Veterans Day: Parenting in Military Families
On Veterans Day we honor the men and women who have served our country in the military. Though all military members must meet the special demands of active duty service and experience its aftermath as veterans, those who are parents – as are about half of those who serve – also face special challenges. Balancing the needs and demands of work and family can be especially stressful for military members. It can also profoundly impact their spouses and children.
Military families must be more flexible and adaptable than most families. Military families relocate every two to three years on average, which is 10 times more often than civilian families. They may feel isolated and lonely. They must deal with deployments – when a parent leaves to serve overseas or in another location for an extended period of time – and family reintegration when the parent returns. They are also required to manage the stress and uncertainty of not knowing where a family member is serving, what they are doing or if they are safe.
Since 2001, more than two million children in the United States have had a parent deployed at least once, and close to a million have experienced multiple deployments of one or both parents. Children with a deployed parent are at higher risk for behavioral problems and experiencing difficulty in school. Both military spouses and children are at far greater risk for stress, anxiety and depression than the general population. According to a Harvard study, depression and other mental health issues are five times more common in military members than civilians.
The tremendous challenges faced by military members and their families require understanding, care and support. Several organizations are devoted to enabling members of military families to get the help and services they need:
- FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress) – This organization offers resilience training for military families.
- Military Families United – Military Families United is a not-for-profit charitable organization whose stated mission is to “Honor the Fallen, Support Those Who Fight, and Serve Their Families.”
- Blue Star Families – Through partnerships, Blue Star Families provides free resources, services and opportunities to more than 1.5 million military family members who are experiencing multiple moves, deployments and other transitions.
- Operation Homefront (OH) – OH provides emergency assistance to the families of service members and veterans. One of their programs offers financial assistance for critical family needs such as overdue bills, home repairs and food.