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Caregivers Learn Importance of Caring for Selves

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

CHEVY CHASE, Md., Aug. 21, 2009 – More than two dozen multidisciplinary professionals who usually work with very young children gathered here today to learn how to better care for themselves.

“These are unprecedented times for our families, and the department recognizes how much you are doing to mitigate the stressors in their lives,” Barbara Thompson, director of the Defense Department’s Office of Family Policy/Children and Youth Military Community and Family Policy, told the group. “This opportunity will provide you with the skills and resources to know how to refuel yourself in order for you to make the most out of your interventions with our military members and their families.”

The group was provided with training on how to recognize stress in young children and how to avoid “compassion fatigue” and burnout. Throughout the day, attendees also were presented with some techniques to help make their jobs easier.

Today’s training, provided by Zero to Three, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping parents and very young children to thrive, was aimed at helping professionals.

As part of its mission, Zero to Three offers resources for military parents and children.

“‘Coming Together Around Military Families’ is the program that Zero to Three has developed to train our professionals to build an awareness of those issues that impact babies and toddlers and their healthy developments,” Thompson said. “We’ve deployed these resources to 12 military installations and two military treatment facilities, and we’re expanding this program.”

Defense officials recognize the challenges deployed servicemembers and military families with very young children face in regard to staying connected and involved in the children’s lives, Thompson said.

“We know it’s very difficult, because … when you’re away and you’re experiencing it vicariously through the Internet, which is a wonderful tool to keep parents and children connected, it’s not the same as holding your baby and seeing them go through their milestones,” she said.

Zero to Three’s resources help in these situations, she said. They help deployed parents keep themselves in the minds of their babies so that when they do reintegrate after a long deployment, it’s not so scary, she explained.

Most of Zero to Three’s resources are available on its Web site.

“We also have a wonderful relationship with [the Defense Department’s] Military OneSource,” said Lynette Fraga, Zero to Three’s director of military projects. “Many of our materials are available through Military OneSource as well as on our Web site.

“We try to make as much information available digitally as we possibly can so that they can be readily accessible for anyone anywhere in the world,” she added.

As interested as Fraga and her organization are in helping very young children reach their potential, they’re just as interested in helping those who help the children.

“There’s a board member at Zero to Three, … and she often has been quoted as saying, ‘How you are is as important as what you do,’” Fraga told the group. “In order to be available and present for our [military] families so that they can be available and present for their babies, we have to honor and take care of ourselves.

“The work that we’re doing today by way of providing training for the military family and community is really around making sure that they are benefitting from professionals and families understanding the context of development, why it is that it’s so critical to pay attention to the earliest years,” she added in a later interview. “[They’ll learn] what they can do, strategies around supporting them through difficult times and circumstance, such as deployment and reintegration.”

The participants will take the lessons learned from today’s training back to their respective installations in the greater national capital region, including Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., and Fort George G. Meade, Md. Similar training sessions are being held across the country.

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Related Sites:
Military Community and Family Policy
Military OneSource
Zero to Three

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