Helping Children through a Parent's Deployment: Preventing the Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma
Rudden, Marie G., The Exceptional Parent
Life can be quite stressful for a family in which a parent has been deployed. In fact, a recent study by Christopher Warner, MD, MAJ, MC, U.S. Army, and others from Winn Army Community Hospital at Fort Stewart, GA found that spouses of deployed Soldiers experienced high stress levels, and that 43 percent of spouses who responded to their questionnaire were significantly depressed. Warner's group found that 90 percent of parents left behind struggled with fears for their spouse's safety and with loneliness. Finances have to be managed alone, and the remaining parent has to assume the responsibility of all health issues and decisions about child-rearing and discipline without the other's daily emotional and practical support. When the spouse at home needs to discuss a financial problem or get help in understanding a child's challenging behavior or illness, he or she may feel reluctant to burden the servicemember, who is facing life and death struggles far away. Resentment about shouldering burdens alone can erupt, however, and the difficult conversations that ensue can leave both servicemember and stay-at-home parent feeling guilty, helpless, and angry. Children who miss their parent and are fearful for the parent's welfare may sense parental stress and unhappiness and respond in ways that the parents have difficulty interpreting and can react to with anger. It is a sad fact that, in the face of such stress and parental depression, it is often a struggle for the remaining parent to respond to the children's needs. There is a higher level of child abuse or neglect in families left at home during a parent's deployment, with 42 percent more reported cases than average.
Communication Is Essential
Despite the grim statistics, most military families are resilient and struggle to cope with the deployment in various ways. They develop new traditions around phone calls, letters, and packages sent to their deployed servicemember and strive to maintain regular and predictable routines. For parents struggling to help their children cope with the other parent's absence, tactful communication about the separation is essential. To optimize communication with the child, it is useful to understand that children experience and make sense of deployment in a way that …
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Publication information: Article title: Helping Children through a Parent's Deployment: Preventing the Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma. Contributors: Rudden, Marie G. - Author. Magazine title: The Exceptional Parent. Volume: 39. Issue: 5 Publication date: May 2009. Page number: 89+. © 1999 EP Global Communications, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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