JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - In a culture where students rotate in and out of schools, teaching children on a military installation adds to the everyday challenges of being a teacher.

A partnership among schools on Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Madigan Army Medical Center is helping ease some of that stress.

Parents, teachers and staff from six Clover Park School District elementary schools on JBLM attended a "Building Day" event Aug. 30 to help prepare them for the new school year. They spent most of the day interacting and learning about the needs of military children; specifically elementary students.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Ken Ginsburg, addressed the difficult circumstances that often surround students because their parents are in the military.

Ginsburg, an adolescent medicine specialist with the Army Child, Adolescent and Family Behavioral Health Proponency, centered his findings on the American Academy of Pediatrics' "Seven C's of Resilience" model. The AAP believes "all children have abilities and strengths that can help them cope with everyday life."

Teachers and parents are instrumental in developing their children's resilience by being in tune with those strengths and building on them.

"Parents and schools are really key," Ginsburg said. "It's about putting support and circumstances into kids' lives so that they are prepared to bounce back and thrive far into the future."

The AAP model's components are competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control. They are all interrelated and crucial to the success of military children.

"Having confidence in your ability to be able to deal with situations comes from knowing you can do things well," Ginsburg said.

Students who have close connections with their parents and teachers tend to have better coping strategies, and therefore do better in school and life in general, he said.

"The key for military kids is that connection is challenged because of deployments and long absences," Ginsburg said. "We have to think about how to support connections and compensate for the ones that were missing."

Sharing personal experiences and knowledge from JBLM Behavioral Health Services professionals allowed parents and school staff to do just that.

Doctor Tong Shen, child and adolescent psychiatrist and director of JBLM School Behavioral Health Services, emphasized her staff's desire to serve CPSD.

Shen said MAMC is placing clinical social workers at each of the elementary schools on JBLM.

"The school district has been waiting a long time for this, and we're really fortunate to have such wonderful, passionate people working for our military children," Shen said.

MAMC will provide services from prevention and intervention to handling emotional behaviors of disturbed children. No child will be left unhelped.

Military families whose children attend school off post will be taken care of by the Soldier and Family Assistance Center, which provides child and adolescent psychiatry and services.

Shen said she is excited about the partnership and is confident CPSD and parents will help make this one of the best school years yet.

"We all understand each other, we share the mission and we have the passion for our military kids ... And that will make a success."

Laura M. Levering is a reporter with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Fri September 10th, 2010 at 12:42