Growing up in a military household has challenges civilian children normally don’t face, and it’s important for Families to have open discussions about feelings and build a support system for their military children also, not just adults.
The growing pains of adolescence are enough of a battle to take on, but for military children there’s the additional worry of a parent’s safety, the unpredictability of a Soldier’s job, PCS moves, and frequently saying goodbye to their home and friends.
Dr. Amy Taft, a former military child and now a military spouse, started Third Star Foundation “to provide ongoing support to military-connected children whose parent or guardian has suffered an injury or wounds from their time in service.”
Taft advises to "start conversations about feelings very early.” Having an open discussion about your child’s inner thoughts and concerns can help solve problems before suicidal ideation begins.
“Let them know about the times you struggled,” Taft said. Parents can break the stigma and strengthen their Family dimension by talking about their own experiences with mental health and being open to therapy. Children are more likely to reciprocate and seek advice or counseling if it becomes necessary.
"The rate of suicidal ideation in youth rose to 1:4 during the pandemic,” said Dr. Doreen Marshall of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
She states, “no age is too young to discuss the topic of mental health and to encourage the expression of emotions and seeking help.”
Marshall suggests there are multiple ways Families can build support and resilience, including: •
· Tackling day-to-day life challenges as a Family and encouraging and discussing healthy problem solving
· Separating what is in your control from what is not
· Staying connected and reaching out if more support is needed
“Having open, authentic conversations about mental health, just talking about it can be an important step in staying connected and getting the support and treatment Family members may need,” Marshall said.