Tag Archives: Military children

New Training Helps Families Navigate Stress and Stay in the Green Zone

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Stress is characteristic of service in the Navy, with deployments, reintegration, and relocations causing tension for both Sailors and their families. The ability to efficiently navigate stress and build resilience is an integral part of maintaining mission readiness for Sailors and promoting psychological well-being. In addition to the stressors associated with military life, Navy families also deal with typical family stressors: raising children, maintaining their home, dealing with teenagers and handling conflicts with a spouse.

April is National Stress Awareness Month, and being cognizant of your stressors is essential. Stress can be helpful when it pushes us to make improvements in our lives. It can remind us of the importance of reaching out to others for support and helps us build resilience by growing and bouncing back from challenges. Adequately addressing stressors helps prevent chronic and prolonged exposure to stress and its adverse impacts on our health and overall well-being. Navy families now have a new training available from the Operational Stress Control (OSC) Program which offers numerous tools and resources to help Sailors and their families navigate stress and build resilience during and beyond the rigors of military life. This new training addresses the impact that stressors have on Navy families, focusing on challenges faced by Navy spouses, and their children with tips on how to navigate them.

The Navigating Stress for Navy Families training emerged from needs directly expressed by Sailors and commanders. The new Navy Family Framework recognizes the importance of integrating Navy spouses and families into education, awareness and support services and understands the role that they play as part of the Navy community. The Navigating Stress for Navy Families training is aligned with this framework, acknowledging that family readiness is key to mission readiness. The training is provided by veteran OSC Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) who have experienced similar challenges in military life. The training is modeled after OSC-required trainings for deck plate and senior leaders that are also delivered by these MTTs.

The course is an hour-long interactive conversation that provides useful and practical tools and techniques to families by introducing realistic scenarios. The course aims to improve families’ ability to navigate stress together by:

  • Helping to strengthen spouses, Sailors and, families;
  • Identifying problems with stress early;
  • Identifying best practices and further developing skills for building resilience and stress mitigation; and
  • Identifying available resources to help with stress issues.

Early identification of stress problems is vital. The Stress Continuum Model, depicted in the above thermometer graphic for quick reference, helps Sailors and their families readily pinpoint their stress “zone” so that they can take appropriate action, such as talking to a trusted friend when reacting to temporary stress. The earlier a Navy family identifies where they are within the Stress Continuum, the easier it is to bounce back. The goal is not to be 100% stress-free – as that is nearly impossible – but to learn how to build resilience so that stressors do not immediately move a family into the Red Zone. Sufficient sleep, open communication with loved ones, self-care and early help-seeking, are all ways to navigate stress healthily and lessen the risk of stress injury or illness.

Navigating Stress for Navy Families is currently available via in-person training. OSC and Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) are working to develop a webinar format for the course as well. For more information or to schedule training, email oscmtteast@navy.mil or oscmttwest@navy.mil. Additional OSC resources including educational materials, policy and curricula descriptions can be found on the program’s website.

Follow OSC and the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign on Facebook and Twitter for daily tips, tricks and small acts to help you and your family stay in or get back to the Green.

Resilience and Fun with Food

Lt. Cmdr. Amit Sood, the OPNAV N17 Nutrition Programs Manager, is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. He has nearly 10 years of experience in counseling thousands of service members and their families on nutrition and health-related issues, having delivered close to 600 nutrition-related lectures to more than 20 commands and institutions across the DoD. With a passion for promoting nutritional awareness to enhance health and quality of life for individuals and populations, Lt. Cmdr. Sood hopes to offer simple and practical ways to maintain healthy eating practices 365 days a year. He is a firm believer in the phrase “Food is Medicine,” and that every individual should embrace this idea to help them think about food as a therapeutic agent, thus leading to food choices that are beneficial rather than detrimental to overall health.
NavyNavStress.com note

December… a month filled with family and friends, deadlines, gift-giving and the anticipation of the New Year…. and a lot of delicious food!

The key to enjoying the flavors of the holidays without the guilt is through conscious planning. Exercise controllability, one of the Five Principles of Resilience, and take the reins when you can, while still recognizing old and creating new traditions. Here are a few ideas to enhance your controllability:

  • Decide on a theme and invite your family and friends to bring healthy variations of traditional indulgences.  An example would be a candy cane-themed event. Someone tasked with dessert could make brownies using pureed pumpkin in place of eggs and oil, and sprinkling a crushed candy cane on top.
  • Engage children (at their skill level) to reduce the stress of preparing entire meals. Examples include:
    • Engage a 5 or 6 year old with some easy tasks, like washing vegetables, pressing the cookie cutter or mixing baking ingredients in a large bowl.
    • Older children can manage more complicated tasks, such as cutting foods with a table knife, stirring something on the stove top, using the microwave or toaster oven or following a recipe to make their own dish!
    • Eating with others, as opposed to eating alone, helps to avoid overeating.  One great way to take delight in food is to invite family and friends to bring a new main dish, side dish or dessert, and have a taste-test contest with prizes for each category.  This will help you savor a little bit of everything in moderation and prevent overeating.

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, and involving family and friends builds cheer and resilience. Doing so minimizes and prevents stress that comes from having to plan or prepare everything yourself and it reinforces relationships.  Using these simple strategies will reduce stress eating, so your New Year’s resolution does not include a weight loss goal.

Visit Navy Nutrition Resources for links to more tips and ideas on healthy eating strategies!

Navy Chaplains: A Community Dedicated to Building a Sense of Belonging and Fellowship

Predictability, Relationships and Meaning are Principles of Stress Control and Resilience. Chapels are familiar gathering places for many military kids and they can provide a safe place to meet others faced with the similar challenges of household moves and deployed parents. Navy Chaplains are a great family resource because they understand the stressors of military life and know how important community is to building a stronger and more resilient Navy.                                                                                                     (NavyNavStress.com Note)

By Cmdr. William E. Middleton, a Navy chaplain
Military kids serve alongside their uniformed parents and our role as chaplains includes addressing their needs as well.  Our shore based chapels often function as a community center where child focused activities include religious education, rites of baptism and communion, and sacraments from various religious traditions. Chaplains also offer chapel space for Scouting programs, home school groups, Vacation Bible School programs and other community organizations in installations around the world.  For newly transferred families, a military chapel can be a place to start building that important sense of belonging, of community and fellowship.

While our religious services and programs are very important to our service members and their families, the chapel provides a familiar and safe place for kids to connect with other military kids.  As chaplainSailor and family for Chaplain Posts we know how important maintaining contact can be and we help families keep in touch through the United Through Reading.  The program invites all deploying service members to record themselves reading stories to their children and then a DVD is mailed home to the family. Chaplains facilitate this program on ships at sea and coordinate with USO’s around the world, even down range, to maintain this important connection between parent and child.

As chaplains we don’t work alone. If a battalion chaplain is deployed, he or she can reach back to our regimental chaplain for assistance to help a family or child in crisis or a ship’s squadron chaplain can reach back to the shore-based ministry center for help. By connecting families with local resources like the Navy Ombudsmen or Marine Corps Family Readiness Officers, our chaplains serve service members by helping families at home navigate the daily demands of military family life.  Knowing their families are cared for, our deployed Sailors and Marines can focus on the job at hand.

Coming home can be nearly as unsettling as leaving. Preparing the service member for a reunion with their children is another important role for chaplains. Return and Reunion discussions assist service members in preparing for the dramatic transition from the tension and stress of deployments and combat to the routines of family life.  Since chaplains deploy with the units and have served families at home, they understand the challenges of both sides in the reintegration process and can offer guidance to ease the family’s transition.

Finally, the Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operation (CREDO) program, the flagship program of the Navy Chaplain Corps, has offered Family Enrichment Retreats and Marriage Enrichment Retreats since 1971.  These specialized retreats are free for service members and families and are designed to build stronger military families, taking into account the unique challenges of deployment and frequent moves during a military career.  These include unique father-son and mother-daughter retreats. CREDO is currently expanding with more sites and facilitators around the globe, including the new site in Naval District Washington that I oversee. To learn more about our retreats, visit http://www.chaplaincare.navy.mil to identify the closest CREDO center in your area. Almost every site also has a Facebook page you can use to register for retreats.

Navy chaplains have answered the call to serve since the beginning of America’s military. They continue to inspire hope, resiliency and foster a sense of community for today’s military members and their families.

About the Author: Cmdr. William E. Middleton, a Navy chaplain is the current CREDO Director for Naval District Washington. He has served in the Navy Chaplain Corps for 18 years. Middleton deployed to Iraq as an individual augmentee in 2008 with the Iraqi Assistance Group, Task Force Tusken.