"Are children resilient?" The impact of Domestic Violence on our military children.

For decades our military children have endured the mental health effects of deployments and war. With the rise of domestic violence within the active duty and veteran communities, today's military children are also showing the effects of abuse in the home. Children and youth who are exposed to domestic violence may experience mental, emotional, and social damage that can affect their developmental growth.

Deployments are playing an increased roll in the escalation of abuse in the military household. Both departures to, and returns from, combat deployment cause stress in families that can lead to increased rates of child maltreatment.

It is important that we learn to recognize the similarities and the trauma effects of deployments and abuse on today's military children, and seek appropriate interventions swiftly.

Trauma in children may appear as:

  • Changes reported included changes in school performance, lashing out in anger, worrying, hiding emotions, disrespecting parents and authority figures, feeling a sense of loss, and symptoms consistent with depression.

  • High levels of sadness were seen in children in all age groups.

  • Depression was seen in about one in four children.

  • Academic problems occurred in one in five children.

  • Thirty-seven percent of children with a deployed parent reported that they seriously worry about what could happen to their deployed caretaker.

  • Parents reported that one in five children coped poorly or very poorly to separation from the family unit. (NCCP May 2020)

Often times when a military family member chooses to flee domestic violence they are forced to leave everything behind and seek refuge in a community shelter. Child homelessness is often under-estimated. Current programs designed for families experiencing domestic violence tend to focus on the needs of the mother and pay less attention to the critical needs of the children. It is important to recognize, when a child experiences trauma, there is a relatively short window in their developmental process to address the trauma before it becomes a serious problem that affects them as adults.

This is why Operation Foxhole has teamed up with Colleen Marchi, the creator of the Magical Order of Brave Knights. The Magical Order of Brave Knights was created with the intent to help develop strategies to conquer separation anxiety and fears and replace it with happiness and blissful sleep. Our Brave Knights offer a military child friendship, devotion, love, and guardianship through the trauma.

Colleen has outlines tools for parents and caregivers to help children cope with the effects of trauma, but stresses, this is not a replacement to seeking mental health care for your child.

How to recognize and reduce child anxiety as a result of trauma.

Step 1

Sit down with your child and directly address their fears. Help your child identify what is scaring them or worrying them. This is a great time for us as a parent to just listen to them. Simply talking about their worry will help empower them.

Step 2

Come up with a plan to address the worry. Start with small things your child can do to face their fear, and slowly work up to bigger ones. The plan you make may take a long time to implement because those fears have been most likely brewing for a while and the avoidance behaviors are set. Make sure to validate and praise your child when you see them overcome something that was once scary for them. They will feel power and pride in themselves and it will increase their confidence to overcome another obstacle.

Step 3

Take time to breathe. Make a habit of it. Breathing is a great exercise to slow down the cycle of anxiety. Deep breathing exercises brings us to the present moment. It helps slow the physical responses to anxiety and helps the body and mind get back to calmer state. Help your child work through some simple breathing exercises, like these, so that they have a tool to help them control anxiety’s cycle.

Step 4

Keep checking back in with your child. Anxiety doesn’t end just because they overcame one fear. Check in on your child to see how their emotional and mental health is. Children won’t approach you and say, “I am sad,” or “I am worried,” so make a special effort to take care of their emotional health by playing a game with them or reading a book together. Then, continue to look for signs that the cycle of anxiety is returning.

Anxiety is inevitable when facing traumatic changes due to domestic violence, but it does not have to control your child’s life. In fact, learning to control and manage it can be tremendously empowering. Look for the signs. Know what to do.

Our mission is to ready a Brave Knight Ruck for military children experiencing domestic violence, but we can not do that without your support! A donation of $40 places a Brave Knight into the arms of a boy or girl, along with a drawstring carrying bag, Magical Order of Brave Knights story book, flashlight, and child sized blanket.

Please consider sponsoring a military child today!

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