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Week 4: Parenting in Military Families

It was frustrating. I wanted to scream half the time. He was in the Gulf and I had to take care of my two daughters, one who was rebellious. Every time I set a consequence, she would e-mail her father and he would placate her. She played the two of us off each other. When he came home, he would end her grounding early so he could enjoy her time. It made a mess of things. Having to raise two girls alone for the most part was hard enough. Having him negate me almost broke us until we found a way to parent across the world.
—Kristin Wilkinson, Former Navy Spouse
(Laureate Education, 2014a)

This week, you will explore issues related to parenting in military families.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Analyze parenting in military families
  • Evaluate approaches to providing parenting support
  • Evaluate stressors
  • Apply parenting strategies

Learning Resources

Required Readings

Cohen, E., Zerach, G., & Solomon, Z. (2011). The implication of combat-induced stress reaction, PTSD, and attachment in parenting among war veterans. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(5), 688-698. 

Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health Services and Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology. (n.d.). Parenting for service members and veterans. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from

DeVoe, E. R., & Ross, A. (2012). The parenting cycle of deployment. Military Medicine, 177(2), 184-190.

Sullivan, M. E. (2013). Introduction to the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act. Family Law Quarterly, 47(1), 97–135.
Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.

Gewirtz, A. H., Pinna, K. M., Hanson, S. K., & Brockberg, D. (2014). Promoting parenting to support reintegrating military families: After deployment, adaptive parenting tools. Psychological Services, 11(1), 31-40. 

Reschke, K. (2013, May 14). Insights from a military parent (part 1): The power of hearing their stories [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Reschke, K. (2013, May 28). Insights from a military parent (part 3): Why I’m reluctant to talk to you [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Reschke, K. (2013, June 4). Insights from a military parent (part 4): Responding to misbehavior with compassion [Blog post].Retrieved from

Required Media

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014a). The challenges of parenting in military families. [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Note:  The approximate length of this media piece is 6 minutes.

Accessible player –Downloads–Download Video w/CCDownload AudioDownload Transcript

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Family counseling [Multimedia file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Discussion 1: Parenting

Parenting can be challenging in any family. There are trials and tribulations related to issues such as parenting styles, life, and development stages. In military families, there are often unique challenges to consider. Reflect upon your knowledge about military culture and think about the challenges that can arise.

Review the media,The Challenges of Parenting in Military Families, in which military families talk about the challenges and successes of their parenting experiences during their military lives.

By Day 3

Post an explanation of what resonates most with you about the parenting challenges discussed in the media. How might you discuss the challenges and successes related to parenting with a family member who was seeking support? Explain whether your approach would be different if the individual was a parent or extended family member with custody of the military children, and explain how.

Read a selection of your colleagues’ posts.

By Day 5

Respond to two or more colleagues with support or alternative recommendations.

Return to this Discussion to read the responses to your initial post. Note what you have learned and/or any insights you gained as a result of the comments your colleagues made.


 Kimberly Morgan RE: Discussion 1 – Week 4COLLAPSE

An explanation that resonates most with me is when one of the parents has been deployed. In some cases; partners of service members who are deployed, face several challenges. For example; worrying about and the support of a love one without knowing if or when they will return (Faber, Willerton, Clymer, MacDarmid, & Weiss, 2008). The partner maintaining the household basely becomes a single parent. In some cases, these partners are taking care of the household does become the bad parent for several reasons. They become the disciplinarian and sets the majority of the rules. When the parent does return home, some guilt tends to have the parent overlooking negative behaviors happening inside the household.

Discussing the challenges and successes related to parenting-related stressors, family relationships, and child adjustments. Parent Management Training-Oregon model (PMTO) provides support and strategies for military families. According to the article “Child maltreatment in enlisted soldiers’ families during combat-related deployments” reports deployment has impacted parent-child interactions for those in the military and partners left in the household. As example of discussing successes are enrolling parents in workshops with other deployed military families. Providing parents with successful tools towards educational/employment resources. Additional strategies include a token system, incentive charts, and tangible rewards for children.

This approach would not be different if there was a military child involved. The Parent Management Training- Oregon model (PMTO) is an evidence-based structured intervention to assist caregivers’ manager behaviors of children. PMTO empowers and promotes positive changes in families. 

Faber A, Willerton E, Clymer SR, MacDermid SM, Weiss HM. Ambiguous absence, ambiguous presence: A qualitative study of military reserve families in wartime. Journal of Family Psychology. 2008; 22:222–230.

Gibbs DA, Martin SL, Kupper LL, Johnson RE. Child maltreatment in enlisted soldiers’ families during combat-related deployments. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association. 2007; 298:528–535.


Response 2

 Kionna Stafford RE: Discussion 1 – Week 4COLLAPSE

Post an explanation of what resonates most with you about the parenting challenges discussed in the media.

When viewing the media some things that resonated most with me about the parenting challenges discussed included; the changes in structure of the household when the service member was home compared to being away on deployment and how the children naturally responded to each parent. Both mothers shared some commonality when discussing their experiences with having husbands who deployed that involved them both being the “heart” of the household. Although, the structural changes to house hold were directly impacted by the presence of the loved one being present or absent. Betsy Flanigan, shared that she enjoyed being the “heart” of the home while her husband’s role was “head of house hold” (Laureate Education (Producer),2014a). She also more interestingly identified her other roles that included; Mother, wife, and co-parents (Laureate Education (Producer),2014a). When Social Workers work with Military Families this can be an important role to identify and even discuss. When Co-parenting occurs there may be more likely is a sense of maturity and acceptance in the relationship that is specifically to improve/maintain the wellbeing of the children. This writer believes that this role is exceptionally important for Parents to address as a need to establish to help maintain their own goals related to family stability and reduced stress/trauma for children.

How might you discuss the challenges and successes related to parenting with a family member who was seeking support?

This writer would discuss the challenges and successes related to parenting with a family member who was seeking support by encouraging them to keep an opened mind. Positive development may initially appear as conflict in parenting situations, although with patience and effort the outcome can shift. According to Bowlby (1988), attitudes toward parenting are affected mainly by internalized models from childhood, but are also shaped and updated by lifetime experiences(Cohen, Zerach,  & Solomon, 2011).This writer would work to normalize challenge and encourage the parent to widen expectations for the future. Many parents that this writer has worked with in the past have often adapted negative ideas with assumptions that are often backed up with historical experiences. Although, this method of validating thoughts and feelings can be effective, it may not always be the best solutions for a growing mind. According to  Gewirtz, Erbes, Polusny, Forgatch, and  DeGarmo, (2011) the ength of deployment and poorer at-home caregiver mental health were associated with child maladjustment both during deployment and following reintegration. This writer would work to normalize conflict and encourage empowerment of strengths along with steps to goal achievement. As Social Workers it’ important to empower not only the children, but also their providers being that they are their support system outside of treatment. Effective parenting practices can provide a protective buffer for children and youth, particularly during times of adversity (Gewirtz, Erbes, Polusny, Forgatch, &  DeGarmo, 2011). Discussing the value of consistency can help educate a parent to begin to document changes and have incentive to measure into goal achievement.

Explain whether your approach would be different if the individual was a parent or extended family member with custody of the military children, and explain how.

The method/ approach that this writer would suggest will always differ with unique scenarios being that every house old is different. Each parent/provider would need to be assessed for what they are actually experiencing as well as the over all presenting problem. An individual parent who may be a single parent may struggle with having supportive child care while feeling over whelmed to care for their child, while a extended family member may feel overwhelmed with being micro managed by an over supported parent. As Social Workers, having the skills appropriately assess scenarios are exceptionally important in identifying just what kind of resources would benefit a client/family. Everyone’s story is different no matter how similar they may appear. Being client and person centered are always important for the process.


Laureate Education (Producer). (2014a). The challenges of parenting in military families. [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Gewirtz, A. H., Erbes, C. R., Polusny, M. A., Forgatch, M. S., & DeGarmo, D. S. (2011). Helping military families through the deployment process: Strategies to support parenting. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 42(1), 56–62.

Cohen, E., Zerach, G., & Solomon, Z. (2011). The implication of combat-induced stress reaction, PTSD, and attachment in parenting among war veterans. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(5), 688–698.


Discussion 2: Parenting Strategies for Deployed Families

For this Discussion, review the resources, including this week’s media, Family Counseling. After viewing the media clip Introduction, click on Alice – the mother – to read basic information about her and watch the video.

The video focuses on a mother who entered counseling due to issues related to her husband’s deployment. Think about her stress and anxiety and how this plays out in her parenting. How might a helping professional assist her in developing effective parenting strategies or techniques to improve the situation?

By Day 4

Post your responses to the following:

  1. Is the stressor internal or external? Normative or nonnormative? Provide your rationale.
  2. What information would you provide the parent about potential factors that could be fueling this situation?
  3. As a helping professional, recommend a parenting strategy to assist her in improving the situation, explain how to apply the strategy, and explain how this strategy might be effective. Recommend an additional support service that the mother might benefit from and explain why.

Read a selection of your colleagues’ posts.

By Day 6

Respond to two or more colleagues with support or alternative recommendations.

 Kenechukwu Menakaya RE: Discussion 2 – Week 4 Main PostCOLLAPSE

Alice’s stressors are both internal and external. The internal aspect of her stressors is the behavioral problems, been exhibited by her children, most notably from Rick. Most times, military families feel frustrated and helpless when they can not fix the situation or know that their loved one needs help and cannot help (DeCarvalho & Whealin, 2012). In contrast, the external aspect of her stressor is from secondary traumatic stress caused by directly witnessing another person’s exposure to trauma. Alice, experiences fear, helplessness, and horror because of being exposed to public television special on military brain injury, heightening her fears of her husband’s safety (DeCarvalho & Whealin, 2012).

However, the stressors are non-normative because it started unexpectedly. Alice’s husband has been in 2 previous deployments in the desert before, which was not as stressful as this time. I believe that the non-normative behavior was triggered by thinking about upsetting stories or images like the one she saw at the Walter Reed hospital. These can lead to having nightmares about the event her husband is experiencing and contributes to her yielding and constant crying (DeCarvalho & Whealin, 2012).

The information that I will provide to Alice about the potential factors that could fuel her situation will be, I will start with the adage, which states that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results. Expecting different results from doing the same thing is ridiculous and contradictory. The truth is that, if we want to grow in life, we must be willing to change. However, unexpected life experiences serve as catalysts that help us make life-changing decisions. Other times, boredom or dissatisfaction with how things make us question why we are doing what we are doing. To improve life stressors, we need to explore other options and form coping strategies (DeCarvalho & Whealin, 2012).

As a helping professional, the parenting strategy that I recommend aiding Alice in improving their situation will be on building and informing reconnection. I will enlighten them on how to connect, guiding them through the process of creating the connection, and improving communication. Immediately they have reestablished a positive relationship with each other. Then, the family will need to explain their side of the story with each other. I will guide them through learning how to communicate and become more informed about each other’s experiences effectively and sensitively (DeCarvalho & Whealin, 2012).

 Another support service that Alice can use to better their family situation will be “Changing and processing.” As the family faces these challenges, without trust and care, they may have wrong beliefs and thoughts about themselves, which may lead to anger and resentment. I will help the family improve their thoughts, behaviors, feelings, and ideas about one another, guide them through becoming more aware of their negative thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors, and change the course of their relationship. This will help provide a more reliable way for the family to share their fears, thoughts, and feelings. And will help pave the way in working together to understand and accept one another (DeCarvalho & Whealin, 2012).


DeCarvalho, L. T., & Whealin, J. M. (2012). Healing stress in military families: Eight steps to wellness (1st ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.

Response 2

 Teresa Sarn-Fitch RE: Discussion 2 – Week 4COLLAPSE

In my opinion Alice is suffering from external stressors.  She has confided to the doctor during her interview, that she is “terrified” that her husband will not be returning from this duty station.  Her husband is a career Marine and has gone on multiple deployments, but she has a bad feeling about this deployment.  She states that this has been the worst deployment so far.  She also offered up the fact that she watched a Public Broadcasting show in which they featured veterans coming home with severe brain injuries, and other serious conditions.  She knew she should not have watched it, and now she cannot get it out of her head. She shares the fact that she is now sad and angry at herself.  The clinician is treating this as a separate problem, an act of disentangling the impact of external sources of maternal stress (Ostberg & Hagekull, 2013). I would say that the way Alice is coping is through internalizing her feelings.  She has some very deep-rooted feelings of fear that her husband will not return at all, or maybe he will return in very serious shape.  This type of internalizing behavior then starts to affect the adolescent, as he feels that she is overreacting, and he wants to shut that down.  This has created a huge abyss between them, as they are not communicating effectively, and there is some very real anger being expressed by the teen.   

            Alice then shares the fact that the relationship between herself and her son is very rocky.  She describes her son as being very angry and pretending to cope with another deployment, one of many.  She also describes her daughter as being more withdrawn than usual.  Because she has to play the role of disciplinarian, her son seems to reject her more.  I believe that this family overall is dealing with nonnormative stressors in that it is not an everyday event that you worry about your spouse, and or a parent, as to if they are going to die or not.  This increases the normative stressors that all military families are subjected to.  The normative reactions/stressors such as feeling overwhelmed with financial concerns, household duties, and parenting responsibilities can be powerful enough (Devoe & Ross, 2012).   

            I would instruct Alice that would could be fueling the anger that her son is feeling, and expressing on a daily basis is related to the way she is dealing with this deployment.  She is very emotional, and expressing uncontrollable sadness in front of the children.  Although she certainly has a right to those feelings, it is important how the custodial parent presents themselves to their children.  Individual therapy would be very beneficial for Alice, so that she has a safe place to express these feelings.  The adolescent cannot be expected to be the adult in this scenario.  One of the ways that I would suggest to Alice that might help her relationship with her son, would be to find an activity, hobby or even a sporting event that they both enjoy.  I would make a point to have a weekly event that they both participate in, so that they can see another side of each other.  At this point, her son is only seeing her as having poor coping skills, and also being the disciplinarian.  He does not feel he wants to be around her, and he also wants to rebel when being asked about household chores.  I would also make sure that both children, as well as herself maintain regular contact with her husband, taking advantage of whatever technology is available.  Possibly sign up the son and daughter for “Operation Purple” camp, which are summer camps for students with a deployed parent.  This can be accessed through (Siegel & Davis, 2013).  A primary care pediatrician working with the military can contact their “rear detachment chaplain”, the “family readiness group”, a TRICARE case coordinator, Military One Source, or the local Exceptional Family Member Program, for additional services.

            During times of uncertainty, children and adults often benefit from “The Three Rs”:  These are predictable routines, clear rules or limits and family rituals that can carry family members through unpredictable transition times (Gerwitz et al., 2011).  The three R’s provide a shared family narrative, which serves as a constant and expectable series of events in family life, which helps in reestablishing family equilibrium upon reintegration (Gerwitz et al., 2011).  I would also ask Alice if she was a spiritual or religious person.  Incorporating a faith-based intervention may also help. 

            I would also advise Alice to focus on goals instead of problems (Gerwitz et al., 2011).  Encourage your children by reminding them of what their strengths are, and that they are highly valued in the family (Gerwitz, et al., 2011).  Become involved in setting short-term and long-term goals for the family, which will encourage a more centered approach, and the feeling that you are trying to achieve a common-goal. Engage in discussions with them of how they have confronted problems before, and how they have successfully dealt with these situations.  This is ushering in a more holistic approach in that you are encouraging positivity into the mix, and this positive attitude will also help in the reintegration process. 


Devoe, E. R., Ross, A., (2012).  The Parenting Cycle of Deployment.  Military Medicine, 177

            (2). 184-190.

Gewirtz, A. H., Erbes, C. R., Polusny, M. A., Forgatch, M. S., DeGarmo, D. S. (2011).

            Helping Military Families Through the Deployment Process Strategies to Support

            Parenting.  Retrieved from

Laureate Education (Producer).  (2011).  Family counseling [Multimedia file].  Baltimore,

            MD:  Author

Ostberg, M., Hagekull, B. (2013).  Parenting stress and external stressors as predictors of

            Maternal ratings of child adjustment.  Scandinavian Journal of Psychology.

            Retrieved from

Siegel, B. S., Davis, B. E. (2013).  Health and Mental Health Needs of Children in US

            Military Families.  The Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family

            Health and Section On Uniformed Services.  Retrieved from

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