Family Strong Series prepares family members for reintegration
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Back to front: Bella McRae, Mya Legros, Andrew Quintana and Andrew McCaffrey create books for their deployed fathers during the Family Strong Series. The hands-on exercise helped the children explore reactions to their parents' absence and learn strategies to help themselves through those times.

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - "I took on a lot of responsibility when my dad left," said 22-year-old Julian White. "As the eldest, I felt I needed to be a role model and help out more."

Although the White family is no stranger to deployment - currently in their sixth, according to mom, Sybille White - they do not get any easier.

"As redeployment comes near, time seems to stand still," said Sybille. "We just want him home."

Sybille explained that getting involved and using structured classes and informational briefings has helped her family cope.

"We always try to help other families as well, sharing what has worked with us in the past," said Sybille. "But with every deployment comes a new set of problems to deal with."

"The stress gets stronger and you look to find new ways to cope," added White.
White's 14-year-old sister, Kathlina White, sat quietly across the table, nodding in agreement.

"We are just trying to continue life and stay connected as a family," said White.

The family then dispersed to attend individual classes during the "Family Strong Series" at the Main Post Chapel Annex on Schofield Barracks, Jan. 10. Julian and Kathlina joined the teen group and Sybille monitored the Coping, Self-Care and Building Social Networks class.

During the teen class, a small group sat in a circle drawing pictures of their families.

"Draw your family in a totem pole," said the military life consultant. "Place each member and yourself where you see them represented in life."

The group then discussed each participant's drawing.

In an adjoining room, young children created books with crayons for their deployed parents, entitled Daddy and Me. The book helped each child express the changes that have taken place over the year his or her parent was downrange and expectations of the reunion.

Children drew a personal interpretation of what their Soldier experienced while deployed and identified their feelings and coping skills.

The Family Strong Series is dedicated to educating Soldiers and family members about deployment and redeployment. Through many of the classes available, family members learn ways Soldiers cope and how to help returning Soldiers remain a healthy member of the family.

Subject matter experts discuss issues particular to spouses and children and available community services.

The extensive program allowed family members to experience all classes available or to set their own schedule to focus on specialized areas.

Classes helped every member of the family cope with issues regarding a returning Soldier. Topics included normal stress responses of Soldiers, spouses and children; child developmental expectations; ways to support healthy expression; and understanding principles of spiritual resilience.

The program also offered classes aimed at tackling financial issues, transition topics and building social networks.

The interactive group Getting to Know Each Other Once Again focused on normal challenges couples experience with reintegration and navigating relationship changes.

"There is so much information presented during this series, and you do learn something new with each class," said family member Nicole Williams. "Knowledge is key and this program is focused more on discussion versus lecture."

Williams explained the relationship with her Soldier is built on understanding each other's needs and keeping lines of communication open. Joining the Family Strong Series was another way to learn manageable tools to cope with deployment and prepare for redeployment by setting realistic expectations.

"The support is here," added Williams.

The 25th Infantry Division, Tripler Army Medical Center (TAMC) and Schofield Barracks' Health Clinic presented the series.

The next "Family Strong Series" will be held Feb. 7, 9 and 12 at the Main Post Chapel Annex on Schofield Barracks, 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.

For more information, contact Letticia Rivera, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team family readiness support assistant (FRSA), at <a href="mailto:letticia.rivera@us.army.mil">letticia.rivera@us.army.mil</a>.

Page last updated Fri January 16th, 2009 at 15:40