As in David’s time (see I Samuel 17), ordinary citizens are called to extra-ordinary actions during times of war. Military men and women have been called to fight in distant lands and this commitment to our national security can cause great stress to their families.
Children take their cues from the adults in their life. Talk and reassure your child but do not make superficial or false statements about the safety of the world. God’s strength is our hope.
Suggestions for Coping with Stress:
• recognize their vulnerability to stress
• seek help when needed
• stay connected to family, friends, church
• maintain an active faith in God
Rely on God.
• Acknowledge that adults do not always have the answers to life questions, but God does!
• Pray with your children.
• Read the stories of the Bible and discuss them with children to show how God works in the lives of people.
• Take advantage of church programs: Sunday School, youth groups, and Bible studies.
Recognize the unique challenges.
• Understand that your circumstances may be different from those around you. Relatives and friends may be unable to relate to your lifestyle resulting in a sense of isolation.
• Choose to view military life as a unique lifestyle. Find ways to embrace the positive aspects (i.e. travel opportunities, meeting new people, visiting churches in other locations.)
• Measure the passage of time in concrete ways. Keep a calendar. Take photographs of everyday events and make a book to send to the military parent. Follow the movements of father or mother on a large map and discuss what they might be seeing or doing.
Become an expert on your branch of service.
• Determine what support groups and resources are offered through the military support services. Take advantage of the variety of services provided at the base.
• Talk to others who have had similar military experiences and learn from them.
• Volunteer to help others cope with military life.
Know the signs of stress in children.
• Watch for abrupt or unusual actions or attitudes in your children. Are the child’s eating habits suddenly different? Is he sleeping well? Does he complain of chronic aches and pains? Keep a calendar of emotions. Watch for patterns and cycles.
• Read a book on child development or talk to other parents about what to expect at each developmental stage.
• Show your child how people deal with stress in healthy ways. Exercise, reading, and hobbies can be outlets for stress. Shared hobbies can be a means of enjoying a family member and helping adults deal with excessive stress, too.
Stay in touch.
• Involve the military parent in the day-to-day activities of the family. Include the challenges of daily living, discipline, and financial management. While being overly negative is not advised, avoiding all negative or difficult subjects will leave the military parent with an unrealistic view of the family. It also breeds feelings of isolation and increases loneliness.
• Guide children to write or e-mail their parent who is away. Writing letters, sending packages, and making telephone calls are ways to continue to build a strong family relationship.
Talk to one another.
• Guide children to talk about their feelings and fears. Encourage discussion and listen to children carefully.
• Give them feedback and offer to spend time listening to them share their concerns. Put words to feelings. Reassure them that God cares about them and their absent parent.
• Recognize that adults also have the need to share their feelings. Pastors, friends, and counselors may provide a listening ear when the anxiety of military life seems overwhelming.
Reach our to your community.
• Find professionals, educators, doctors, and others who can be a support team.
• Make friends in your neighborhood and offer to share babysitting duties or play date times.
Military families experience fear and anxiety for the safety of loved ones. Children and adults face stress as they live a military lifestyle. Service brings satisfaction and challenges to families and military personnel alike. It is essential that the words of the Bible be recalled again as the young David bravely reported, “The battle is the Lord’s.” Remember that Christians are ultimately in the Lord’s army!
This article is being shared with us courtesy of the great resource web site, Lifeway.com and is written by Bonnie Erb.
Bonnie is a Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Professional Counselor with Eden Counseling Center in Norfolk, Virginia. She and her husband are the parents of two adult children. They are active members of First Baptist Church Norfolk where they both teach Sunday School.