A study conducted by the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University found that
Many service members are returning home from combat, but a large number of these individuals have come home at a price. These service members may have experienced significant changes in abilities resulting from loss of limbs; vision or hearing; severe burns; spinal cord injury; traumatic brain injury or posttraumatic stress disorder. Whatever the injury, adapting can be difficult during the reintegration process for wounded service members and their families.
Often times these injuries can unavoidably affect children living in the home and may have an impact on their well-being. By addressing the potential impact of parental injury on children and identifying ways of dealing with the issues, military families can maintain the long-term health and well-being of their children.
Factors effecting how a child interprets an injury
Several factors must be taken into account with how a child interprets an injury.
- Obviousness of the Injury–Depending on the severity of the injury and whether it is an invisible or physical injury will determine the wounded warrior’s involvement in daily parental routines. This can sometimes be confusing to children and they may feel rejected, confused, and angry or display a whole range of emotions related to the change.
- Changes in the home–Caring for a wounded service member ultimately results in changes within the home. The demands related to caring for the injured may overshadow the parent’s ability to meet the needs of a child, resulting in a negative impact on the child’s emotional, social, and physical development.
- Age of the child–Age of children can determine how they perceive changes in the service member and how they react to these changes. For example, an older child might perceive changes in the service member from pre-deployment to post-deployment as drastic; this perception may lead to a complete change in the relationship between the two.
Minimizing the effects of an injury on a child
It is important to keep in mind that there are actions that parents and caregivers can take to help minimize the effects of an injury on a child.
- Open, age-appropriate communication–Communication provides reassurance to children about the future.
- Family routines and rituals–Deployments and reintegration into civilian life can interrupt normal family routines. When a returning service member comes home, establishing regular routines may improve the household environment for children.
- Use of a support network–A support network can include other caregivers, family members and friends that can increase the number of positive, supportive attachment relationships in the child’s life.
- Consult a Professional–With an array of resources and services tailored to meet the needs of service members and their families, it may be helpful to seek professional help (e.g. psychotherapist, child therapist, etc.) in helping children negotiate the difficulties related to deployment injury.
Whatever your service member’s condition may be, it is important to fully understand not only how it will affect your life but the life of your children.
Check out Michigan State University’s new article on Effects of Visible and Invisible Parent Combat Injuries on Children to learn more on how you can better understand the effects of your service members injuries on children.