By Presley Dailey, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas
April is the official Month of the Military Child, so in the next few weeks we will highlight the services we provide to military children and families across the country as well as uplifting them as they face new challenges.
At the American Red Cross, we recognize the immense sacrifice of military members and their families, and we want to celebrate those who give so much while providing comfort and encouragement.
Within our line of Service to the Armed Forces, we offer several programs to help families reconnect and adapt to their new style of living before, during and after deployment. Whether it be tackling emotional challenges or preparing for long-term communication and relationship obstacles, our services help military children and families readjust to their circumstances and regain a sense of normalcy as they navigate their new lives.
Coping with Deployment: Preparedness
At the Red Cross we acknowledge the importance of making sure families are prepared for the range of challenges that come with deployment, and have developed special programs to make the necessary moves to adapt. One, Coping with Deployments: Psychological First Aid for Military Families, is intended for those preparing to deploy a loved one.
This course covers a series of matters that families often find themselves struggling with during deployment, such as the ability to recognize and respond to challenges with the help of other members of the family. Overall, this course is focused on the psychological and emotional strain of deployment and how to respond when you or a loved one are struggling with negative feelings. It lays out the best ways to act as a team and to make sure nobody’s feelings are minimized or put on the back burner. It is also available to veterans and their families long after the initial deployment because the information is still relevant.
Deployment is never easy on families or service members, no matter if it is the first one or the next of many. As a family navigates their new circumstances, it is imperative that they recognize what kind of challenges are acting as roadblocks for their emotional progress. At the Red Cross, we have developed Reconnection Workshops to help guide them through the process of recovery on a personal and interpersonal level.
These Reconnection Workshops offer different small-group activities, discussions and courses covering a range of topics like learning how to find stress solutions, fostering better communication and general caregiving for the wounded.
One course that highlights the importance of this month is focused on how to communicate with children while overcoming deployment challenges. This hands-on program allows for military families to nurture their own communication skills and strong suits so that they may be better equipped to guide children through the emotional obstacles of the journey, making it more manageable for the family to adapt to the circumstances caused by deployment. In this course, educational information on family dynamics and child development are explored at length so that the family unit can develop healthier and more effective ways of communicating, resolving issues and making decisions together that affect the family long-term.
While the long-awaited return of a service member will bring immeasurable happiness to a family unit, it is no secret that the return comes with its own set of challenges to prepare for and overcome. Time and circumstances bring changes to a family, and–while the love is still there– family roles have evolved as people have aged and taken on new positions based on what they have learned to do for themselves and others. It is imperative that families are open and honest about how to adjust to their return, and that no issues get swept under the rug for the sake of sticking to what is comfortable.
Our Post-Deployment services address a variety of challenges a family may face in the coming years, including relational changes, health concerns for service members such as PTS (Post-Traumatic Stress) and other obstacles faced by families after deployment. Our services provide opportunities for families to work together to build communication skills, helping them to respond to challenges in a way that makes the family closer. Afterall, when facing life-altering obstacles, a family has a much better chance of coming out the other side intact if they learn to strengthen and prioritize those bonds.
At the Red Cross, we understand how much strength and determination it takes for a military family to overcome these challenges. Even though we cannot change the situation, we strive to make the effects of deployment as manageable as possible for those facing or recovering from it, whether it be for the first time or the fifth. We understand the emotional toll this process can take on children and families, and we hope our resources can provide a sense of security and comfort to those who need it amid their most vulnerable seasons.