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In addition to those directly serving in the military, military families make enormous sacrifices and are uniquely impacted by military conflicts. For instance, research has indicated that children with a deployed parent are at a greater risk for problems than the national norm. Estimates indicated that approximately 2 million children have experienced deployment of a parent since 2001. Deployment can also cause increased stress for spouses, partners, and families, including parenting stress, increased daily responsibilities, frequent worry over the safety of their family member, and loneliness. Even though the return of the service member is a joyous occasion, many families experience difficulties in the service member's transition back home, including re-establishing roles and responsibilities and family members' perceptions that the service member is a "different person" than when they left. Military families and children may also face the loss or injury of a service member. As of January 2015, 6,830 service members have been killed and 52,309 service members injured in the course of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and Operation New Dawn (OND).
The resources below link you to educational training, veterans' experiences and available services.
The Military Families Resource Center, created by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, provides information about various military family topics that impact mental health, including helpful guidelines for deployment and reintegration.
Facts for Families: Families in the Military. This brief provides common reactions children have when a parent deploys and suggestions for coping with the transition.
Facts for Families: Coming Home: Adjustment for Military Families. This brief takes into consideration each family member’s needs and feelings after the return of a service-member.
AAMFT is working with Joining Forces to increase the education and training of MFTs and other providers in PTSD and TBI. AAMFT has created the webpage found below to highlight all of the information, training, and resources available to providers who are working to meet the behavioral health needs to service members, veterans, and their families. MFTs are encouraged to review these resources and take advantage of training opportunities that are available.
The APA provides a workshop called "Caring for the Military Family: What We All Should Know About Military Culture and the Stress of Deployment," to provide an overview of military culture including its history, organizational structure, core values, branches of the service, mission, and operations. In addition, it examines military deployment and the unique experiences that service members, their spouses and their children face throughout the deployment cycle. The presentation incorporates research findings to discuss stressors and challenges associated with separations, reunions, and reintegration.
The Battered Women's Justice Military Advocacy Project provides specialized training, technical assistance and resources to improve outcomes for individual military-related sexual assault and domestic violence victims and their families. The BWJP has a collection of webinars on a wide-range of legal topics.
Books for Military Children maintains a list of books parents or therapists can buy to help support children whose parents are deployed.
The Healing Heroes Book: Braving the Changes When Someone You Love Is Wounded in Service by Ellen Sabin is a book to support children and families as they face the changes that arise when someone they love is wounded in military service. It combines educational narrative, conversation starters, activities, and journal-style pages to help children honor their military family, explore their feelings, confront their concerns, find ways to feel better when they are down, and learn healthy coping skills. The book also provides sensitive and valuable information about wounds (including post-traumatic stress, brain injury, burns and amputations), care, and recovery.
The Center for Deployment Psychology offers the following two on-line courses:
The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress provides information, training, education, and research on trauma-related topics for professionals and students, but some material may also be of interest to family members or members of the military/veteran community.
The Courage to Talk campaign is designed to help healthcare providers and families communicate more effectively about war injuries. It is a program that partners the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, which is part of the Uniformed Services University, and the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and TBI.
The Department of Defense (DOD) website, Military OneSource, provides numerous resources for military families including guides for helping children cope with a parent’s deployment. The site also provides information about the military children and youth services within DOD.
Military Kids Connect is a new resource from the Department of Defense that was created to help children cope with a parent’s deployment. It involves a social networking component and some resources for the non-deployed caregivers/parents.
The Department of Defense has also prepared a printable Guide for Helping Children and Youth Cope with Separation.
Military Impacted Schools Association (MISA) is a national organization of school superintendents. Our mission is to serve school districts with a high concentration of military children. MISA is also part of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS).
Education is an important component of the quality of life for military families. MISA partners with the Department of Defense Education Activity, National Military Family Association, and military leaders to ensure that all military children are afforded a quality education.
MISA works with local school districts and commanders to highlight best practices and partnerships that can further meet the needs of military families. Visit the MISA website
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) conducts research on, develops resources for, and provides assistance to military families. This page serves as a list of these programs and projects and includes links to each. There are also lessons and modules for students and mental health providers in the Learning Center.
The National Guard Toolkit was created by practitioners who specialize in delivering family strengthening services to National Guard members and their families. It is meant to assist practitioners who are working with military couples and/or their families. The activities are relevant to the unique circumstances these couples and families face, like coping with deployment and the transition back into family life after deployment, among other things. There are also tips for civilian practitioners who may be delivering services to this population for the first time. Visit the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center site that houses the toolkit.
Operation Purple is a program of the National Military Family Association. The Operation Purple program was created in 2004, and the mission of the Operation Purple program is to empower military children and their families to develop and maintain healthy and connected relationships, in spite of the current military environment. This is done through a variety of means, including the healing and holistic aspect of the natural world. The program is joint or "purple"— and open to children and families of active duty, National Guard or Reserve service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or the Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service and NOAA.
Our Military Kids provides substantial support in the form of grants to the children of National Guard and Military Reserve personnel who are currently deployed overseas, as well as the children of Wounded Warriors in all branches. The grants from Our Military Kids pay for participation in sports, fine arts, camps, and tutoring programs that nurture and sustain children while a parent is away in service to our country or recovering from injury.
The RAND Corporation recently released a report describing military caregivers, whose needs have been largely neglected during the recent military conflicts in the Middle East. These caregivers mainly include young women who care for wounded, ill, and injured veterans. The study is the first exploratory report highlighting the demographics and needs of this subset of Americans.
The Sesame Street Initiative provides support and practical education with Talk, Listen, Connect, a multiphase outreach initiative to help kids through deployments, combat-related injuries, and the death of a loved one. Videos, storybooks, and workbooks especially created for this program guide families through such tough transitions by showing how real families — as well as furry monsters — deal with similar circumstances.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)'s website lists several programs and resources from SAMHSA and its partners that have been designed to help military families.
Emotional Cycle of Deployment: A Military Family Perspective: The online article, written by military psychiatrists, discusses how the "emotional cycle of an extended deployment, six months or greater, is readily divided into five distinct stages. These stages are comprised of the following: pre-deployment, deployment, sustainment, re-deployment and post-deployment. Each stage is characterized both by a time frame and specific emotional challenges, which must be dealt with and mastered by each of the family members."
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