Tag Archives: Deployment

The Last Transition…or Not

 

Reflections on Todd & Peggy Podcast #3
By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

 The audio recording below is the third part of a conversation with Todd, a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy Nurse Corps, and his wife Peggy, an elementary school teacher. Peggy and Todd generously shared some of their experiences as a military family, to help those of us serving military families have a better understanding of what they go through. Below the recording you’ll find a blog post reflecting on this part of Todd and Peggy’s story. This is part 3 – The Last Transition…or Not

 Capture

 Listen to Todd & Peggy Podcast #2
Listen to Todd & Peggy Podcast #1

The Last Transition … or Not

“When one parent in a family serves in the military, the whole family serves. Military life requires great commitment and sacrifice not only for the service member but also the spouse, children and other family members.”

The above thought occurred to me as I listened to podcast #3 where Todd and Peggy reflect back on their experiences as a couple and a family with children as he pursued his military career. Military service with its deployments, weekend trainings and other demands impact the whole family and not just the service member.

In this podcast, Todd and Peggy discuss their next transition – retirement from the military. Their experience shows how important it is for couples to discuss not only the timing of this transition but also what it means for their relationship and their family.

As a couple, Todd and Peggy agreed that he will retire from the military either in 5 years or if he is deployed again. They decided that as a family they did not want to go through the experience of another deployment.  However, both Todd and Peggy recognized that after retirement, the military will remain an important part of their everyday lives.

Military service itself is not so difficult – military members train for it – but separation from family can be very difficult. It takes a toll on the children who tend to become more connected with the stay-at-home parent. Peggy talks about being a single parent during deployments and Todd described feeling that his relationship with his children at times was not as “tight” as Peggy’s.

Long deployments also can negatively impact a couple’s marriage. Todd notes that many marriages do not survive the separations of military service. Couples not only need to spend time preparing for the financial aspects of deployment but also for the relational and emotional aspects.  Todd believes that the military could do more to prepare service members for these latter challenges.

Todd and Peggy were the fortunate ones; the podcast interview shows that they weathered those difficult transitions and developed an even stronger marriage. However, significant numbers of military marriages do not survive.

When asked to give one word to describe his military service, Todd said “service” to country and that he dedicated his life to the military. Peggy responded with the word “pride,” saying that she was proud of everything Todd has done. Despite the hardships, both Todd and Peggy were proud of his accomplishments and felt that the sacrifice was more than worth it.

In your work with military members and their families, consider how you might help young service members who are just marrying and beginning their families to prepare for the impacts of military service. What steps can they take now to ensure that they are like Todd and Peggy as they approach retirement with pride and meaning?

Karen Shirer is a member of the Military Families Learning Network Family Transitions Team and the Associate Dean with the University of Minnesota, Extension Center for Family Development. Karen is also the parent of two adult daughters, a grandmother, a spouse, and a cancer survivor.

 

 

Resilience

Reflection on Todd & Peggy Podcast #2
By Sara Croymans, Extension Educator

The audio recording below is the second part of a conversation with Todd, a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy Nurse Corps, and his wife Peggy, an elementary school teacher. Peggy and Todd generously shared some of their experiences as a military family, to help those of us serving military families have a better understanding of what military families go through. Below the recording you’ll find a blog post reflecting on this part of Todd and Peggy’s story. This is Part 2 – Resilience.

Todd_Peggy podcast 2 pic

Listen to Todd & Peggy’s story, Podcast #1

Resilience

As I listened to Todd and Peggy describe the challenges and opportunities their family experienced while a military family I was impressed with their resilience throughout the numerous transitions their family encountered. When I think about resilience I often think about it in terms of “FACTS”, a framework developed by the Red River Resilience (RRR) group in the Fargo, ND/Moorhead, MN community. I believe the RRR’s resilience framework is applicable to military families. “FACTS” is an acronym that describes five key actions that contribute to resilience.

F = “Foster Hope,” involves focusing on the positive, having confidence in oneself, and putting things in perspective.  Throughout all three podcasts Todd and Peggy described a ‘can-do’ attitude that their family could successfully navigate each transition they encountered.

A = “Act with Purpose,” endorses problem-solving, planning and goal-setting, and active coping. There is no doubt in my mind that Todd and Peggy possess ample amounts of these skills.  Balancing a two career family and children, one with special needs, plus a military reserve commitment requires immense organizational skills!  I was impressed with how both Todd and Peggy stepped up to leadership roles as they gained experience in the military to help junior enlisted members and their families.  Todd describes in this second podcast how he intentionally mentored younger service members on how to successfully balance life while Peggy has served as an ombudsperson to help those with questions and challenges.

C = “Connect with Others,” encourages people to maintain intimate relationships, give and receive help, and spend time with others.  Peggy shared how early on in their military life she “thought she could do it all” without any help from others.  However, she soon learned that she needed to reach out and ask for assistance, such as asking a close friend and her parents to join her at medical appointments for their daughter.

T = Take Care of Yourself,” I could hear in Peggy’s story that as the non-military spouse she really felt like she had to be there for everyone all the time and did not take advantage of opportunities to take time for herself.  She shared regrets of not taking the opportunity to travel to visit Todd at really cool places while he was training or deployed without taking the children with her.

S = “Search for Meaning,” includes searching for positive meaning, self-examination, and personal growth. Both Todd and Peggy talked extensively about their pride in being a military family and the sense of purpose that service provided for them.  They display their pride through wearing Navy clothing and having specialized Navy vehicle license plates.  However, with recent terrorist activities across the world they now intentionally make decisions about how visible they want to display that pride for fear of harm.

As service providers working with military members and their families how can we help promote resilience? How can we encourage military families to foster hope, act with purpose, connect with others, take care of themselves, and search for meaning during times of transitions?

To learn more about the “FACTS” resiliency framework, used during disaster recovery, read “One Message, Many Voices: Inter-Disciplinary Partnerships for Resilience Communication” (2014) published in Procedia Economics and Finance, 18, 400-407; available online at:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212567114009563 .

Sara Croymans is a member of the Military Families Learning Network Family Transitions Team and an Extension Educator with the University of Minnesota, Extension Center for Family Development. In addition, she is a military spouse.  Sara and her husband, retired from the Army National Guard, and three children navigated 22.5 years of weekend drills, annual trainings and two deployments.

Mixed Emotions

 

Reflections on Todd & Peggy Podcast #1
By Ellie McCann, Extension Educator

The audio recording below is the first part of a conversation with Todd, a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy Nurse Corps, and his wife Peggy, an elementary school teacher. Peggy and Todd generously shared some of their experiences as a military family, to help those of us serving military families have a better understanding of what they go through. Below the recording you’ll find a blog post reflecting on this part of Todd and Peggy’s story. This is part 1 – Mixed Emotions.

Todd_Peggy podcast 1 pic draft 4

Listen to Todd & Peggy’s story, Podcast #2 

 Mixed Emotions

Both parents, Todd and Peggy, had different things to get ready before the deployment. Peggy’s preparation focus was on planning things for the family such as the details of the calendar of events to who would mow the lawn and shovel the snow. This was happening while the other parent, Todd – the service member – planned for his year away. Together, they upgraded their automobiles. Financial things were all in place and updated such as power of attorney, living will and other important documents. Peggy, who remained at home, began to feel that Todd was preparing for just one person and how unfair that was while she would be at home taking care of all the families’ responsibilities. As Peggy and Todd were doing their individual planning, they started to ‘get at each other’, which as Peggy reflects, may have been a way for them to prepare to be separated from each other. A mixture of emotions was felt by both during this preparation.

As a parent myself, I associate these feelings with the summer before I launched my oldest child. She and I were at each other constantly during that summer. We were both nervous in our own way and were trying to take care of last minute things. Parents have different things to get ready than their child and both need to wrap their heads around individual parts. It was really an odd sense of losing control as a mom that I had never felt. The stress I felt about all the things I needed to make sure were in place came out and was part of our tense moments. Looking back now, I truly feel that what we experienced that summer was some sort of way for us to both prepare for being away from each other for the first time. I was ready to move her in when the time came and she was more than ready to begin her next life chapter. A mixture of emotions was felt by both during this preparation time.

Todd and Peggy also shared that unexpected changes, like a change in deployment plans, can also add stress and create a mixture of emotions. When a family has done so much to prepare for a long deployment and orders get cancelled, one might think that there would immediately be feelings of relief. This isn’t always the case. This type of drastic change of plans can cause a mixture of emotions such as confusion, anxiety, misunderstanding, and/or worry because all of the preparation that had taken place for the family during the deployment was stripped from under them like a blanket of security they had built.

These types of events that happen prior to deployment can cause a wide range of feelings for the service member and their family. What other events may happen to military families while they are preparing for a deployment that may create a mixture of emotions? How can you as a military family service provider be prepared to support families during these times?

Ellie McCann is a member of the Military Families Learning Network Family Transitions team and an Extension Educator with the University of Minnesota, Extension Center for Family Development. Ellie is also the parent of three adult daughters.

Romantic Partner Satisfaction and Communication Prior To and During Deployment

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Creative Commons [Flickr, Happy couple walking in the sunset, March 9, 2013]
Creative Commons [Flickr, Happy couple walking in the sunset, March 9, 2013]
Mental health professionals serving military members have commonly held that relationship functioning (time together, communication, and relationship stress) influenced a service member’s effectiveness in combat situations.  Cigrang and colleagues examined service members’ intimate partner relationship functioning prior to and during deployment to determine whether there is a relationship between  functioning and a military member’s performance during deployment [1].

Researchers studied 144 members of the U.S. Air Force Security Forces who were in a significant romantic relationship for 6 months or longer prior to being deployed for one year.  Almost nine-tenths (89%) of the Airmen were male, and averaged 27 years old. Eighty percent of the military members had been deployed previously.  Participants described their deployment experiences as stressful, and was regarded as being a high-risk assignment.

To determine the associations among relationship functioning and combat functioning prior to and during deployment, the researchers used 4 measures: (1) Relationship functioning, (2) Depression, (3) Impact of relationship concerns on self-reported duty performance, and (4) Frequency of communication with romantic partner.  Relationship functioning was measured using items from the Marital Satisfaction Inventory (MSI-B) and included measures of global distress, time together, sexual dissatisfaction, affective communication, and problem-solving communication.  Depression symptomatology was measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9).  The impact of relationship concerns was assessed using a measure developed for this study, based on clinical experiences of military members on the research team.  Items used included: distraction from the combat-related job, making mistakes on the job, relationship stress leading to arguments with the combat team, missing work, and reduced overall job performance.  A combined score for communication was created using frequency of communication and methods of communications.

Analysis of the study variables showed that relationship functioning (time together, communication and relationship stress) at pre-deployment was significantly related to relationship functioning during deployment. Additionally, relationship functioning, and to a smaller degree depressive symptoms, predicted overall duty performance during deployment, supporting commonly held beliefs about intimate partner relationship functioning and job performance in combat situations.

Importantly for mental health professionals, focusing on couple communication prior to deployment may have a positive impact on relationship functioning during deployment, which can positively affect the job performance of the military member.

Reference:

[1] Cigrang, J.A., Talcott, G.W., Tatum, J., Baker, M., Cassidy, D., Sonnek, S., . . . Slep, A.M.S. (2014). Intimate partner communication from the war zone: A prospective study of relationship functioning, communication frequency, and combat effectiveness. Journal of Marital & Family Therapy40(3), 332-343. doi:10.1111/jmft.12043

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Issues and Interventions: New Research

By Caitlin Hunter and Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Photo highlighting pertinent words related to new research with issues and interventions
McCoy, T. (2015). Issues & Interventions: New Research.

In a special issue of Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, the focus is on presenting relevant information to health and mental health care professionals, first responders, educators, law enforcement officers, and any other professional who might interact with military service members, veterans, or their families [1]. The pages of this issue are teeming with information which can be useful in a variety of contexts. But overall, the research presented can help professionals of all disciplines become acquainted with the unique challenges and issues faced by military personnel, veterans, and their families and friends, as well as the various interventions and programming which is proving useful for others. The following is a synopsis of this special issue, based on an introductory article by Chan (2014).

The first section of this special issue focuses on challenges to providing care for military veterans. Topics of interest in this section are: training military service members and their families post-deployment; post-deployment difficulties and barriers to seeking help; common struggles during the transition from military to civilian culture; Moving Forward, an innovative social problem-solving program used by the VA; and veteran-specific jail diversion programs.

The focus of the second section is the concept of working with gender-sensitive issues, as well as sexual-gender minority veterans, or veterans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT). This section contains research on barriers to LGBT veterans receiving care at the VA as well as exploring the ways mental health care professionals can engage more male veterans in counseling services for an extended period of time.

The third section explores the effects of deployment and reintegration on children and spouses. The information in this section covers: the effect of deployment separation on parenting and children’s emotional, behavioral, and health outcomes; factors which contribute to positive family adjustment during deployment; and coping with attachment stressors.

The fourth section rounds off the special issue by discussing the experiences and treatment needs of children, adolescents, and spouses of military personnel. The articles in this section discuss: ways to treat the partners of military personnel who suffer from PTSD; factors that increase resiliency in military families during all stages of the deployment cycle; strategies for building attachment in military families; and reasons why adolescents in military families do not attempt to make use of mental health services.

This special issue will be helpful to anyone who works or interacts with military service members, veterans, or their families. This research is likely to be very useful in understanding the best ways to help military families, and the best directions to move in for future research.

Reference

[1] Chan, C. S. (2014). Introduction to the special section: Research on psychological issues and interventions for military personnel, veterans, and their families. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice45(6), 395. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0038496

This post was written by Caitlin Hunter  & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Family Development Early Intervention Ask the Expert Vlog – Supporting Families During Deployment

Recently the FD Early Intervention team was able to sit down with Carol M. Trivette, PhD., an associate professor at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN.   In this short video she shares her thoughts on how early interventionists can best support military families facing deployment.

Carol says, “Deployment can be a time of stress for families and when there is a child with a disability, it can be even more stressful. However you can reduce some of this stress by helping a parent identify successful strategies that were used in the past and new strategies the parent might want to try during the upcoming deployment. Taking the time to really listen to what a parent wants to share about previous deployment experiences including who helped, how daily routines and activities were accomplished as well as what challenges they encountered is an key first step in supporting families through this experience.”

Carol M. Trivette, PhD earned her degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Child Development and Family Relations. She provided direct supports to children with disabilities and their families in home-base programs and in classrooms and was the director of an early intervention program. During most of her career, she has also been involved in applied research. Her research interests focus on identifying evidence-based practices for working with children and families in the areas of responsive parental interactions with their children with disabilities, children’s early language and literacy development, family-centered practices and family support, and the development of tools and scales to support the implementation of evidence-based practices with fidelity. She is currently an Associate Professor at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN, where she works mainly with doctoral students focused on enhancing their research skills.

This post was written by Robyn DiPietro-Wells & Amy Santos, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

 

Resource Discovery: Enhancements to the Family Lifestyle Survey

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

The Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey, which has been conducted annually since 2009, has been enhanced to gather more information about the mental health of military families. The Institute of Veterans and Military Families collaborated in the development and administration of this year’s version of the survey. Additions include:

  • New survey questions about mental health including: depression, substance abuse and stress
  • Additional questions regarding veterans’ transition, education, and use of resources

Military personnel reading a book to children
[Flickr, 130304-N-SI773-359 by U.S. Department of Defense, CC BY-ND-NC 2.0]
Respondents to the online survey were primarily active duty and veterans’ spouses. Key concerns voiced by survey respondents focused on financial resources: military pay and benefits, changes in retirement, and military spouse employment. The impact of deployment on children was also a big concern, with 43% of active duty spouses reporting this as an issue. Uncertainty was also a highly reported issue, with 32% voicing concern over the uncertainty of military life.

Visit the Blue Star Families Military Family website for more information.

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Military Wives Matter – Barriers to Mental Health Treatment

Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Lewy, Oliver, and McFarland (2014) [1] recently published research on barriers to mental health treatment, comparing military wives and a similar sample from the general population. Results from the survey indicated that the perceived barriers faced by military wives when seeking treatment for mental illnesses were significantly different than those perceived by the civilian population.

Military father holding son
[Flickr, Not listening by minxlj, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] Retrieved on September 23, 2015
To compare military wives with spouses in the general population, Internet-based surveys were used to gather a national sample of women married to military service members. The researchers screened potential participants for depression, non-specific psychological distress, and health status using established measures. Data from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) provided a comparison group of similar women in the civilian population. The comparison samples totaled 569 military wives and 567 married women from the NSDUH survey.

Results of the surveys indicated that military wives believed that they faced a number of barriers to receiving mental health treatment that differed from the civilian population. The table below summarizes the comparative results:

Chart depicting reported barriers to mental health care
Lewy, C. S., Oliver, C. M., & McFarland, B. H. (2014). Barriers to mental health treatment for military wives. Psychiatric Services, 65(9), 1170-1173. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201300325

 

When working with military wives, whether on-base or in the community, it is important to consider the concerns of clients. As the above table indicates, military wives’ concerns about not getting treatment, lack of time for consultation, locating an appropriate clinician, trust, and feeling understood could be impediments to developing the necessary relationship for quality mental health care.

Reference

[1] Lewy, C. S., Oliver, C. M., & McFarland, B. H. (2014). Barriers to mental health treatment for military wives. Psychiatric Services, 65(9), 1170-1173. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201300325

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Resource Discovery: Operation Military Kids

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

In 2013, over 105,000 children and youth with a deployed parent participated in Operation: Military Kids (OMK).  This program involves a partnership between the Army and 4-H, as well as collaborations with other national, state, and local groups. Participation might include attending a camp for children who have a deployed parent, social events, or learning leadership skills.

Family readiness is a big part of a successful deployment for the military. A unique partnership with the 4-H helps bridge the gap for children of deployed service-members. Includes sound bites from Theresa Ferrari, Sonia Elviro and Mark Wilson. (Retrieved from: DVIDS, http://www.dvidshub.net/video/122251/operation-military-kids-hero-camp#.VHN-zNAo7cs)

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Resource Discovery: Understanding the Military Experience

Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

PBS (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) has some excellent resources for mental health professionals who want to better understand the military experience and inform their practice. On the web page entitled, Stories of Service multiple links are provided that give information about the challenges and opportunities that military members may experience when returning to a civilian environment.

Crafting useful art objects can give military members an opportunity to express themselves and “tell their story.” In the PBS’s series Craft in America there is an episode entitledServicein which veterans tell their stories.

PBS the cup

“My wife calls my work War Awareness Art. I’m not so concerned if you’re for or against a specific war, but that you’re ignorant of what’s happening is not OK with me.” — artist Ehren Tool (PBS, Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/veterans/stories-of-service/stream-tv/a-to-z/craft-in-america-service/)

PBS Resources:
Veterans telling their stories in craft making.
Other PBS resources – Stories of Service.

 

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.