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April 26, 2011 at 1:00 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Mental and Emotional Support for Children of Deployed Military Personnel

By Smarty More Blogs by This Author

In a typical family situation, whenever a child is separated from one or both parents for an extended amount of time, it could be necessary to deal with certain issues. For military families, these issues are possible as well, and compounded. Children that are aware of a parent who is involved in an effort to protect the country might feel several emotions about the situation. A concerning trend over the past few years is a steady increase in mental health visits for the children of deployed troops.

Study Results

Recently, a study was published in the journal, Pediatrics. The results indicated an 11 percent increase in mental and behavioral health visits for children when a parent was deployed in the military. Although there are several logical reasons why the percentage is higher, the commentary that accompanied the study focused mainly on presumptions and unsubstantiated theories. Balancing out the above statistic, the study also discovered that overall health care visits decreased for children throughout a parent's deployment. Instead of considering any positive explanations, the commentary attributed the reduction to, "increased demands of a functionally single caregiver, who must choose which conditions merit the effort of bringing a child to medical attention." Of course, that observation is speculative and unfounded, which questions the intent of the researchers.

Reasons for the Study Results

Contrary to reports associated with the study mentioned above, it could be unfair to assume that military children have more mental or behavioral problems. As the complexity of the military operations was elevated, tens of thousands of additional troops were deployed, which might coincide with the number of visits. New research is scheduled by the military to continue studying this correlation. In general, a military family would be more likely to receive the suggestion of consulting with mental health experts as a precautionary and/or coping measure. During the current economic status of the country, military families are being encouraged to seek mental health assistance. This is another potential reason for the difference in visits. Plus, the average military family moves almost every three years. Frequent relocations could result in extra stress for the family. Sheila Casey, wife of Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the U.S. Army chief of staff, informed a congressional panel in 2009 that, Army families are stretched, and they are stressed," continuing to say, And I have often referred to them as the most brittle part of the force.

Unanswered Questions

Of all the information delivered by the study, there was no clear attempt at looking into other ways that military children could experience the effects of a parent's deployment. It would not be surprising, for example, to see that children of military personnel behave more respectfully, achieve greater test scores in school, and have better manners. All of these things might have provided some understanding of the entire picture. However, the study did not seem interested in answering those kinds of questions.

Where to Get Help

While it is always possible to seek the emotional and mental support offered by local counseling services, churches, and family, there are organizations set up specifically for military families. Operation: Military Kids is one of those. Visit their web site for more information regarding services and events. Sources:

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