|Sesame Street Family Connections offers videos and
resources to help kids understand a variety of life-changing
events like a family member's deployment and return.
Families of active service members make adjustments when their loved one is called to serve, but further adjustments are often required when the family reunites after a call of duty. A 2009 survey of veterans recently returned from combat who were referred for a mental health evaluation discovered that a sense of distance between the veteran and the rest of the family was common: Some veterans felt like a guest in their home while others felt like their children might be avoiding them.
Some families don’t reunite. The Army’s Medical Health Advisory Team surveyed married junior enlisted officers in 2008 and found that after 15 months of deployment, almost 30 percent were planning divorce or separation. According to data compiled by the Associated Press, divorce rates in the Marine Corps and Army have increased. There are fewer recent statistics about divorce rates after leaving active duty, but the National Center for PTSD cites studies of Vietnam Veterans which found that rates of divorce were much higher than among the general population. This may be related to PTSD and associated problems with intimacy or caregiver stresses.
If a veteran has returned with a disability, the family’s finances may be affected while caregivers’ responsibilities are further stretched by the complicated claim system. Yet with help, many veterans can access VA-backed loans, educational benefits, employment assistance and even educational benefits for dependents that can help get their families back on track.
Research is beginning to confirm what many families already know—partners and children of veterans can be affected by the adult’s PTSD in what is known as secondary traumatization. They may also be more likely to exhibit symptoms like anxiety and aggression.
Families, partners and children sometimes need to seek help from people who are familiar with post-service reintegration and who can help them find a new definition of “normal,” if necessary. The Veterans’ Families United Foundation has a chart designed to help veterans and their families understand “veteran readjustment behaviors,” or adaptive behaviors from active service which are now causing the veteran problems in the civilian world. The National Center for PTSD has resources for families at all stages, including the Returning from the War Zone Guide, available as a video and in a print version. By taking care of themselves they will be more able to in order to support their veteran and make use of resources that can benefit the whole family.
NAMI's Family-to-Family Educational Program partners with the VA to reach veterans' families.
NAMI's Family-to-Family Education Program
NAMI's Family-to-Family Education Program is a free, 12-week course for family caregivers of individuals with severe mental illness.
Army Long-term Family Case Management
This call center and website offer long-term assistance to those who have lost a loved one who was a service member. They provide information about Social Security, VA and death benefits as well as lists of local programs for children and other kinds of support.
Teaching Resiliency to Military Families
This article from U.S. Medicine discusses the possibility of helping families deal with trauma by teaching coping skills.
PTSD and the Family
This fact sheet on family coping is from the National Center for PTSD.
Coming Home: Adjustments for Military Families
This is one of several fact sheets designed for military families from the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry.
Veterans Administration Centers for Family Support
The Veterans Administration offers family support through centers throughout the country.
Returning from the War Zone: A Guide for Families of Military Members
This reintegration guide was written by the experts at the National Center for PTSD.
Coming Home Project
This nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing compassionate expert care, support, education and stress management tools for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, service members and their families.
Quality of Life Project
This project serves the families of our severely injured combat service members.
NAMI's Child and Adolescent Action Center
NAMI's Child and Adolescent Action Center is NAMI's resource for information on child and adolescent mental health care.
The “SOFAR” Guide for helping Children and Youth cope with the deployment and return of a Parent in the National Guard or other Reserve Components
This guide, designed to help Reservists, parents, teachers and pediatricians support children whose parents are deployed, contains a number of valuable insights into the emotional experience of a military child.
Gold Star Wives
Gold Star Wives is a nonprofit membership organization for people who have lost spouses in the military. They offer local chapters, memorial programs, support and benefit information.
Society of Military Widows
The Society of Military Widows is a nonprofit membership advocacy and support organization. They provide information about benefits, supports and networking via local chapters.
Comfort Zone Camp
Comfort Zone Camp provides grief support weekend camps for children ages 7 to17 and offers special programs for children in military families.
TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors)
TAPS offers support for survivors: peer support as well as 24-hour crisis intervention. They also provide information about benefits and other services, survivor seminars, camps for children and online chat.
General Sources for Support
The American Legion
The American Legion is a national community service organization with leadership and community programs across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Mexico, France and the Philippines.
AMVETS provides information, counseling and claims service to all honorably discharged veterans and their families concerning benefits. They are also involved in community service and advocacy.
Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
This organization is led by disabled veterans who are focused on building better lives for disabled veterans and their families.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is the nation's first and largest group dedicated to the troops and veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Veterans of Foreign Wars
Veterans of Foreign Wars is an organization for veterans with 2.3 million members in approximately 8,400 posts worldwide.
Veterans Service Organizations
A comprehensive list of congressionally chartered veterans service organizations, updated and maintained by the VA.