Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Opportunities for School Psychologists Working with Children of Military Families

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Opportunities for School Psychologists Working with Children of Military Families

Article excerpt


Today's military families are a diverse, resilient group of brave Americans, and our country owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude. To date, over 2 million service members have been deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, many for multiple tours. For the first time in our country's history, there are more military dependents (spouses/children) than service members. In fact, there are over 2 million children who have one or both parents in the military, and about half of these young people attend U.S. public schools.

While school psychologists have followed general relocation guidelines as set forth in Best Practices in Assisting Relocating Families (Medway, 2002), children of military families face a variety of unique challenges as a consequence of their parents' service in the armed forces.

With each move to another state, these students encounter such challenges as getting prompt transfer of educational records, accepting transfer of existing credits, retaining athletic eligibility, remaining eligible for gifted and talented programs, and meeting their special needs on an Individualized Education Program or Section 504 Accommodation Plan (U.S. Senate, 2005). Imagine the frustration a high school senior must feel meeting graduation requirements in one state, only to move to another and having to do additional work to fulfill different requirements. School psychologists are in a key position to identify, understand, and support military youth. This article will overview demographic information on today's military families, the research onhowparental deployment affects youth, specific tips for how school psychologists can support these young people, and resources available to these children and families. We hope that these statistics and practical suggestions will motivate and empower school psychologists to remember that military kids truly do "serve" our country, deserve our appreciation, and may need some extra support along the way.

Over half of today's service members are married, and their children span the entire developmental spectrum. Approximately 40% are from ages 0-5, 33% are school age (6-11), and 25% are teenagers (12-18). Some specific family constellations may pose increased risk for difficulties with deployments, including dual military families (6.9% of the military population), single active duty parents (5.4%), and families with special healthcare needs (7.3%).

Approximately half of the troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are from the National Guard or Reserves. These families tend to have older children, more established careers, less access to the wealth of family supports available to active-duty families on military installations, and, historically, less preparation for deployment to a war zone. Some research has documented that rates of postdeployment psychological distress among National Guard/Reservists are higher than those of active duty personnel. Thus, this is truly a heterogeneous group of families who are sacrificing a great deal to serve our country.

The military culture inherently possesses many strengths that are conducive to healthy family life, and school psychologists can draw upon and bolster these qualities when working with families. For example, the military is often a cohesive community environment, and they share a sense of duty and mission. The military places a great value on respect for authority, predictable routines and schedules, and strong commitment to the unit and teamwork; all of these qualities are similarly aspects of healthy family functioning.

A large percentage of our deployed troops are resilient. Even after facing multiple deployments, separations from families, exposure to distressing situations and/ or combat, most of them do not develop long-term mental health problems (Hoge et al, 2004). However, some short-term readjustment reactions are common, such as insomnia, irritability, and concentration difficulties (Shea, Vujanovic, Mansfield, Sevin, & Liu, 2010). …

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