Thursday, January 30, 2014

Before Deployment: Connecting With Other Military Families

Guest Post From the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program
 
National Guard and Reserve members across the country are trained to be in a constant state of readiness for military deployment, but loved ones may not feel ready. When the call to service comes, families may feel isolated as they prepare for the upcoming separation.
 
Deployment can be stressful for your Service member and your family, who may be experiencing a range of emotional issues.  You are not alone: Thousands of other military families like yours are navigating the same challenges and can offer support and understanding.
 
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program can help your family establish a support network that will help make deployment easier. Here are five tips offered by Yellow Ribbon for connecting with other military families:
 
1. Find a military family readiness/support group in your area.
Available through both military and community organizations, family readiness/support groups are a great place for meeting other military families in your area. Meetings bring families together for socializing over a meal or other activities, and some groups offer on-site libraries stocked with useful books, videos and DVDs on military and family issues. Learn more through the National Military Family Association (www.militaryfamily.org).
 
2. Participate in activities and groups in your unit or community.
Attending the activities that are often planned for military families—including scrapbooking nights, ice cream socials, military kids nights and holiday dinners—can help you feel more like a part of the local community, especially when you’re missing your Service member. Playgroups and military spouse groups provide additional opportunities to meet people in a similar situation and exchange advice and information.
 
3. Get involved with Operation Military Kids (OMK).
Every parent knows that deployment can be stressful for children. OMK aims to help military kids cope with deployment by bringing them together for fun activities with other kids who understand. Sign your kids up for a variety of social, educational and recreational programs.
 
4. Stay in touch through military publications and websites. 
Your loved one’s unit, post or base newspaper is a vital source of information about workshops and programs offered to spouses and families. Some units will share news and announcements through Facebook and Twitter so you can stay up-to-date on upcoming events or opportunities to meet with other families.   
 
5.  Keep connected after deployment through a Virtual Family Readiness Group (VFRG).
Once your loved one is deployed, you can maintain these new connections through a Virtual Family Readiness Group, a controlled-access web system that links Service members to their families and units. The VFRG provides a secure means for your Service member to communicate with family members far from home, and the unit commander posts updates so that you have access to the latest information.  Each Service has different types of VFRGs, so be sure to contact your unit or command Family Programs staff for details.
 
Preparing for deployment can be a busy and stressful time, but making the effort to build a network of other military families—and to maintain these connections once your loved one deploys—will help all of you through the difficulties of separation.
 
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program can help you get the support you need. Search and register for an event near you at www.yellowribbonevents.org

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