Supporting Military Families
by Christopher 'HypeStyle' Currie
U.S. Military units have been spread across the globe in support of the War on Terror (whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or other countries) as well as many personnel engaged away from home in homeland security initiatives. Americans are looking for methods in which they can help out a military family while Mom or Dad is away. In particular, the families of reservists, who tend not to live near or on a military base, would be in need of assistance because they may not have the immediate support network that usually exists between families that are on military bases. Here are some things to consider if you decide to help a military family-
Be proactive with offers to help:
Call the family and say that you’d like to bring a dish for dinner, and suggest a date.
Offer to take the children for an outing.
Assisting in the care and well-being of children is usually a major help:
If you have children, offer to ‘swap’ kids one afternoon out of the week with your friend--one week you can watch both sets of children, the next your friend can watch them.
When something is scheduled on a recurring basis, parents can count on this "sanity time."
This can help the remaining parent/caregiver with their daily routine, as their spouse’s deployment is bound to cause some disruption. Suggestions don’t have to be in the form of ‘big favors’; even little things help.
For those of you who have older children, they can participate as well:
A child who is not old enough to be a caregiver can volunteer to be a playmate for a younger child, which would give Mom (or, sometimes, Dad) a respite (though, they should stay near).
The deployment of a parent can be particularly uncomfortable for the children; giving them some extra attention will help in the emotional transition.
Older children whose parent has deployed may appreciate having a mentor:
You can offer to take a child to a museum, some informal sports play, or just a walk in the park.
Taking the child to their extracurricular activities (organized sports, scouting, dance, etc.) helps to ease the parent’s burden from these necessary, though time-consuming, trips.
Take time out to visit, even if you are related to the deployed parent. Also, make sure to keep contact via the telephone, letters and/or e-mail. Care packages are a nice surprise on occasion. A brief note inside a happy card will probably perk up a parent’s day; children love getting mail, too, and such gestures make the absence of a parent easier to bear and help reassure children that people love and care about them.
Some other Ideas:
Call the family when you’re heading out to buy groceries (or any common errand); they may need just an item or two, and this helps save them another trip.
Get friends and relatives of the family together to buy gift cards for retail stores, restaurants, amusement centers; in particular, you may even give certificates for services regarding chores that the deployed parent used to do, like lawn care, leaf-cleaning, snow-cleaning, etc.
Your offers of help will likely be useful for many months to come—perhaps longer. These assorted gestures encourage the spouse and children at home to feel that they are supported and well-thought-of, and this can only help them to get through these circumstances.
Adapted from "Active Duty: Helping Military Families Cope" by Sarah E. Creel.