Long deployment separations, difficult post-deployment adjustments, frequent moves and major life changes can make navigating military life difficult. While most families are able to manage the unique demands of military life, some families seem to handle the challenges with more ease.
As parents, we do all we can to prevent our children from feeling stress, but we cannot control everything, especially when living the military life. Stress is not all bad. In fact, it can give your children and family a chance to develop something we call resilience, or the ability to recover in the face of stress. Resilient families are flexible, connected and great at using their resources to solve problems.
If your children or your family are struggling, you're not alone. There is a lot you can do to build your family's resilience. The American Psychological Association, in its publication, "The Road to Resilience," recommends 10 ways to become more resilient when dealing with stress or adversity:
- Make connections. Accepting help and support from those who care about you will help strengthen your resilience. Likewise, assisting others in their time of need can have a positive impact on you and your family. Connect with others through support groups or other organizations, either on your installation or in the local community.
- Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can't change the fact that stressful things happen, but you can change how you respond to them. Try looking beyond the present to a brighter future.
- Accept that change is part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of an adverse situation. Accepting the things you cannot change may help you focus on the things you can change.
- Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something, however small, on a regular basis that helps you move toward those goals.
- Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions rather than detaching completely from problems and wishing they would just go away.
- Look for opportunities for self-discovery. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, a greater sense of personal strength, an increased sense of self-worth and a heightened appreciation for life.
- Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in yourself helps build resilience. Learn to trust your instincts and believe in your ability to solve problems.
- Keep things in perspective. Even when facing a painful event, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing it out of proportion.
- Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try to visualize what you want instead of worrying about what you fear.
- Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy. Exercise regularly. This will keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.
Parents, especially, will want to model the habits of resilience. Your actions will help teach your children skills they need to cope with difficult situations. Even then, children often need additional support when faced with a challenging circumstance. You can help by listening and answering questions with openness, honesty and reassurance. By teaching your children resilience, you're giving them a gift that will last a lifetime.
If you or someone in your family needs help, don't hesitate to reach out to a confidential, non-medical counselor through your installation's Military and Family Support Center or through Military OneSource.