Risk and Resilience in U.S. Military Families
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Get financial matters in place. Put effort into communication if possible. The family during deployment is not the same family as pre-deployment. Roles are going to change. The spouse at home is going to play the role of two parents. The deployed member is going to have time to think and may become more thoughtful.
In fact, time and again, the research shows that deployment can change families for the better, not worse. Expect to grow. They can, and should, grow up a little more quickly, take on new responsibilities, and understand their role is to keep the family working while a parent is away. Normal, or what is called horizontal, stress can collide with the exceptional, or vertical, stress of coping when a parent is deployed.
Kids can resent having to hold it together.
Risk and Resilience in Military and Veteran Families-MFRI
But they can also live up to expectations. The world over, when I study resilience among children under incredible stress, I find the same thing: kids grow during a crisis and are capable of much more than we think. Michael Ungar, Ph. Helping them become more independent can require tough love and patience. When we meditate away social anxiety, we may also lose our psychological edge.
Even better, take away their devices and give them some unstructured time. Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist.
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Buy Hardcover. Buy Softcover. FAQ Policy. About this book Among the costs of the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the human losses -- over 5, dead and over 35, wounded. Show all. Any mental health provider interested in this population … will find the book enjoyable and useful with respect to professional responsibilities. Show next xx. Most importantly, when children are helped to understand that a distressed parent's anger or inappropriate reactions are not due to anything that the child has done, then they are freer to engage in productive forms of self-care and problem solving with other family members Beardslee and Knitzer Parents able to distinguish between devel-opmentally normative and problematic reactions to stress and change exhibited by their children may be able to worry less and provide more helpful and well-received forms of support and guidance.
Armed with this kind of information that is applied to the particular circumstances and needs of a family and pitched so that it can be heard and understood by all of its' members, family processes may be initiated, which will help to move them toward. After one or more wartime deployments, a gulf of time, disparate experiences, and problematic interpretations often span between a service member and his or her family. Bridging this gulf and re-establishing familiarity and closeness is a central challenge during the extended reintegration period Palmer ; Sherman et al.
Unfortunately, there are numerous factors including parent distress, psychopathology, lack of communication skills, and constraining family or cultural strictures, which may interfere with this process. By providing a family with a structured and safe forum for individual family members to share their experiences, reactions, fears, and ongoing concerns, and to then collectively craft a family narrative, a number of critical family processes and capabilities can be brought online in service of improved adaptation and resilience.
These are described briefly later. When individual narratives are shared and an encompassing family narrative is co-constructed, there is an opportunity to jointly acknowledge the family's history of multiple challenges and successes, to normalize and contextualize individual experiences or reactions that may have previously been viewed with shame or derision, to soften judgment with understanding, and to develop a sense of coherence about these shared experiences Saltzman et al.
Coherence is defined here as a global orientation to life as comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful Walsh When narrative sharing is structured so that individual family members feel safe to express their personal feelings and reactions, and those listening are enjoined to listen in a compassionate manner, the level of family empathy may be increased as members learn to take the perspective of the other and appreciate previously unvoiced differences in experience and perception. Family members are also provided a means to safely overcome obstacles to communication, which may include cultural or family prohibitions against burdening others with expressions of strong feelings or needs, symptoms of emotional numbing, avoidance.
For the latter circumstance, service members can be coached to share their reactions without focusing on upsetting or graphic details. In facilitating the construction and sharing of individual members' narratives, the counselor can highlight personal and family assets and strengths while underscoring past successes in dealing with similar challenges. The counselor can also identify problematic misattributions or distortions as family members process the different experiences and perceptions contained in their individual narratives.
This may include calling upon family members to challenge or clarify problematic attributions, such as a circumstance in which one family member feels inappropriately responsible for a negative outcome or misconstrues the actions of another family member. A key hallmark of a healthy family is direct, clear, consistent, and honest communication, and the capacity to tolerate open expression of emotion Walsh , These characteristics are especially important for families experiencing stress and change, given that unclear, distorted, or vague communication can rob family members of the essential tools for successfully adapting to change and challenges.
Moreover, when parents withhold or ''put a happy face'' on communications about serious or difficult issues, they leave blanks that children fill in, often with their worst imaginings. The importance of open emotional expression within the family is underscored by findings that strong emotions that are not permitted expression can ''go underground'' and emerge in a destructive fashion through emotional, behavioral, and even somatic symptoms Greene et al.
For example, in trying to explain why her deployed husband would be returning a month later than expected, a military mother minimized the situation and simply said he had ''unfinished work in Iraq. In a similar fashion, a husband and wife felt uncomfortable speaking to their 8-year-old son about the father's injury, and the series of reconstructive surgeries and long course of rehabilitation required for his recovery. Feeling like he could not ask questions about his father's health, the son believed that his father was very fragile and could die at any time.
He avoided their usual roughhousing because he thought it would hurt his father; each time the father went to the hospital for a procedure, the son feared that his father. Denied an avenue to express or clarify his fears, the son's suppressed distress showed up in uncharacteristic emotional outbursts and behavioral problems. All families have their own culture, complete with implicit and explicit rules for communication and behavior. To a great extent, parents establish family rules and the family climate, although cultural and ethnic differences account for important differences in the ways family communicate emotions McGoldrick et al.
As such, it is important to work within the personal and cultural framework of each family and help them to find appropriate ways to invite sharing of a wide range of feelings and through mutual empathy extend a tolerance for differences and the expression of strong emotions Bowen ; Walsh Specific parent skill sets and family-level coping strategies can help families anticipate, plan for and mitigate the impact of stressful events, and improve child adjustment Saltzman et al.
Randomized controlled trials of resilience-enhancing family programs have identified specific parent- and family-level skills as being effective in improving child outcomes over time Beardslee et al. These core skills include stress management and emotion regulation, collaborative goal setting and problem solving, and managing trauma and loss reminders. Although normally applied to individuals, stress management and emotion regulation skills can be effectively leveraged at the family level to enhance resilience.
For example, family members can be trained to collectively identify and anticipate stressful situations, monitor idiosyncratic expressions of distress among different family members, poll individual family members for desired forms of support, and to provide appropriate types of support in a timely and developmentally appropriate manner. Families may be coached to develop a shared vocabulary and method for checking in with one another's emotional or stress status, and to practice using a specific set of coping strategies including relaxation, distraction, activity planning, cognitive reframing, and positive messaging to assist each other in modulating family stress and reactivity Lester et al.
Families can also profit from training in collaborative goal setting and problem solving. Families impacted by ongoing stress and impaired parenting may be disorganized and lack proactive strategies for managing problems or including family members in decision making and planning Beavers and Hampson ; Ryan et al. The result can be a chaotic or rigidly closed family structure in which.
Largest-ever study of mental health risk, resilience in army personnel releases findings
Establishing a collaborative and explicit process by which family members may jointly voice preferences and develop coordinated plans of action can increase a sense of connectedness and control. Training in these collaborative family-level skills that invite joint participation and shared decision making can also generalize to other areas of family functioning and increase the family's adaptive and resilient potential Walsh Managing combat and deployment stress reminders can be an essential skill for families in which members are reactive to cues that remind them of highly stressful or traumatic experiences.
Research has delineated separate classes of reminders related to specific trauma experiences e. These cues may evoke such reactions as abrupt mood shifts, withdrawal, or shifts in behavior that are confusing and disruptive to family relations. Such cues may contribute to family disengagement and conflict and may undermine supportive familial transactions. In addition to education about the impact of reminders, parents and children are taught to identify personal- and family-level triggers and to develop collaborative strategies for modulating their impact Layne et al.
Building on the military model designed to maximize ''unit cohesion'' and support, parents should be supported to provide clear and consistent leadership for their family unit.
ISBN 13: 9783319214870
As noted previously, parental distress and psychopa-thology may result in impaired forms of parenting that lead to reduced parental availability, limited engagement and monitoring, inconsistent care routines and discipline, increased stress and conflict across the family, and, in many cases, disruptive or problematic child behavior. Various tools may promote consistent and coordinated parental leadership in accordance with a co-parenting model.
Co-parenting refers to a set of values and practices that lead to a co-equal and mutually supportive approach to parenting. In order to effectively co-parent, parents must learn to communicate clearly with each other, support each other, and collaboratively negotiate childrearing decisions and disagreements, along with family roles and duties Feinberg A large body of research suggests that the capacity for co-parenting and power-sharing has important. In sharing personal narratives of deployment experiences, parents can increase their understanding of what each other went through during difficult times and come to better appreciate the others' current reactions and difficulties.
By helping couples and parents frame problems in an interactive fashion such that blaming is reduced and mutual contributions to current problems and potential solutions are highlighted, spouses are better able to craft collaborative goals that provide a road map for working together Long and Young Further, by developing relational means of regulating distressing emotions and reactions and an ongoing means of checking in with each other for course adjustments, parents can learn to help each other navigate the shifting terrain of childrearing during a time of war Gewirtz et al.