All families are presented with opportunities and challenges. All families experience joy and sadness–excitement and worry. Military families are no different. However, the military lifestyle presents families with unique concerns. Longwood University students enrolled in the Stress and Crisis in Families (Sociology 306) class in the Fall of 2012 spent the semester researching issues that that military families often face. The purpose of their research, which is presented in this blog, is to provide information and resources to soldiers, veterans, and military family members.
Military families often experience long times of separation. Service members may be separated from their families for significant periods of time for a variety of reasons, including when they are assigned to temporary duty (TDY) or a temporary duty station (TDS), when they are assigned to an unaccompanied tour, and when they are deployed. Deployment to an active war zone creates the greatest amount of stress and uncertainty for both the service member and loved ones. Information on the stresses that spouses, children, and girlfriends and boyfriends of service members experience during deployment and resources for these loved ones can be found on the deployment page of this blog.
Children in military families have been called the “smallest soldiers.” Parents often worry about the stress that their children experience from the demands of military lifestyle, from deployments to frequent moves. How can the transition from school to school be made easier? How can the stress of deployments be eased for children? How can children stay in touch with parents stationed away from home, perhaps in harm’s way? Answers to these questions, as well as a “Children’s Corner” can be found on the Issues Facing Military Children and Adolescents page.
Witnessing the trauma of war often leaves psychological scars. Veterans may return home suffering from the shock, grief, anger, and overwhelming sadness of what they experienced during deployment. Post traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, and contemplation of suicide may result. Not only do veterans struggle with these psychological after-effects of war, but so do the loved ones to whom they return. Information and resources for veterans and family members regarding these concerns are only a click away, however.
The most overwhelming fear that military families face is the fear that their loved one–their husband/wife, son/daughter, mother/father, boyfriend/girlfriend, or even best friend–will be killed in the line of duty. Grief can be paralyzing. However, resources, programs, and support groups are available to help loved ones and comrades of fallen soldiers.
A host of other issues are present for military families and personnel. Concerns vary between active duty and reserve/guard members and their families. Locating housing and determining whether the family should live on-base or off-base can be confusing and time consuming. Some families have two parents who are in the military, presenting additional concerns about duty assignments and simultaneous deployments. Long separations can stress relationships, increasing the risk of infidelity and divorce. The joy of a reunion following deployment often is followed by the stress of reintegrating the soldier back into the rhythm of family life. Sadly, service members’ stress and trauma may occur not as a result of enemy action but as a result of sexual abuse within the military ranks. Check out the military and personnel concerns page for information on all of these issues.
Stress is an inevitable part of family life. Although military families may face unique challenges, resources are available to help families thrive and grow stronger as a result of successfully meeting these challenges together.