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Filed under: Deployment

Staggering stats about teens and stress

Teens are stressed out, and families dealing with deployments can face extra stress. Learn more and pick up some practical tips.

The American Psychological Association (APA) wants to know how stressed out Americans are. Every year since 2007, they’ve conducted a yearly “Stress in America” survey in which they analyze trends about stress and its associated symptoms and behaviors across a range of people living in the U.S. In August 2013, they focused on 1,018 teens (ages 13-17).

A recent report of this information about teens and stress showed that the stats are staggering. Teens from the general population (civilian and military) exceed healthy levels of stress, mirroring the trends in the U.S. among adults. Stress affects sleep, exercise, and eating. Teens tend to get 7.4 hours of sleep on school nights, while the recommended amount is around nine or more hours according to the National Sleep Foundation, and between nine and 10 hours according to the National Institutes of Health. One in five teens exercises less than once a week or not at all. And 23% of teens report that they’ve skipped at least one meal in the past month due to stress.

Parents’ deployments are extremely challenging for children and teens, so military teens often have to deal with additional stressors. Consider this:

  • When a parent deploys for 19 months or more, kids’ achievement scores are lower than peers’ scores.
  • Teachers and counselors say that parental deployment can cause stress at home, often leading to more problems at school (such as incomplete homework, skipping school, or a less-engaged parent).
  • Kids’ resiliency can be impacted when a parent is away, and parents/teachers/counselors sometimes feel that helpful resources can be hard to navigate.

What can you and your teens do to combat their stress?

  • Watch for signs of stress, and actively use stress-management techniques. You can also find children-centered techniques in these HPRC resources. Recognize that stress-management skills are important to develop whether you are a Warfighter, family member, or civilian.
  • Military parents can alert teachers and counselors when a parent is deployed and enlist whatever support is available.
  • Parents’ well-being impacts their teens’ well-being. Be sure to take care of yourself by eating right (individually or with your family), exercising, and managing your own stress.
  • Bolster resiliency skills, both in times of stress and in times of calm. You can learn how with practical tips in "Building Family Resilience."

Tips for staying in touch during deployment

Deploying soon? Think about a game plan for communicating with your loved one. HPRC offers some tips.

Deployment can be a challenge for couples, but it can also be a time of potential growth for a relationship. Questions invariably arise such as, “How much should I share with my partner? How often can we talk?” Some couples easily develop a dynamic that works for them; for others, the feeling of closeness is hard to hold on to when one partner is far away. Whether it’s your first deployment or you’re a seasoned veteran, here are some tips you can add to your deployment arsenal:

  • Balance talk of "everyday" things with more-intimate conversations about deeper feelings and meaning.
  • When there’s a lull in communication, whether it’s a day or a few weeks (due to mission requirements), think about creative ways to stay feeling connected such as journaling, burning video-diary messages on a DVD, or writing cards or letters.
  • Communicate marriage-related emotions that come up during deployment; don’t put them off for later.
  • If you’ve been through deployments before, think and talk about what worked for each of you and what you would like to do next time. Sometimes couples want the same things, but more often each person has different or even opposing wants. When this happens, it’s a good time to practice problem solving to find compromises that address each person’s desires as much as possible.
  • Take good care of yourself and use your favorite stress-management techniques. Stress can increase the likelihood of getting into fights with your loved ones!
  • Finally, don’t forget to weave appreciation for your partner into your conversations; read "Thankful for you?" to learn why appreciation is important for couples.

But most important: Figure out what works best for you. For more ideas on strengthening relationships check out HPRC’s Relationship Enhancement section.

How parents of service members can help

Parents of deploying Warfighters can help their son or daughter in many ways to get ready for deployment.

Calling all parents of deployed or soon-to-be deployed Warfighters! With your son or daughter’s deployment—particularly the first one—there are probably questions that need answering before your son or daughter heads out. Experts suggest some of the following may help prepare for your child’s deployment:

  • Help your Warfighter figure out what responsibilities need to be covered while he or she is deployed and which ones can be managed from abroad. For example, how will the cell phone bill get paid? If he/she has a pet, who will care for it? (Check out HPRC's article about the latter.) Are there any bills that can be put on autopayment (such as a car payment)?
  • Also, who will keep/store the car, motorcycle, or other belongings? Will anyone be allowed to drive or use them?
  • Then there are the tough but necessary questions such as who will make medical decisions if your Warfighter becomes disabled and who will be the beneficiary of death benefits.
  • Finally, if your Warfighter has a girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband, make sure you know them and have established open lines of communication, as they are often the ones with the most information about your son or daughter while deployed.

Planning for these kinds of details ahead of time can help make deployment(s) go smoothly. You can also encourage them to take advantage of their G.I. benefits for schooling while deployed. For more resources to help with deployment, explore the Deployment section of HPRC’s Family & Relationships domain.

Keep your guard up: Fight identity theft

Identity theft costs time, effort, and peace of mind. Learn more about how to guard your personal identity and possessions from thieves.

Identity theft is a serious crime that can completely disrupt your life through credit card charges and ruined credit history if the theft is not caught quickly. So, what is identity theft? It’s what happens when someone assumes your identity by using your personal information or property—typically your Social Security number or credit cards—without your permission. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are three general types of incidents:

  1. Unauthorized use or attempted use of existing credit cards
  2. Unauthorized use or attempted use of checking accounts
  3. Unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information to get credit cards, accounts, or loans or to commit other crimes

Homes unoccupied for extended periods may be goldmines for thieves to dig through trashcans, dumpsters, or storage areas at homes or apartment buildings for documents with useful pieces of information. Or it may be as easy as stealing a credit card from your mailbox or directly from your wallet.

When getting ready for deployments, you can place an active duty alert on your credit reports that lasts for one calendar year. For more information and tips, review the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handout for Warfighters and their families.

Financial readiness—Your pre-deployment checklist

Pre-deployment checklists should include your personal finances. Financial readiness means one less thing for you and those back home to worry about.

Pre-deployment can mean a number of things to a Warfighter, from intense training or drills to saying farewell to family and friends. Preparation for deployment can be over months or at a moment’s notice with little or no time to settle your affairs. It’s important to have a checklist and contact list ready to use prior to your departure so you’re ready, whatever the scenario.

Having your personal finances in order should be a high priority. Options for being ready might include contacting a financial advisor, setting up automatic deposits and withdrawals, creating a monthly budget, checking into over-withdrawal options, adding a close friend or family member to your account to act in your absence, and reviewing your financial information and account numbers with a responsible person. Once all your financial ducks are in a row, your finances will be easy to maintain.

Your checklist should also include items such as legal documents, personal property review, auto and home insurance and maintenance, medical information, and international phone coverage.

For more information, check out DoD’s Military Deployment Guide. Finally, be knowledgeable of your rights through the Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

New Functional Fitness Training Center at Fort Drum

A new center helps soldiers become strong and agile for deployment to both cold and mountainous conditions.

Fort Drum recently opened a “Mountain Functional Fitness Facility.” In keeping with the goal of overall combat fitness, the facility’s purpose is to help soldiers become strong and agile for combat while deployed in both cold conditions and rough terrain such as rugged mountainous environments.

“Functional fitness” focuses on developing specific muscle movements and overall athleticism rather than building up specific muscles. This new center features state-of-the-art equipment and the mission of helping soldiers become conditioned to operate in realistic situations where both strength and agility training are mission critical. Check out this report in Business Insider for additional photos.

Where’s Fido?

Pets can be good for one’s well-being. But what to do when you are deployed where Fido or Fluffy can’t go?

The American Psychological Association has officially recognized what animal lovers knew all along: pets are good for one’s mental health. Warfighters need help to reduce stress and support their mental health, and having a pet may provide some helpful companionship. The problem is that Warfighters end up going places their pets can’t go—so what do they do? They either don’t get pets in the first place, or they end up having to find places for their pets while they are deployed—a big source of unwanted stress. Unfortunately, when family or friends can’t help, that place may end up being a shelter. The American Humane Association has advice for military personnel, including making plans for the care of pets and, when all else fails, finding a foster home through organizations such as Military Pets FOSTER Project. So don’t stress out about your pet—or about getting one, if you’ve been putting it off. Hooah!

The FOCUS program for military families

Learn about the FOCUS program for building family resilience.

The FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress) Project provides online resilience training for military families affected by deployment. The project is designed to address parents’ and children’s concerns about military-combat stress injuries and combat-related physical injuries and provide helpful strategies to build family resilience.

Parents can watch videos, download handouts, and participate in private online chats with family members. FOCUS includes resources and tools for Warfighters, spouses, and professionals—and even activities children and teens can participate in. For more information, visit HPRC's section on Military Family Workshops/Programs.

Tips for parents to help children and teens with deployment: Week 3

Strategies for helping your teenager cope with deployment include keeping the lines open.

This week we offer some practical strategies to help you to keep the lines of communication open with your teens about deployment and post-deployment reintegration.

Week #3 tips: Maintain open communication with your teenager.

  • The most important strategy to use especially with teens is to maintain open communication about concerns, emotions, and questions.
  • Encourage your teens and children to speak out about their thoughts and feelings to their loved ones. It not only helps manage their emotions, but it also helps foster closer family relationships.
  • Stay close to your teen or child while you are deployed using the technology they love: smartphones, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc.
  • Reinforce your teenager’s growing autonomy while you rebuild and maintain your relationship in new and flexible ways. Let your teen choose how much he or she wants to stay in touch; take a hint from how—and how often—they respond to you reaching out.
  • You also can encourage your teens and children to create a “scrapbook” of videos, pictures, stories, and relevant events that took place while their parent was deployed so experiences can be shared during and after deployment.

    Tips for parents to help children and teens with deployment: Week 2

    More strategies you can use to help your child or teen cope throughout the deployment cycle.

    Here are some additional practical strategies and tips you as a parent can use to help your children and teens cope with deployment and the post-deployment reintegration process.

    Week #2 tips: Easing deployment and reintegration

    • Before deployment: If you’re being deployed, try recording your own audio books so your child can listen to your voice during your deployment. This also will help your child stay connected to you by continuing family routines such as reading before bed.
    • During deployment: Depending on their age, kids don’t understand timeframes as well as adults do. If you continue to remind them of future plans during and after the deployed parent’s return, it will help them deal with the separation and reunion.
    • Try referring to the deployed parent’s absence as work instead of just saying that he or she is gone. This helps children realize that the absent parent didn’t simply choose to leave them, which could make for a better reunion.
    • Before the deployed parent returns, talk about what issues to address when he or she does. And plan activities you can share together.
    • Throughout the deployment cycle: Be aware of mental health symptoms for children of all ages. If needed, join your children or teenagers in group counseling; it can be a helpful forum where everyone can discuss experiences, feelings, and thoughts.
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