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DoD to Promote Family Coping Skills

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 1999 – When service members deploy to world trouble spots, it's tough on the spouses and children they leave behind.

Toddlers don't understand why Mom or Dad has left, but only that they're gone. Frequent separations are equally hard on spouses. Not only are they left to deal with the home front, they also fear for their loved ones' safety since media coverage often features each deployment's dangerous realities.

As a result of the increasing level of military operations, defense officials want to better prepare service members and spouses for their intermittent role as single parents. Officials here say the unique challenges associated with separations may not be adequately addressed in parenting training offered at base family centers, chaplain and family advocacy programs and medical clinics.

DoD's Office of Family Policy, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension System, has launched a two-year, $1.5 million initiative to develop military-specific parenting resources. The Air Force is the executive agent for the project.

The goal is to develop informational material that can be distributed in classrooms and via the Internet, telephone, flyers, audiotapes or other means. A conference Sept. 22 to 24 in Leesburg, Va., is scheduled to design material content. Military family members and family support program specialists will attend the hands-on, working conference, aimed at meeting military parents' critical needs now and into the next decade.

"Demands on parents are greater than ever before," said an Air Force family advocacy program manager. Military missions have changed since the Cold War ended, he said. "We've drawn down about a third, but demands are up about 40 percent."

Historically, the military has provided parenting classes which have been helpful to the relatively small percentage of people who attend, the official said. The Healthy Parenting Initiative is designed to reach the larger percentage that doesn't attend and to make the information useful and accessible, he said.

The military has a wealth of material on parenting and on deployments, "but no one has ever pulled it all together," the official said. "We want to do a better job of providing this content in a wide range of formats to a high number of people in ways they can use it."

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