JFWW - Parents of Service Members An Underserved Population


  Supplementary Q&A by Dr. Paula Domenici
Q: We have heard this week about the importance of asking “have you ever served? If a person says yes, my son was deployed to Iraq”. What might be some follow up questions based on a parent saying yes my child has served?
A: Follow up questions a provider could ask a parent who indicates they have a child who has served include the following:
• Do you want to share a little bit more about your son/daughter who served, like when he/she was deployed, what role or job he/she had while deployed, and how long he/she has been back? How is he/she doing now?
• Would you like to talk about your child’s deployment/service and how it may be impacting you, him/her or the family?
• What’s it been like for you to have a son or daughter who served in Iraq? How did you cope with the deployment? How are you doing now that he/she is back?
• How are you feeling about the situation with your son/daughter who deployed to Iraq?
• Can you share how you’ve managed as a parent of a son/daughter who served in the military?
• Has anything in your physical or emotional health changed since your son or daughter served in Iraq?
• What things do you do to maintain your own physical and mental health while supporting your military son/daughter?
• Are you worried or concerned about your son/daughter who served in the military? If yes, would you like to discuss any concerns?
Q: Where can a provider learn more about military culture or find resources for a parent of a Service member?

A provider can learn more about military culture by accessing the CDP’s comprehensive military culture online course for healthcare professionals at: http://www.deploymentpsych.org/military-culture. Also, a provider can attend a live CDP workshop on military culture and the deployment cycle. A description of these trainings are found at: http://www.deploymentpsych.org/psychological-training. While there are numerous resources on military culture, these two recommendations would be a good start.

Resources for parents of Service Members are provided on the attached Resources Handout as well as in the book: Courage After Fire for Parents of Service Members: Strategies for Coping When Your Son or Daughter Returns from Deployment. This book can be purchased by accessing this link: http://www.amazon.com/Courage-After-Parents-Service-Members/dp/1608827151.

Q: Under what circumstances would a parent of a Service member be found to be a dependent?

To the best of my knowledge, for a parent of a Service member to legally qualify for what is known as a “secondary dependent” in the military: 1) the parent’s income must be less than 50% of his/her actual living expenses and 2) the parent needs to be dependent on the Service member such that the Service member pays more than 50% of the parent’s actual monthly living expenses and 3) documentation is required to demonstrate the parent’s living expenses and the Service member’s contribution. (Source: Defense Finance and Accounts Services. Access more details through the following link: http://www.dfas.mil/dfas/militarymembers/payentitlements/secondarydependency.html)

Even when a parent is not legally declared a secondary dependent, it should be noted that he or she may be provided emotional and educational support in an inpatient unit in the case of a severely-injured military child who is hospitalized (e.g., in a casualty care or polytrauma unit). Also, parents may be invited to a session with their military son or daughter in an outpatient military treatment facility or VA clinic to receive psychoeducation about their child’s condition and treatment plan. Additionally, at some VA hospitals, there are dedicated family clinics where formal family therapy is provided. Parents could be included in this treatment approach.

Q: The video you showed at the beginning of presentation showed the various parents and many of them seemed to apply some of the military culture to themselves, to adapt some of the aspect of military culture to themselves, the dad wearing an AF shirt, the mom with the flag pin and what looked like medals or ribbons on the other. Are there pros and cons to the parent’s level of identification with the military?

This is an interesting question. I think there are pros and cons to a parent’s level of identification with the military. In general, when the perception of the mission by family members (including parents) is meaningful or positive, it increases the Service Members’ and the family’s experiences positively. As such, they tend to be more resilient – to have increased pride, enthusiasm, and a willingness to support each other and less stress and resentment. A healthy level of identification with the military may enable them to relate more comfortably with their military child and provide a sense of purpose or meaning.

On the other hand, when a parent over identifies with the military or is excessively focused on their military child and the mission, this can steal time away from themselves so they don’t take care of their own personal needs. Over time this this can result in parent burnout or compassion fatigue. Therefore, as clinicians, it’s important for us to help parents strike a balance in order to stay healthy. It’s a balance between identifying with the military, which includes being supportive of their military child and the mission, and giving themselves permission to carve out time for taking care of themselves and pursuing their own interests and goals.