FORT LEWIS, Wash. - When Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors deploy to hostile environments around the globe, they expect to experience stress.

For the families they leave behind, finding help to prepare them for the difficulties of separation and the anxiety of having loved ones in combat can be daunting. A new program on Fort Lewis aims to provide valuable training and coping strategies for military families.

Families Overcoming Under Stress (or FOCUS) aims to enhance understanding, psychological health and developmental outcomes for highly stressed children and families facing multiple deployments. Karen Romine, family resiliency trainer, said the program provides useful tools to military families. Family Resiliency Trainer Karen Romine said help is available for almost all circumstances.

"Multi-session training given on a family-by-family basis," Romine said. "It's customizable to a family's particular needs."

The program offers specialized training to families in core resiliency skills such as communication and family growth, she said. Resiliency is the ability to effectively cope with, adapt to, and overcome adversity, stress, and challenging experiences, Romine said.

A good example of the program's teachings is the deployment timeline exercise, she said.

"It enhances family cohesion and resiliency as the family focuses on deployment," Romine said. "We also offer skill-building groups."

Trainers can provide consultations to discuss what specific areas a family may need help in, she said.

The program is not limited to Soldiers with children.

"We can meet with parents of active service members," Romine said. "We can sit down and have consultations with just about anybody."

Deployments take a toll on both the active-duty member and family back home. Multiple deployments often cause additional stress. National research on parents with stress reactions has demonstrated that such difficulties interfere with parenting, family life, and child adjustment in many ways. FOCUS Site Director Kris Marsh said the operational tempo has created a need for the skills training the program provides.

"It's a whole new world for military families - the way deployments are happening," Marsh said.

Although the program is still in its infancy, Fort Lewis benefits from lessons learned from the experience gained at other installations where FOCUS has been in operation for a time. Currently, the criteria for families are that they have at least one active-duty member and one child, between the ages of five and 18, she said.

"We're one more link in the chain of support for families," Marsh said. "We feel very blessed to join with other services already taking place on base."

Rick Wood is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16