By Kelly Blasko, Ph.D.
Let’s face it, while the holidays are joyful, they can be stressful. For kids in military families, the season comes with added challenges like spending the holidays apart from a loved one, worrying about a parent’s deployment, watching a parent deal with an injury, or feeling uprooted at home and school by frequent moves.
But, there’s help. Military Kids Connect®, an award-winning Department of Defense website, has many resources that can help your family handle added pressure during the holidays including unique, fun interactive tools that give kids the power to control their stress.
Here are five coping strategies you can share with your kids:
There are lots of families just like us.
Visit the Military Kids Connect video library to hear stories of military teens and parents who have faced the same issues as your family. Whether it’s moving or dealing with a parent’s deployment, these videos address common stress-inducing situations. Check out real-life scenarios like this video of a mom who uses video chat to help her kids stay in touch with their dad while he’s deployed.
Find something to do if you feel down.
Sometimes just staying busy is the best way to cope with stress. Kids can find activities on the Military Kids Connect Projects page to focus on fun during the holidays. There’s something for everyone, including arts and crafts, recipes, sports, and activity books with puzzles and games.
Talk to other military kids.
Children need to connect with others like them to learn ways to handle common situations, share their stories and understand they’re not alone. Suggest that your older kids visit the Military Kids Connect Message Board to join conversations about military life. Tell them to check out What’s on Your Mind? — a safe interactive forum where they can anonymously ask one another what they think, reply to questions and see how others are dealing with the same challenges.
Make a stress-management plan.
Addressing topics like deployment and parental separation, the Stress Management Plan can help kids create a simple strategy for managing stress by checking off the reasons why they feel stressed, and then checking off ways to help them cope. Actions might include avoiding wartime news if a parent is deployed or sharing their feelings with their family.
Express your feelings.
One way to cope with stress is to talk about it. There are healthy ways that children can share what they’re going through, using humor, videos and words. For example, on the Military Kids Connect Tell Your Story page, they can find creative ways to “get it out”, like drawing a comic, learning to scrapbook, or making a digital short story or a movie. Help your kids get creative and artsy in finding ways to share their stories so they can express what they’re feeling.
Kelly Blasko, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist leading the mobile web program for Defense Health Agency Connected Health. She is an internationally recognized expert in using technology to improve the well-being of military children and their parents, including the development of the award-winning Military Kids Connect® and Sesame Workshop Military Families programs. Currently, she manages projects to increase the adoption of behavioral-health apps in primary care within the Military Health System.