Change is constant for many families, but even more so for military families who regularly adapt to new surroundings due to experiencing relocations, adjusting to new routines when a family member is deployed, and facing the daily grind of operational stress.
Just as service members can build mission readiness, families can also take steps to boost their readiness. Family readiness is a military family’s ability to use physical, psychological, social and spiritual resources to prepare for, adapt to and grow from military lifestyle demands. By helping family members feel more secure and connected in daily life, families can build their capacity to adapt to the stressors and changes associated with military life. This not only helps keep relationships strong but can help protect the psychological health of children who may struggle with change, fears or missing a parent. Also, the more adaptable military families are, the better able they are to support their service member.
The Department of Defense offers service-specific resources to help military families boost their readiness. Programs may vary by branch and location, and may include referrals to local community resources, outreach programs for families new to the military, classes in parenting or stress management, or help for families undergoing a permanent change of station.
Family Readiness Tips
During all stages of military life, whether a service member is home or away, families can successfully navigate change by using family readiness tools. Try the following suggestions and examples to strengthen family readiness:
- Physical. Exercise can relieve stress and help you and your family stay healthy. Exercising as a family can also help bolster family connections.
- Psychological. Have regular family dinners to talk about the day and strengthen bonds or talk with a family therapist about fears or concerns.
- Social. Get involved in activities through a local military family support group to stay informed and strengthen your social network.
- Spiritual. If spirituality or religion is a source of strength for your family, stay with it. Whether it’s personal practices or support groups, connection with friends makes the going easier.
Service members and families can also build readiness by using internal and external tools. Internal tools, like family traditions, dinners or game nights, are important for strengthening bonds. External tools like Family Readiness Groups (FRG) can be helpful during all stages of military life. FRGs offer families a supportive forum for sharing experiences, tips and resources. FRGs also provide social activities to help people stay connected and positive, and they provide opportunities for moral support during deployments.
What Line Leaders Can Do
Warriors are not alone in their concern for their families. Family readiness affects line leaders and service member readiness, which impacts missions for military leaders. Line leaders themselves may experience stressors in home life, and these disruptions can cause stress for their unit members. It’s important for leaders to encourage unit members to use the family resources that are available, as well as using the resources themselves. Family centers offered by the military can help families stay strong during, in between and after deployments. This, in turn, helps strengthen the health of the whole force.
RAND Corporation. (2015). Family Resilience in the Military: Definitions, Models, and Policies. Santa Monica, CA: Meadows, S.O, Beckett, M.K., Bowling, K, Golinelli, D., Fisher, M.P., Martin, L.T.,...Osilla, K.C.
The Road to Resilience. (n.d.). American Psychological Association.
Bowles, S.V., Pollock, L.D., Moore, M., Wadsworth, S.M., Cato, C., Dekle, J.W.,...Bates, M.J. (2015). Total Force Fitness: The Military Family Fitness Model. Military Medicine, 180(3), 246-258.
Saltzman, W.R., Lester, P., Milburn, N., Woodward, K., Stein, J. (2016). Pathways of Risk and Resilience: Impact of a Family Resilience Program on Active-Duty Military Parents. Family Process, 55(4), 633-646.