Corinn A. Elmore, PhD
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
The healthy development of the child dependents of military service members is fundamental to the effectiveness of our national security. As a Health Psychologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, I developed an integrated behavioral health service specifically targeting pediatric military dependents in a large military hospital. Currently, there are nearly 2 million children of active duty military service members, which is almost double the number of active duty service members. While these families are resilient and diverse, they also are exposed to unique stressors such as, frequent moves, parental separation, family reintegration, and isolation, which can be difficult to cope with at times. Listed below are a few strategies that may help military families cope with these stressors.
Top 5 Coping Strategies for Military Families
1. Maintain routines. While life can be adventurous and exciting in a military family, consistency can be difficult. Help your child adjust by maintaining routines as best as possible, including morning and evening routines, bedtimes, and free time with family.
2. Be transparent. Let your child know as much information about when their parent is scheduled to leave, return, and any changes that may occur in the family before the deployment.
3. Use your village. Military culture is unique and can often be best understood by those who have gone through it. Engage with other military families in your community. Swap child care. Have play dates. Use military resources. Remember that you are not alone.
4. Stay in touch. Technology has provided us with more ways to stay in touch than ever before. If possible, schedule FaceTime calls, write letters, and/or keep a family calendar for when parents will return.
5. Recognize your strengths. Children in military families are typically skilled at adapting to new environments, have lots of cultural exposure, and have sacrificed their comfort to serve this country. Acknowledge your family’s strengths and commend yourselves for thriving in often difficult circumstances.
Dr. Elmore’s Recommendation
The military teamed up with Sesame Street to create a ton of resources for military families. The website includes worksheets, videos, apps, and other resources for parents, children, and providers. You can view these military family resources at, https://sesamestreetformilitaryfamilies.org/
Military Kids Connect
Military Kids Connect (MKC) is an online community for military children (ages 6-17) that provides access to age-appropriate resources to support children dealing with the unique psychological challenges of military life.
The Veterans Crisis Line
Connects Veterans in crisis, their families, and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Responders will work with you to help you get through any personal crisis, even if that crisis does not involve thoughts of suicide. Dial 1-800-273-8255 and (Press 1) to talk to someone now. A confidential chat is also available online or through text. To chat online (https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ChatTermsOfService.aspx) or send a text to 838255 to receive confidential support anonymously.
Provides a range of resources and mental health services to veterans and their family members.
Give an Hour: Giving Help and Hope
Provides mental health services to those currently serving in the military, veterans, and their families.