Families of Deployed Troops Need Support
of Family, Friends, Co-Workers
There's no doubt that the expression "War is hell!" has
particular meaning for the troops being deployed and their families.
There are ways that Americans can help ease the pain for spouses, partners
and children left behind.
"Awareness in the communities where these families are stationed is
a first step. There's no better time to become a good neighbor. Just
knowing that someone is close by who cares can be comforting," says
Nadine Kaslow, Ph.D., professor in the department of psychiatry and
behavioral sciences at Emory University. "Children are especially vulnerable,
so being a good neighbor can mean occasionally including those children
in some family outing that will distract them from their worries, and
give the single parent left behind some time to recuperate."
Although military families generally have to cope with extended separations
from time to time during the course of a military career, battle duty
has an emotional component that is far more stressful. Troops are often
sent off within a day's notice to a dubious location, with little opportunity
for communication, and no specific return date. The news is full of
daily reports and war scenes that constantly remind the families that
life is far from normal, and extremely dangerous for their loved ones.
Children have different ways of coping with the departure of a parent.
Behavior may become withdrawn, or the child may become difficult to
manage, or have trouble sleeping. Some of the things that parents can
- Keep daily routines as normal as possible.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Let the children talk about
- If the child is having trouble sleeping, help them get calm before
they sleep. Talk with them about their anxieties and fears, and be
sure to provide them physical comfort and support.
- Keep children busy, distracted, and away from the TV.
- Use videotapes as a means of communication between the soldier and
- Be sure the school or daycare is aware of the situation. Many times
teachers pick up on changes in behavior that may signal a problem,
and school counselors can be very helpful.
- Attend religious services or other community activities that you
- Seek professional help if your child's symptoms are extreme in severity
or duration, or if they significantly interfere with the child's social
or academic functioning.
"Suddenly being a single parent can be emotionally and physically
exhausting," says Dr. Kaslow. "Employers need to be m ore flexible
about time and demands, and provide a supportive work environment."
The upcoming months can be trying times for all of us. Making the
extra effort to reach out to these courageous families not only
helps the citizens at home, but also makes a positive contribution
to the morale of the soldiers far away.