Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

When parents are sent to war, how can children cope?

Posted November 17, 2011

How do kids cope when their parents are deployed? WRAL News traveled from Fort Bragg to Afghanistan and back, meeting parents on both sides of the deployment.

In a story on WRAL-TV at 6 p.m., Thursday, reporter Bryan Mims shows how families stay in touch; explores what kind of support services the military has; and gets insight from a clinical social worker and therapist on the emotional challenges of parents at war. Then join the conversation at 6:30 p.m. Thursday during a live chat with Bryan Mims and a therapist who works with military families.

Click here to learn more about the live chat and see a preview of tonight's piece.

I checked in with licensed psychologist Dr. Susan Orenstein of Orenstein Solutions on some tips for parents whose spouse has been deployed.

Here's what Orenstein recommends:

1. Get support in every way possible. I think it's clear that folks on or near bases do better than those who are not because there's so much natural support there. So, the more solo parents can link with others (others in a similar situation or other supports like support groups, online support forums, houses of worship, etc.), the better. The emotional support from others going through the same circumstances can feel validating and prevent isolation. And, families can provide physical, practical support for each other (e.g., help with babysitting, carpooling).

2. Realize that a military partner coming home may be a challenging and ongoing transition. Many times everyone underestimates the challenge of this. Roles have changed, and the returning service member is not going to be himself/herself probably, at least not initially. Setting realistic expectations can prevent disappointment and blame.

3. Recognize that although your child is not responsible for "adult matters" like paying the bills or preparing meals, he or she may develop "grown up" concerns, feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders. So, it's important to remind your child that it's OK to be a kid. Tell them that in addition to working hard in school and pitching in at home, their other job is to have fun. Encourage them to have play time, to be silly, and to have fun with friends.

If your spouse was or is deployed, I'd love to hear what worked for you. Please share in the comments.


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