When we think of stressors for military children, we generally think of deployments. We might even think that, once the deployment is over, life will be smooth sailing and maybe get even better once we leave the service. But anyone who has returned from a deployment, and anyone who has left the service, knows that isn’t the case. Landing in the USA isn’t the end of the stress and, no matter how excited you might be about your separation or retirement date, neither is your first day in civilian clothes. Imagine how much more difficult it may be for your children, who may not understand everything that is happening, may be limited in how to convey their thoughts and emotions and who, like little lightning rods, sense and absorb grown up stress. These are all issues faced by veteran parents to some degree or another and ZERO TO THREE is here to help.
ZERO TO THREE is a national non-profit focused on early childhood development and providing research and tools to those individuals, such as parents and teachers, who are in a position to shape that development. Founded in 1977, the organization takes a holistic approach to child development, researching and providing tools in the areas of health and development, behavior, care, education, abuse and trauma, and public policy. Their available resources include everything from how to get your child school ready to how to get him to go back to sleep after he wakes in the middle of the night.
Most relevant for this audience is their “Military Family Projects.” This program was designed to raise awareness and provide support for issues specific to the young children in military and veteran families (over 500,000 born during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to their webpage!). Their “Honoring Our Babies and Toddlers” series covers helping your child cope with stresses such as deployment, injury, or death, while their “Articles You Can Use” section offers five short writeups on tools for the entire deployment cycle. I suggested their “Over There” Activity Book to a friend of mine who is raising twin toddlers while her husband is deployed and her feedback was that she loved that it was something they could build together. (This is available in printable format from their website and, if you prefer premade, a board book version is available for Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve through MilitaryOneSource.)
Recently, ZERO TO THREE added “Coming Together for Veteran Families” to their list of projects. This program helped develop tools that go beyond military service to cope with those issues that arise after deployment and during transition. For example, in a continuation of their “Honoring Our Babies and Toddlers” series, they have resource materials on coping with transitioning from servicemember to veteran status, how this transition may affect your young child, and some coping mechanisms and tools for the parent. It also contains reference materials for individuals who work with veterans and their families to help them understand and support these individuals.
Most of these resources are available for free online in formats such as tip sheets, podcasts, printables, and a newsletter. They also have an entire bookstore full of purchasable items, such as their children’s books: Home Again, about a child whose parent has just returned from deployment and Sparrow, about a baby bird and his papa (or mama!) bird who are separated and then reunited, only the parent is injured and baby bird must adjust.
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