Click to Read: Children of Military Service Members Resource Guide (2011)
[toggle title=”Tips for Strenghtening Your Family During Depoyment”]Surprise your children with lunchbox notes.
Send home a batch of short “I love you” notes for your spouse to tuck into your children’s lunchboxes or under their pillows.
Send individual e-mails to your children. For a young child, you can create a Word document with big letters that can be printed.
Ask your family members to read your letters aloud at the dinner table. Even when there is no letter, ask them to bring you into their dinnertime conversation.
Have a regular “show-and-tell” where you teach your children something new in an e-mail, letter, or on the telephone. And your children can tell you about something new they learned in school, or discovered from a book or a friend.
Write a running letter. Start it in the morning and add to it in the evening, if you can. If you do this for several days before you mail the letter, your family will have a better idea of what your life is like. Ask your family members to do the same.
Share a letter. Write the first paragraph of a letter or story, then send it to your family to add another paragraph. Continue adding to the letter throughout your deployment.
Think of each other at a regular time each day. Set up a time each day, adjusting for the time difference, when you will stop what you’re doing for a moment and think about each other.
Involve the child in writing letters or e-mails or making things to send to his parent.
Find a way to count down the time until the parent returns in a way that the child will understand: make calendars, fill a big jar with a sticker or candy for each day until the member returns.
Plan special outings or activities. A trip to the movies, a visit to the grandparents, or even a bike ride together may help a child feel better. You may also want to plan events with other children coping with deployment.
Limit television watching, especially of military action. Watching media coverage of conflicts or wars — even ones that the parent is not involved in — can be emotionally draining. If your child is interested in watching television coverage of military action, try to do it together so that you can monitor what the child is seeing, answer questions, and offer reassurance.
Make sure your child’s teacher is aware of the deployment. If your child’s teacher is informed of the situation, he or she may be able to understand and cope with any behavior changes your child might have.[/toggle] [toggle title=”Talking About Deployment”]Help your child understand that she has not done anything wrong. Young kids may think a parent has left because of something they’ve done.
Talk about where his parent is and what he or she is doing. Post a map where the child can see it, learn about where the parent is serving, something about its customs or language. Being familiar with and talking about the deployed parent’s daily routines and getting a better picture of where he or she is can help your child cope with the separation.
Be as honest and give as much information as possible. The child may have many questions about the military, and why her parent has to leave or whether he or she is safe. It’s important to give her as much information as possible in words or pictures that she will understand.
Make sure she doesn’t feel like she has been abandoned. Telling the child that her parent is “on assignment” or “at work” may help her understand the separation and that this is a normal part of military life.
Encourage your child to talk about his feelings. Let him know that it’s OK to admit that he misses his parent or feels lonely.
Help your child find ways to feel better when she’s missing her parent. This could be by listening to a tape recording of her parent reading a story, looking at pictures of her missing parent, or even just talking about where he or she is.
Talk about the deployed parent frequently. Tell stories or jokes, or even say things like, “This is the sweater Daddy gave me for my birthday,” or “Mom loves spaghetti, let’s have that for dinner tonight.” Talking about the parent will help keep his or her presence in the child’s life.
Tell the child how much the missing parent loves and misses her. Sometimes children need to hear reassuring things over and over again — remind the child of this as often as possible.
Different children may cope differently with deployment. Some children may react by trying to “bend the rules,“ while others may have trouble sleeping or feel lonely, look for any changes that may indicate he needs some help coping.[/toggle] [toggle title=”Stress of war hits Army kids hard”]By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY 5/28/08
Army wives whose husbands are deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have committed markedly higher rates of child neglect and abuse than when their spouses are home, according to a study Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The Army-funded study found child neglect was almost four times greater during periods when the husbands were at war. Physical child abuse was nearly twice as high during combat deployments.
“Deployment … has been associated with increased stress among non-deployed parents, which may hamper their ability to appropriately care for their children,” the study said.
Child neglect can result from inappropriate supervision, says Deborah Gibbs, the study’s lead author and a senior analyst at RTI International, a North Carolina research center. It also includes failing to meet a child’s basic needs, such as nourishment and sanitation. Abuse can include physical harm.
Researchers examined reports of abuse and neglect within 1,771 families of Army enlisted soldiers with nearly 3,000 children. Researchers had scant data on husbands with spouses at war; 94% of the cases of abuse and neglect involved Army wives at home.
The reports were collected by the Army’s Family Advocacy Program, which works to prevent family violence. The cases occurred between Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2004. The largest single group of victims was children ages 2-12.
“The evidence is pretty strong that combat-related deployments” spurred the increase, Gibbs says.
“Having been through two deployments myself, I won’t deny there have been nights where I have sat in agony because I snapped at my own two children for nothing,” says Tera Brockway, whose husband is stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y.
The study results are consistent with previous research showing that child neglect within the Army increased sharply after 9/11, reversing a decade-long downward trend. A May report by the University of North Carolina showed similar abuse and neglect findings for military families in Texas in 2002 and 2003.
The authors called for enhanced support services for wives at home. “As a country, we all want to see Army families getting the support they need,” Gibbs says.
The Army will take the results of the latest study and others to improve programs and start new ones, says Maj. Cheryl Phillips, an Army spokeswoman.
Several Army wives said the study results did not surprise them.
“I had a lady that lived next to me that I could hear her yelling at her kids, calling them names,” says Tanya Garcia, an Army mother of three who lived in Butzbach, Germany, during her husband’s recent deployment. “And you could tell the kids didn’t get the mommy they needed. They were dirty, hair not brushed.”
That changed when the troops returned, she says: “When the guys came home, I never heard her yell, and you could tell that (the children) were taking baths every night.”
“I firmly believe that more time at home between deployments would be the most beneficial solution,” says Amy Lambert, an Army wife living at Fort Stewart, Ga. “Many spouses are lonely, scared and/or tired.”[/toggle]