going back to work full time), and new ways of co-parenting with a parent who is overseas. These stressors are not only affecting parent well-being, but that stress is having an effect on how children are doing.

Dr. Chandra also suggests that when under stress, many parents often “put themselves last” and worry more about their children. That said, she emphasizes how important it is for non-deployed parents to try to find ways to take time out for themselves and find ways to de-stress.

One way to do this may be to lean on neighbors and communities for help. Consider these thoughts from Dr. Chandra:

Most military families live in communities and not on base or a military installation. It is important that military families feel that their neighbors understand what life is like for them, and lend a hand when they can. You may not know you have a military family living next door, particularly as many parents serve in the National Guard or Reserve. Schools, community organizations, and churches can all show their support for families, particularly when a parent deploys. Some families may not want help, but others may benefit from help with things as simple as mowing the lawn and other household chores. For teachers and other school staff, just knowing if a child has a parent (or parents) in the military can help you anticipate any potential emotional, social, and/or academic changes and be proactive in reaching out to family.

These excellent suggestions are especially important to keep in mind as the deployment time continues – the stresses do add up and there will be an increasing need for friends and community to offer both practical help and psychological support.

In my next post, I will discuss Dr. Chandra’s insights based on her research on children of deployed parents.

Image courtesy of Louisa Stokes via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Deployed Soldiers’ Kids: How War Affects Their Adjustment

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Unlike prior generations, many soldiers are parents. A new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine reveals that when they are deployed, their children may suffer.

Researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of over 300,000 children who had a parent or parents in the US Army from 2003-2006. Two findings stand out.

First, kids of deployed soldiers had higher rates of adjustment, behavioral, depressive, or stress disorders, as compared to kids whose Army parents were not deployed during that time period. Second, the length of deployment was an important factor — kids who had a parent deployed for 11 months or more suffered the most in terms of mental health and adjustment.

In an essay accompanying the scientific article, Dr. Stephen Cozza discussed the importance of the problem. He suggests that approximately 44% of active duty members have children, and around 43% of selected reserve members have children. The majority of these children are younger than 12 years of age. He estimates that since 2001, about 1.76 million children have experienced the deployment of a parent.

The families of deployed soldiers face a number of stressors. The children are without a parent; there is obviously anxiety about the safety and welfare of the parent; and overall family functioning is disrupted. In upcoming posts I will be discussing other studies that delve into the challenges that military families face, with the hope of raising awareness so that we all can try to support the families of soldiers who risk their lives serving all of us.

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