Military Parents: 3 Simple Ways to Connect With Your Military Children by Rebecca Townsend
Our country has been at war for 16 years – the longest war in U.S. history. During the Vietnam era, only 15 percent of service members had children. Today, more than 40 percent of service members have children. More than two million children have experienced a parent deployed.
Mental health providers, military families and the U.S. Department of Defense have reported increased mental health needs of military children in comparison to civilian children. This is no surprise given the high levels of stress military members and military spouses encounter with deployments, training and the high operational tempo of day-to-day life in the military.
Parents' stress is felt by the children. There is no way around it – that's part of human nature. Having lived and worked in a military community for 25 years, I help families and community member successfully navigate these challenges. I advocate being truthful in an age-appropriate manner. If we don't speak truth to our children, the stories they create in their heads are much worse. Here are some tips:
- We should validate their fears; don't brush them off. They need to know you hear them and their fears make sense.
- Empathize with them. Say, "Yes, I feel that way, too."
- Community members also can provide space for connection.
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