Children of Wounded Warriors: Guidance for Caregivers

Have you recently received a call that your service member has become very seriously injured (VSI) or seriously injured (SI)? Do you have a child who will be affected by your wounded warrior’s injury? Are you struggling to prepare your child for the emotional impact that your wounded warrior’s injury may have on his or her life?

If so, you can strive to overcome these challenges by preparing your child for what may occur during the first visit to your wounded warrior’s bedside. No one knows how your child will react when first seeing your wounded warrior; however, understanding your child’s emotional needs, planning ahead, and providing support to your child before, during, and after the initial visit may set the tone for how he or she will interact on future visits.

Developmental approach to the emotional care of children

Seeing a seriously injured service member can be emotionally distressing to children and teenagers. One aspect of preparing young people for the experience is knowing how to communicate with children of different ages.

Infants, toddlers, and young school-age children

According to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS), young children are less likely to need to know the details about the injury that a teenager would require. Depending on your child’s age, use appropriate language that he or she will understand. Describe your wounded warrior’s injury from a child’s point of view. Younger children may find it helpful if you show where your wounded warrior is injured by using a doll, puppet, or other prop. Be aware of certain disclosures when talking to younger children about your wounded warrior’s condition. Do not provide details to a child who is not ready to hear them.

School-age children, preteens, and teenagers

School-age children, preteens, and teenagers are able to understand certain concepts and definitions, making it easier for you to explain certain medical terminology associated with your wounded warrior. Also, teenagers may feel as though they are being drawn back into their parents’ lives at a time when they are learning to become independent. Parents or guardians should not expect a teenager to take on the adult role in the family now that the service member is wounded.

Regardless of your child’s age, provide reassurance that your wounded warrior is still the same person even though he or she may look different. Provide comfort by letting your child know that it is okay to be angry, frightened, or sad.

Support for the first visit to your wounded warrior’s bedside

Knowing what actions to take before, during, and after your child’s first visit to your wounded warrior’s bedside will help all members of the family cope with the situation. Find out how you can prepare your child by going to: Children of Wounded Warriors: Guidance for Caregivers.

 

Steps to Financial Freedom: Know the Score

Carolyn Bird and Molly C. Herndon

Last week, we discussed the first three steps PFMs can take with service members to get their finances on track: 1. Assess the situation; 2. Find the Motivation; and 3. Recruit Your Team. We also linked to free online tools that are useful in managing personal finances. This week, we’ll discuss credit scores and how you can guide your clients to improve their credit score..

Step 4: Know the Score
Having service members identify their credit score is a vital step on the path to financial freedom. It is especially important for service members to know their credit scores well in advance of making a major purchase; such as, buying a home or car. Helping service members understand how their everyday decisions affect their credit score empowers them to build stronger credit scores. Credit scores are comprised of many factors. By asking a service member the following questions, PFMPs can assist service members in understanding how their actions may affect their FICO score:

1. Payment history-35%. Are bills late and how often?
2. Amounts owed-30%. Are you maxed out? How many accounts have balances?
3. Length of credit history-15%. How long have credit accounts been opened?
4. New Credit-10%. Are you opening accounts frequently? How many new accounts do you have?
5. Credit types-10%. Is there a good mix of credit (credit cards, mortgages, or personal loans)?

As a financial educator at your installation you can assist service members in receiving their FICO score at no charge. The FINRA Investor Education Foundation provides special access for PFMPs to allow service members and their spouses an annual free FICO score. Click here to learn more about this FINRA-supported program. Access to the free FICO score site is arranged through your service branch’s Headquarters PFMP.

If your client discovers a low credit score, suggest the myriad of ways available to raise the score before making big purchases. Low credit scores mean higher interest rates which translate into larger monthly payments. Once service members understand this relationship, they will understand that raising the score quickly is in their best interest.

Service members with a strong credit score may want to move forward with their purchase. Lets say the service member in your office is thinking of purchasing a car. There are several items to consider, in addition to credit rating, that you may want to share. The service member will need to decide what type of vehicle is to be purchased and whether it will be new or used. A review of the service members finances will either support the initial choice or may suggest a change in approach. Together, tally up the monthly expenses to determine the amount of money that is available each month for a car payment and car related expenses, including insurance, gas and maintenance. Refer the service member to websites such as www.edmonds.com and www.kbb.com, and to the credit union to research car prices before visiting auto dealerships. For help determining the best options for car insurance, click here. Many insurance companies offer military discounts and the Federal Citizen Information Center provides 9 tips to lower car insurance costs. You may also suggest your client refers to http://www.nhtsa.gov/ to find out all the facts on their desired car before making a purchase. Fuel economy and safety features should be considered before making such a large purchase.

Besides a car purchase, when else do clients typically come to your office seeking a credit score report?