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Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371,
Janet Christenbury, 404/727-8599,
October 4, 2001


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 Behavior may become withdrawn, or the child may become difficult to manage, or have trouble sleeping.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 do:
  • Keep daily routines as normal as possible.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Let the children talk about their fears.
  • 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 the children.
  • 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 find helpful.
  • 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.


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