Radio show offers new parent support
December 1, 2008
HOHENFELS, Germany - One caller was frustrated that after returning from a 15-month deployment, his wife immediately "dumped" all the household responsibilities back into his lap.
Another listener related that after her husband returned from downrange, he had reconnected with their daughter but not with their son. She wanted to know what she could do to repair the relationship.
One mother had a question on introducing a father to his new baby, whom he would meet for the first time upon redeployment.
All of these military parents called in to a new radio program - "Instructions Not Included" - carried on American Forces Network Bavaria, seeking advice from Priscilla Fleischer and Laura Knarr, who comprise the Army Community Service's New Parent Support Program team at U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels.
The callers certainly came to the right place; the two women know a few things about the trials of parenthood.
Fleischer, a licensed clinical social worker with a doctorate, raised three children and now is grandmother to three others.
And Knarr, a registered nurse who specializes in labor and delivery, understands first hand what it is like to be a working mom with children, as hers are ages 8, 5, 3 and 1.
Together, they help Hohenfels families through the many challenges of parenting in the military by offering an array of services and resources, the newest of which is "Instructions Not Included."
The pair's different skills help to form a comprehensive team. Fleischer's background in social work gives her expertise dealing with the psychological aspect of their work, while Knarr uses her medical training.
Their different ages also bring different perspectives to the team.
"She's like the mom of the crowd, and I'm like the grandma of the crowd," said Fleischer.
While the New Parent Support Program is offered at installations throughout the Army, having a friend and a "mom" to call for advice can be especially beneficial for those living overseas.
So to is the ability to share such information, which is broadcast by AFN.
"Instructions Not Included," which airs at 9 a.m. the first Tuesday of every month on 1485 AM in Hohenfels, is an easy way to get questions answered quickly, but it provides much more than one service.
Indeed, anyone expecting a child or who have children up to 3-years-old can benefit from the program. Whether a new parent has a specific concern or is just looking for some general support, Knarr and Fleischer offer an understanding that arrives from "been there, done that."
"We always use a lot of personal experience," said Knarr, who spoke about the program via speakerphone from home, where she was caring for her four sick children.
"I bring a very down-to-earth, practical, right-here-and-now perspective ... that young moms in the thick of things can relate to," she explained. "Being able to say 'I know exactly what you are talking about' makes them feel not so alone."
"The most common issues parents have range from breastfeeding, crying and getting the baby to sleep, to toilet training, the terrible two's and developmental questions as the child gets older," said Fleischer.
She encourages parents to take advantage of the free child care they receive through NPSP when meeting with her to work on their issues as a couple. However, as a rule, Fleischer and Knarr try to make every other visit at a client's home.
Christine Flynn, who has twin 2-year-old girls and a husband who has been attending Officer Candidate School in Georgia for more than a year, said her daughters rush to open the door when Fleischer makes her weekly stops.
"I was a first-time parent with two little babies, (and) to have them come along once a week was such a tremendous help," Flynn said.
In addition to the completely confidential guidance services for new parents, Fleischer and Knarr run a host of other New Parent Support Program groups and classes, including an early pregnancy awareness class; a three-part childbirth and delivery class (Knarr has had two of her children in Germany); a two-part newborn care class; a breastfeeding support group that meets monthly; and the 10-part Total Mom seminar aimed at helping mothers with children of all ages remember how to be an individual as well as a wife and mother.
"One reason we started Total Mom was to (provide) something just for the moms to do," said Knarr, who added that they always encourage mothers to get out and stay active.
"Me being home for just two days now, I'm suffering myself," Knarr admitted. "It would get to me not having that adult interaction every day."