Army Lt. Col. Melissa Boyd, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Defense Center for Public Health-Aberdeen
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — In 1986, then-Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger designated April as the “Month of the Military Child.” This month, national, state and local governments, agencies and organizations, along with military-serving communities, make time to celebrate the important role that the more than 1.6 million military children play in the Armed Forces community.
Although military children have many unique and exciting experiences, they often face many challenges as a result of their parents’ service. Some of these challenges include moving every two to three years on average, changing schools, adjusting to separations during parent deployments and other missions, and building new support networks.
Because of these frequent changes, military children can often face celebrating special events such as holidays, birthdays, graduations, and other important milestones away from their loved ones. These events not only affect stability but can contribute to feelings of stress, restlessness, sadness, anxiety, and depression. Other changes that may occur include difficulty concentrating in school, withdrawal from others, differences in eating and sleeping patterns, and negative thoughts.
In its 2021 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, Blue Star Families, a military family advocacy organization, found that 17 percent of active duty respondents reported a child or children who received behavioral abuse. [mental] An additional 17 percent of health care respondents said they would like their children to receive behavioral health care, but do not currently receive it.
Military children typically experience adjustment disorders in response to changes in peer relationships, ability to communicate openly with parents/caregivers, and engagement in positive social activities. Difficulty adjusting to life changes can greatly affect a child’s mood, self-esteem, behavior, academic performance, and overall adjustment to stress.
Behavioral health intervention strategies that can effectively help military children manage stress include providing healthy outlets for emotions; integrating family, school and social support; and promoting healthy stress management and coping skills.
Army Lt. Col. Virgil Rivera, a board-certified, licensed clinical social worker at the Defense Center for Public Health-Aberdeen, who specializes in working with children and their families, says it’s important for parents to maintain a healthy and active attachment to their children. Spend at least 20 minutes a day.
“The time can be spent learning more about their child’s school day, hearing about their friends or even playing a game together,” Rivera said.
Rivera acknowledges that sometimes parents are unable to dedicate this time each day due to military/work obligations or other family responsibilities; However, it’s important to remember that quality time spent together builds a meaningful parent/child relationship with both short- and long-term benefits.
“If a child knows and feels that their parents are available to them, their experiences can shape how they approach relationships with others and how they see themselves,” Rivera said. “In some ways, parenting is a leadership role where caring behavior, words, tone and time are the foundation for the growth and development of our next generation.”
Military children are known for their strength, dedication and sacrifice. To help build their resilience in response to expected and unexpected challenges, it is important to equip military children with stress management strategies and healthy coping skills that can help foster positive outcomes. Here are some suggested healthy coping strategies:
Healthy Coping Skills for Kids
– Maintain routine
– Positive affirmations and self-talk
– Healthy expression of feelings – art, writing, talking, laughing, praying, crying
– Relaxation techniques – deep breathing, muscle relaxation, guided imagery
– Physical activity – sports, stretching, yoga
– Mind activity – reading, doing puzzles, listening to music
Here are some additional resources to help you celebrate the Month of the Military Child:
Military Kids Connect offers interesting tools and games. It helps prepare children, preteens, and teens for the challenges surrounding family transitions. https://militarykidsconnect.health.mil/Caring-for-Our-Youth
Month of the Military Child Toolkit lists mental health and wellness tools for military children. https://www.militaryonesource.mil/leaders-service-providers/children-youth-and-teens/month-of-the-military-child-toolkit/
The Military Children’s Education Commission has listed 50 ways to celebrate military children in April. https://www.militarychild.org/upload/images/2020 MOMC/2020_Month_of_the_Military_Child.pdf
Sesame Street for Military Families offers downloadable activities and videos for military children. https://sesamestreetformilitaryfamilies.org/downloadable-pdfs/
The Defense Center for Public Health-Aberdeen advances joint force health protection with agile public health enterprise solutions in support of the National Defense Strategy.
Note: References to any non-Federal entity and/or its products are for informational purposes only, and in no way should be construed or interpreted as Federal endorsement of that non-Federal entity or its products.
|Date of posting:||04.13.2023 12:28|
this work, Defense public health psychologists offer tips to help kids cope with changeRestrictions as shown at https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright must be observed.