A new Blue Star Families 2016 report shows that troops and military families don’t think the Defense Department is doing enough to help military kids deal with the stress of deployment and military life.
The report, released Dec. 7 by Blue Star Families and the Institute of Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, showed that the impact of deployments on military kids is among both active duty service members’ and military spouses’ top five issues. It ranked higher than topics like veteran employment, suicide and operation tempo, and just below issues like retirement benefits and military family stability.
About 8,400 people took the survey, the report said. About 68 percent were military family members, and 32 percent were active duty troops or veterans. Over 52 percent of respondents said they or their spouse’s rank was between E-5 and E-9, and most said they were between 24 and 34-years-old.
The theme of this year’s survey findings, said Cristin Orr Shiffer, is weariness. Military families are tired — and those who took the survey indicated that although they are committed to service, they wonder if the toll on their family is worth it.
That theme was perfectly reflected in their concerns about their kids. Even the most resilient child may still be dealing with the problems a lifetime of deployments bring. For many military kids, they’ve known nothing but the stress of frequent moves, deployments, reintegration and long training absences.
And just because you’re resilient doesn’t mean you’re not stressed — or that you don’t need help.
“They’ve grown up completely with a normality of all this stress and strain. Yes, it does build resilience – there are parents who feel like their kids are resilient as a result of military service,” Shiffer said. “But overall that’s not the top thing that comes out. They’re stressed, they move too frequently, they have anxiety, they don’t sleep well.”
Fifty-one percent of active duty military family respondents indicated that the support services provided by the Department of Defense were inadequate to support military children in dealing with deployments.
Shiffer said she hopes the Blue Star Families 2016 findings can help guide officials on where to focus their intervention efforts.