Photo Credit: Yellow Ribbon America
As another holiday season approaches, the stress of separation on military families can be overwhelming. Missing important life events like Thanksgiving, Christmas, anniversaries and birthdays can be stressful for the service member. However, explaining to a loved one why Mommy or Daddy can’t be there is the hardest.
Junior military families are at the greatest risk for alienation during the holiday season. Senior military families may have a support system already set up, but junior families will have to work through these issues for the first time. Both deployed and family members at home face similar challenges. Following the holiday traditions and possibly adding new ones will help keep a strong sense of connection to loved ones who are away.
While letters and care packages are always great, starting traditions that require interaction from both parties help create a real sense of connection. Recording a favorite holiday story and playing it back can make a son or daughter feel that their veteran parent is actually present during the reading. Creating an ornament and sending it home to be completed by family members can create cherished memories and keepsakes that will last forever.
In 2003, those deployed in Iraq may have been lucky to get a 15-minute call home if they were even able to get a connection at all. Now advances in technology for connecting family members with loved ones overseas are much better with programs like Skype and Google Hangout.
Being able to actually talk and interact with loved ones in real-time can go a long way to help relieve separation anxiety. Recording special events such as awards, graduations or the opening of Christmas presents makes service members feel like they are part of the celebration, making it even more special when they return home.
Family members and service members alike often find that they begin to distance themselves from the holidays when the pain of separation becomes too great. This will only increase the stress and loneliness experienced during long deployments. You don’t need to be alone, and indeed the support you need is all around you.
One of the most approachable members of any unit or community is the unit chaplain or local pastor, who can help even if you do not follow any particular faith. The issue will probably never be brought up unless you broach the subject. Being with friends and sharing with others are important factors that will help to maintain a sense of well-being.
The holidays are never easy in the military, but connecting with other people and asking for help when you need it makes the stress of a lengthy separation more bearable.
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