Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program
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Keeping Military Children Healthy

Learn more and watch this film »www.StayingStrong.org/educators offers educators an on-line training film and companion toolkits which can be downloaded below. All of these resources consider how individual classrooms and school communities can respond to the particular needs of military students and families without the need for additional costs or programs.

The film, titled Staying Strong: How Schools Build Resilience in Military Families, introduces two military families and demonstrates how their school community strives to support the resilience of students during and after a parent’s deployment and eventual return.

Grant support for Staying Strong provided by Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

Download toolkits developed by the Home Base Program:

  • Educator Toolkit to Increase Awareness & Support to Military Children in Schools
  • School Nurse Tool Kit to Increase Awareness and Support for Military–Connected Children
  • Toolkit for the Well-Child Screening of Military Children
Educator Toolkit to Increase Awareness & Support to Military Children in Schools

Toolkit for Educators

This Toolkit is intended as a resource to support resiliency in children and their parents. Educators are invaluable to this mission, readily available to students, their parents, and the team of professionals that support them. Educators see children in a setting that is second only to that of their family in being aware of their daily functioning. The Toolkit is intended to assist in early identification of military children and parents who can benefit from a warm, familiar adult taking the time to address the stress of a parent’s deployment and reunion. Educators can also, when indicated and in collaboration with others on the student’s team, facilitate an appropriate mental health referral for a student or a student’s family. As part of the Educators Toolkit, Home Base has developed a guide for Classroom Activities to Support Student Resilience.

School Nurse Care Toolkit To Increase Awareness & Support to Military Children

Toolkit for School Nurses

Some 2,000 school nurses throughout Massachusetts have received our new School Nurse Tool Kit to Increase Awareness and Support for Military–Connected Children through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH). The toolkit is designed to help school nurses, educators and other school professionals better address the emotional needs of military–connected children and families in school systems. The Tool Kit was developed by the Home Base Program in collaboration with the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (McPAP).

The toolkit includes:

  • A primer on military terminology
  • Suggestions for starting a conversation with a military–connected child about their parent’s deployment
  • Class room behavior check lists
  • Parenting tips about coping with deployment and home coming challenges.

The toolkit and a special school poster were developed by Home Base Family Team’s Bonnie Ohye, PhD. Dr. Ohye and one of our Home Base families spoke to Patch.com about the challenges military families experience during deployment.

In November, 2011 Home Base clinicians, Paula Rauch, MD, and Kathy Clair-Hayes, LICSW, provided training to school nurses, school superintendents and school committee members, and early child hood educators in collaboration with the MA DPH, and the Massachusetts Deptartment of Education. The school nurse conference featured remarks by Jacque Francona, a military mother, Home Base advocate—and nurse. Her talk to school nurses was covered by WBUR.

A Toolkit for the Well-Child Screening of Military Children

Toolkit for Healthcare Providers

The Toolkit for the Well-Child Screening of Military Children and an accompanying waiting room poster are designed to help pediatricians and other primary care providers identify and address the signs of deployment-related stress among children and families. Development of the toolkit was led by the Home Base Program’s Paula Rauch, MD, and Bonnie Ohye,PhD, and was generously funded by the William P. Anderson Foundation.

The Tool Kit was developed by the Home Base Program in collaboration with the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (McPAP). Home Base and McPAP have distributed the toolkit to more than 400 primary care practices which provide care for 1.5 million children in Massachusetts. The toolkit has received state and nationwide attention through the Military Child Education Coalition, and a wide range of government and non–profit child–serving organizations, as well as The Boston Globe.

Teens Who Have a Sibling Serving

2014 War Zone

A teenager who have a loved one serving in the military and does not have friends who share or understand this experience may feel disconnected, upset, angry, resentful or isolated. There are several things you can do as a military parent to help.

First off, if there are service-related resources in your community such as teen groups or non-profit organizations which providing special services for military children, explore these. But often, these are less available in areas away from large military installations.

Family resources are typically focused on dependent children, so, if your child is the brother or sister of a service member, the local resources may or may not be open to your child. Still, the point people for veterans, TRICARE insurance and National Guard family support are often best able to tell you about what does exist in your community, so seek them out.

If you know other adults through a family readiness group or through a friend of a friend, use these networks to try to connect with families in your community. Local veterans’ organizations may also be a good place to network. Look for other families with teenagers, who are living with the unique stresses of a loved one’s deployment or return from Iraq or Afghanistan. Even if the other teen’s loved one is not the same family member as yours or not in the same branch of service, there is likely to be more in common than your teen experiences with peers who have no connection to the military.

If you locate another family or two, consider having them over for a casual dinner. Don’t expect your teen to be delighted with this plan and don’t expect the teens to make an instant connection. Teens are usually awkward together, especially with parents present. Just meeting another teen once can help a teen feel a little less like an outsider and,sometimes, a friendship between the teens or between the families will unfold.

There may be community events or camps that offer an opportunity for your child to meet peers from military connected families and share common experiences. Camps offer a teen more choices of possible new friends and this is often an easier way for your child to find someone who fits better with him or her. With the access provided by the internet, these friendships can continue long after camp ends.

For more information on how to strengthen military families and how to tackle the issues they may face, visit the Staying Strong website, http://www.stayingstrong.org/. Staying Strong is an initiative of the Home Base Program.

Dr. Paula Rauch on Talking With Your Children and Teenagers

 The most powerful support to a child or teenager’s resilience comes from feeling loved and understood. Being loved means a commitment forever regardless of what happens and understood means not being left to manage hard experiences alone -- whatever they may be...and communication is the way to make sure your child knows he or she is loved and understood.

Communication between parents and children is absolutely essential, but parents are not taught this important skill...and it is a skill, not just something someone is born with or without. It needs to be learned and practiced and practiced and practiced some more. Talking with your child is different than talking at your child. It is more about listening than it is about speaking.

Your child is much more likely to open up if he or she believes you are genuinely curious, and if your child doesn’t feel judged. Communication occurs with words, but also with facial expression and body language. Think of a song...there are lyrics and music...the same is true with communication. Your words are the lyrics, but the look on your face, your tone of voice, and your body posture are the music which is just as important in delivering the message.

Here are some guiding principles.

  • Get in the habit of asking your child about his or her day every day—make your home a “talking together” place.
  • Welcome what you hear and ask for more. This can be at bedtime, dinner time, in the car or at every one of these times.
  • You might ask your child, what was most fun at school today, or what was the worst thing that happened? What did you do that you are most proud of?
  • Consider telling your child what you did yourself today that you feel most proud of and be prepared to say why. “I made all the calls to set up our next family readiness meeting for Thursday”, or “I did the wash early this morning, so we can have family time tonight”, or “I completed the report I needed to hand in at work today even though I was out sick last week”. 
Being proud of your own hard work and sharing this is great modeling for your child. When your child asks you questions, ask questions about their questions: “That’s a really great question you have, what got you wondering about that? Let your child know that their questions deserve a good answer from you which sometimes means talking with someone else or looking up information and reporting back.”

In my experience, parents are more relaxed in hard conversations if they are reminded that questions don’t need to be answered immediately. Some questions cannot be answered fully...when will dad get back from Afghanistan? or, will grandma die from cancer? will this be our last move as a family? ...but you may be able to offer some sense of what may happen and when, or for how long things will likely stay just the same.

Dad should get back from Afghanistan after Easter, but we won’t know exactly when until he is returning. I hope grandma won’t die from her cancer, but the doctor’s will be able to tell us more after her first 6 months of treatments, or I don’t know if this will be our LAST family move, but we definitely won’t be moving again this year or next.

Along with your responses, you can ask your child to tell you more about the thoughts or worries that led to the question. You can’t answer a question well if you don’t know what the REAL question or worry truly is.

Sometimes you might want to withhold troubling information from your child as a way to protect them, but usually they know more than we imagine and are worrying alone with information that seems too upsetting to be discussed. Children tell me they feel excluded rather than protected. Remember that if we want our child to be honest with us about difficult things, we need to model that honest talking is part of our family culture. It doesn’t mean revealing every detail, just a simple explanation to open the subject for a child to ask questions and talk more.

Some children share their thoughts and worries easily, and others are very private. Sometimes parents tell me “my child never talks”.

Either way, it’s always helpful to identify the settings in which your best conversations have occurred. Is it at bedtime, in the car, while you are making dinner or washing up, out fishing or walking the dog? If you identify these settings, you can make it a priority to try to spend time with your child in this way, especially when you have news to deliver or you’ve noticed a change in your child that might be a red flag that something is troubling.

Sometimes you’ll need to communicate with your child across thousands of miles, whether you’re across the country, out of country or in harm’s way. At these times, it’s especially important to be flexible. You’ll want to communicate interest in your child’s day and loving concern whether by computer, email or letter. These special long distance communications bring with them special challenges and a heightened sense of expectation on both sides. In my experience, this anticipation at times leads to disappointment when for example a child waits for a call that doesn’t come or a parent waits to talk with a child who is unwilling to engage on the computer.

At these times, it’s so important for you and your child to have the support of other caring adults reminding each of you of the love in the relationship in spite of that day’s disappointment. By communicating well, you can help your children become stronger, more capable and more confident, and make your family a stronger home base for each of you. 

For more information on how to strengthen military families and how to tackle the issues they may face, visit the Staying Strong website, www.StayingStrong.org. Staying Strong is an initiative of the Home Base Program.