By Amanda Marker, LMHC- Military family member and former child military family.
November is dedicated to recognizing and honoring the military and veteran family. Over the month the families who contribute, support and sacrifice for our military and our nation are acknowledged.
Shared Similarities Among Military Families
While everyone’s experience is different, there are a few similarities shared among military families. The role of the service member’s family is equally as important to keeping the service member “fit for duty.”
Being a military family member comes with a few challenges not commonly experienced in the civilian world. Families of service members know these challenges all too well. Lengthy separations, frequent moves, disruptions in routine and school and repeated attempts to find community and trusted friendships over and over are a true understanding of sacrifice for the greater goal of our nation’s security. Often spouses feel they cannot ask for help, as they believe it will look poorly upon the service member and put the service member’s promotion in jeopardy.
Military Family Children and Anxiety
Research shows 30% of military family children experience anxiety as a result of their parent’s deployment and return from deployment. This often presents as separation anxiety, depression, excessive worry, sleep problems and other physical complaints. This is especially difficulty for young children, who are sponges, absorbing the good and the bad of their caretakers.
Consider the experience of a young child, who’s parent returns from deployment with potentially anxiety, depression, PTSD, physical wounds and/or a traumatic brain injury that changes their parent’s personality. It is not uncommon for these children to also become distant, hostile and feel they are responsible for the changes in their parent.
The armed forces are working to ensure military primary care givers are working in tandem with psychiatrists to identify families struggling to provide support and treatment early.
Constant Change and Mental Health
For the family, living in a constant state of change becomes the normal. As soon as we feel we are settling into a new routine, new town, new schools and new home we pack up to do it again. Every two to three years a military family can expect a move. Children may have changed schools six to nine times between kindergarten and high school graduation — being the “new kid” becomes a normal experience.
Even when the family is stationed at the same instillation for an extended period of time, the ebb and flow deployments disrupt routines, responsibilities and normalcy. It takes time to readjust to the one parent household mindset by managing the bills, the groceries, the school meetings and afterschool programs, being the sole disciplinarian and the sole comforter and even being the default parent 24/7 until they return.
The undercurrent of the unknown is ever present. Will they return this time? By the time you get the hang of it, your partner/service member hopefully returns. Do you go back to sharing responsibilities or just keep going since it is easier to keep an object in motion that’s finally seeming to be moving smoothly, rather than to reset the entire family again — not to mention the partner’s readjustment time.
Being Part of a Military Family Is Rewarding, Too
There is an equally rewarding aspect to being a part of a military family.
The pride that comes with knowing your family is part of the few and the brave, who took an oath to protect our nation is humbling and an honor. The travel and to see the world is a gift.
While packing and repacking is inevitable, being able to live in various countries the world over, see places many dream about and experience unique local cuisine. These are certainly the silver linings.
Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness.” Having the opportunity to have yourself and give your children worldly experiences that widen their perspective and open their hearts is something I, and many military families will be forever grateful.
This November, if you find yourself wanting to share gratitude and support for our military, veterans, and their families, here are a few ways you can:
- Service members on deployment can struggle emotionally, being away from their loved ones, especially when they are headed towards uncertain or unsafe situations. Receiving thank-you notes and care packages have a positive impact on servicemember’s moods. Send cards to our deployed to let them know we appreciate their service! Letter and cards can also be sent to the military children and spouses, and military and veteran caregivers. Check out Operation We Are Here for a list of organizations that can help.
- Did a new military family move into your neighborhood? Offer to show them around their new town, share tips and advice about the local schools or daycares, offer to help with household chores, invite them over for dinner or set up a playdate for the kids. Let them know you are there for them from the start.
From Windmoor Healthcare to the military and veteran families this month, “We see you. We acknowledge your struggles and sacrifice and celebrate your joys together with you. Thank you for your part in supporting our current and veteran service personnel 24/7.”
Contact Us If You Need Help
If you or a loved one is active-duty, veteran, guard, or first responder and are in need on mental health or substance abuse treatment, please call now to discuss our treatment options. We are a dedicated Center of Excellence among Patriot Support Programs. We Can Help. 727-742-1306.
If you or a loved one is in a medical crisis/emergency, please call 911.
About Windmoor Healthcare of Clearwater
Windmoor Healthcare of Clearwater is a mental health facility that provides inpatient and outpatient treatment. We service adults and older adults with behavioral health and substance abuse issues. What sets us apart is our exceptional care, which includes our crisis stabilization and substance abuse & dual diagnosis treatment.
Located in Clearwater, Florida our facility is a warm and comfortable environment to all. Some of our programs include our inpatient, outpatient and uniformed personnel program. To schedule a no-cost assessment or for more information, please call 727-353-2482.