In time of war, there's great uncertainty. And for military families, there's added stress when a parent is sent overseas. The long separation from a loved one and concern for his or her safety can take its toll, especially on children.
While adults can talk about their feelings and find support among peers, children, especially young ones, often have a tougher time. They may not understand why a parent is leaving and blame themselves for the separation. They might also be afraid to talk about what's on their mind. Depending on their age, maturity, relationship with the deployed parent, and how the remaining parent handles the situation, some children act out, while others withdraw. Behavioral changes may include sleep disturbances, bed-wetting, falling behind in school, and aggressiveness.
It's vital for a parent to talk openly with a child about her fears, emotions, and beliefs," says Thomas Hardaway, M.D., chief of behavioral medicine at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX. When answering questions, Dr. Hardaway, who has counseled military families for the past 29 years, advises parents to give age-appropriate information that the child can handle. (See "Easing Kids'Concerns") He offers these additional suggestions to help your child cope:
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