May 18th, 2011 | 9 Comments

Military Families Face Stress & Secondary PTSD

By Lori Lite / Stress Free Kids

Military families are at risk of developing secondary PTSD.  Children in military families are exposed to stress levels that could be considered toxic according to The American Academy of Pediatrics.  The National Center for Child Traumatic Stress notes that, “Military children experience unique challenges related to military life and culture. These include deployment-related stressors and reintegration.”  Military children live with the constant fear of losing a parent, parental separation, moving and making new friends, all while living in a household with one often overloaded parent holding down the fort. The dynamics of welcoming a returning parent that has been injured physically or mentally is real. Children often mimic behaviors of a returning parent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even an at home parent struggling with anxiety can have a significant impact on their children’s well-being. Managing stress as a family needs to be a high priority.

Moms, dads, children, and teenagers can take steps to handle stress in a healthy manner. Visit our Military Families Page.

  • Be aware that children are sensitive to stress and they can pick up on your anxiety. Fear and worry can quickly become the focus. Let children see you apply stress management techniques and demonstrate self-care. Self-care is a gift you give yourself and your family. Stress is contagious, but so is relaxation.
  • Be patient and talk fears and concerns through to a positive outcome. Much unnecessary anxiety is due to expecting a negative outcome. You and your children deserve to expect a positive outcome. Do this for yourself and your children.
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings even if they seem silly to you. What seems minor to an adult can be monumental to a child. Fill in the blanks for children. Let them know that you have a plan and address their concerns in an optimistic and respectful manner.
  • Commit to spending fun downtime with your family. Laughing and bonding helps children to feel safe, loved and less anxious. You too will receive stress reducing joy!

4 proven techniques to help you and your children manage stress:

  • Use affirmations or positive statements to counteract stress. Teach your children to take a break and say, “I am calm. I am relaxed. I am safe. Daddy is coming home soon.” Write a positive statement and have your child carry it in their pocket for the day. Put a list in the back of their school notebook for them to access at any time.
  • Create a visualization or a happy thought. Create a happy thought that children can “go to” when stressed or worried. Develop a short story or scene that your child can think of when they are fearful or anxious. It can be as simple as hugging a parent or as complex as sliding down rainbows into gold colored water.
  • Practice controlled breathing. Taking slow deep breaths can help parents and children lower anxiety and anger. Any age child, teen, or adult including those with special needs; Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, ADD, SPD, and PTSD can learn to bring their energy level down and feel in charge of themselves. Be the breathing leader and let your family see you…. Breathe in 2,3,4 and out 2,3,4…In 2,3,4 and ahhhh
  • Use progressive muscle relaxation to help your child to fall asleep. Relax your child’s mind and body by telling various muscle groups to relax. Start with your child’s feet and work your way up to their head or reverse the order. After a few tries your child will be able to use this technique on their own. “I am going to relax my legs. I will relax my legs. My legs are relaxing. My legs are relaxed.” For a variation, try active progressive muscular relaxation. Tighten various muscle groups and relax. “Hold, hold, hold…..Ahhhhh…” Your turn next!

All of the above mentioned techniques are easy to introduce to your family with the Stress Free Kids line of books, CDs and Lesson Plans.  We invite you to explore our site to learn more about how you can introduce your family to stress management.

Stress Free Kids founder Lori Lite has created a line of books and CDs designed to help children, teens, and adults decrease stress, anxiety, and anger. Ms. Lite’s books, CDs, and lesson plans are considered a resource for parents, psychologists, therapists, child life specialists, teachers, and yoga instructors. Lori is a certified children’s meditation facilitator and Sears’ Manage My Life parenting expert. For more information visit  Stress Free Kids and for daily advice follow Lori on Twitter and Facebook.

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Comments

9 Comments on “Military Families Face Stress & Secondary PTSD”

  • Such great advice Lori. Children get stressed so easily so these four tips are great. I love imagery and relaxation the best. The feeling of letting all the stress go as you take yourself off to an imaginery place.

  • Lori, thanks so much for this post. I just got back from a week long training on working with military families put on by the Department of Defense. One of the things they stressed is that these families endure unusual amounts of stress before deployment, during deployment, and after the military parent returns home. All those times are incredibly different and incredibly stressful. It’s something that I had not given much thought to before the training. Just thought that you and some of your readers might like the information.

    Thanks for the post! It’s great to find your blog!

  • Lori, your advice is so appropriate with Memorial Day coming soon.

    Your 4 proven strategies for reducing stress and teaching kids to relax are important for us adults too. I hope many folks pick up your CDs because they are excellent listen to and really do relax the listener.

    Warmly,

    Jean Tracy, MSS

  • Lori,

    Your tips are ALWAYS spot on and I so much appreciate what you do to help parents help their children deal with stress. SO IMPORTANT, military or not.

    Interestingly, I have the unique perspective of having been raised in the military (USMC – dad was a career man 20 years), having experienced my own father’s deployment, and other separations due to orders, as well as being uprooted and attending 9 schools by 9th grade. I have friends across the whole country! Phew!

    Growing up military does offer its share of challenges, but it also offers some very neat opportunities. I would not trade my experiences for the world…and I have no doubt that being exposed to the wide range of people through my life experience is what piqued my interest in the field of human behavior (and hence, my chosen field).

    I want to impress upon military parents that routine and stability within the family system offer a sense of continuity to children, even when deployment happens. This is a HUGE buffer to the stress that accompanies all of these life changes. Talk, talk, talk…make all feelings okay AND follow Lori’s awesome tips for dealing with stress!

    Wendy @Kidlutions =)

  • Thank you so much for your valuable input Wendy! Parents should take note…stability, routine, and making feelings OK….terrific tips!

  • Thank you so much Jean. An adult that demonstrates healthy ways to manage life’s challenges will help children learn to cope with stress in a healthy manner…I hope that parents add Indigo Dreams: Adult Relaxation to their routine Thanks for the reminder. http://www.stressfreekids.com/cds/adult/indigo-dreams-adult-relaxation/

  • I am so glad to hear you are working with military families. They so need out support. I have tried to make my stories, CD, books available to the military and have been met with resistance by the buyers.. We give the tools to fight…how about tools to heal…

  • Lori,

    Thank you for this very positive article which is very appropriate for military personnel. I am a retired US Air Force major who worked in personnel and many employee related programs. I have also worked with victims of PTSD in disaster aftermath situations. Children with special needs can be especially vunerable to PTSD situations due to their susceptability in being new learners of experiences and not having all the psychological tools to handle those experiences. I presently work as a K-2 autism educator and know from personal experience that teaching calming techniques like visualization, controlled breathing and muscle relaxation are very effective in giving children skills they can use all their lives.

    Thank you for your great article here.

    Best Regards
    Bob Hudson

  • Bob, Your feedback is invaluable. On this Memorial Day I am filled with deep thanks for the sacrifices our men, women, and their families (children) have given for our great country. I am happy to be able to participate in the healing and present these tools to educators. Thank you.

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