Military and Veteran Families and Children
Military children are our nation's children. Living in either military or civilian communities, in urban, suburban, or rural settings, military children experience unique challenges related to military life and culture. These include deployment-related stressors such as parental separation, family reunification, and reintegration. Due to frequent moves, many military children experience disrupted relationships with friends, and must adapt to new schools and cultivate new community resources. Some children also experience the trauma of welcoming home a parent who returns with a combat injury or illness, or of facing a parent's death. Recent research reveals an increase in military child maltreatment and neglect since the start of combat operations and deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Research also indicates that although most military children are healthy and resilient, and may even have positive outcomes as a result of certain deployment stressors, some groups are more at risk. Among those are young children; some boys; children with preexisting health and mental health problems; children whose parents serve in the National Guard, are reserve personnel, or have had multiple deployments; children who do not live close to military communities; children who live in places with limited resources; children in single-parent families with the parent deployed; and children in dual-military parent families with one or both parents deployed.
Equipped with the right tools, military parents can serve as a buffer against the challenges their children face. Professionals in health care, family service, education, recreation, and faith-based services who work with military families can also help reduce the distress that military children experience, and can foster individual and family resilience. In part that means becoming familiar with the particular risks that can compromise a military child's health and development.
Care of our nation's military children helps sustain our fighting force, and helps strengthen the health, security, and safety of our nation's families and communities. Gathered here are resources about military families for caregivers, service providers, and children.
To find out more about traumatic grief and military children click here.
After Service: Veteran Families in Transition (2016) (PDF)
Millions of service members have made untold sacrifices for the United States during deployments to combat zones. Troops who served or are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, already numbering more than 2.7 million, are the most recent group to be making the transition from military to civilian life. The majority of them, across all ranks of service, are spouses with children. As the service member separates from the military and adjusts to veteran status, so does the military family.
NCTSN Military and Veteran Families and Children Training Resources and Technical Assistance: Supporting Military and Veteran Children Affected by Trauma (2016) (PDF)
The NCTSN Military and Veteran Families Program serves as a national resource for mental health providers, educators and policy makers supporting our service members, veterans and their families. Since 2001, NCTSN has increased our nation’s overall capacity to provide child and family trauma services to active duty, Guard/Reserve and Veteran Families and their children. Through strategic partnerships with key government agencies (DoD, VA, SAMHSA SMVF TA Center), the NCTSN has been able to assist State and community-based agencies become more military/veteran family informed, incorporate military and veteran-based screening tools, as well as provide workforce training initiatives on evidence-based prevention and intervention for military and veteran family and child populations.
Military and Veteran Families
This course on the NCTSN Learning Center focuses on US military and veteran culture, as well as the special issues involved with providing mental health care to military service members, veterans, and their families. Content in this section explores the wide range of work being done in military and VA behavioral health programs and with community partners who provide mental health services to military families. More than 30 webinars are offered in this course.
Child Maltreatment in Military Families: A Fact Sheet for Providers (PDF)
This fact sheet profiles child maltreatment in military families. It reviews for providers the key concepts, findings, and interventions that will support them in their approach to the care of today’s military family.
Courage to Talk Campaign
Courage to Care Courage to Talk is an educational campaign for hospitals and healthcare sites developed by the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS). Its goal is to facilitate and improve communication around war injuries between healthcare providers and families, and within the family, especially in talking to children. The campaign seeks to connect families to resources and providers in the hospital environment who can answer their questions, talk with them about their children, or address other family or communication concerns related to the injury.
Military Children and Families: Programs and Projects
Programs and projects in support of military children and families that work with the NCTSN to conduct research on, develop resources for, and provide assistance to military families.
Traumatic Grief in Military Children
Culturally competent materials for educating families, medical professionals, and school personnel about how to better serve military children who are experiencing traumatic grief following a death or loss; additional resources for families, educators, and service providers.
Military Families Knowledge Bank
The Military Families Knowledge Bank (MFKB) is an online database of resources for and about members of the military, veterans, and their families. MFKB provides access to a wealth of web resources on family functioning and support, social and government services, PTSD and traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and other issues.
Working Effectively with Military Families: 10 Key Concepts All Providers Should Know (2014) (PDF)
This brief tip sheet outlines the top ten things to keep in mind when working with military families and, for each key concept, includes links to additional information.
Interview with Dr. Harold Kudler, VACO
Dr. Kudler from VA provides an overview of mental health programs available to returning veterans and their families.
Interview with Dr. Robert Pynoos, UCLA
Dr. Pynoos from NCTSN shares some history about the NCTSN and military families.
NCTSN Military Families Interview with Deborah Gibbs, Ph.D., RTI
Dr. Gibbs provides an overview on the topic of child maltreatment in military settings Deborah Gibbs, Ph.D. and Maan dela Cruz, MPH
Interview with Nancy Kelly, SAMHSA
Nancy Kelly from SAMHSA describes her experiences as a member of a military family returning from war.
NCTSN- Stephen Cozza, MD Meeting the Intervention Needs of Military Children
Dr. Cozza provides a framework for interventions to serve the mental health needs of military children.
NCTSN- Kelly Blasko, Ph,.D. Voice of the Military Child
Dr. Blasko describes the development of Military Kids Connect website and use of technology to support military children.
NCTSN- Carl Castro, Ph.D. Combat Veteran Paradox
Dr. Castro describes the challenges associated with going to and returning from war for service members, including the many paradoxes that prevent getting help.
NCTSN- Parenting Challenges for Military and Veterans
Dr. Abi Gewirtz interviews COL Rick Campise and Mary “Tib” Campise about challenges to parenting among military members due to the stress of deployment and prolonged separation.
NCTSN Family Violence, Military Sexual Trauma, and Child Maltreatment
Deborah Gibbs, Ph.D., Lisa Jaycox, Ph.D., Kate McGraw, Ph.D. and Sara Nett, Psy.D. provide an overview of the issues of child maltreatment and military sexual trauma in military settings.
NCTSN Prevention Services and Treatments for Military and Veteran Families
Esther Deblinger, Ph.D., John Fairbank, Ph.D., Dorinda Williams, Ph.D. and Gabby Gadson describe services available for military members including evidence based interventions developed by NCTSN and ZERO TO THREE.
- AASA Toolkit: Supporting the Military Child
Guidance to help school leaders meet the needs of military children whose parents are deployed or in transition. Includes tips, fact sheets, a Q&A, videos, and additional resources.
Building Capacity and Welcoming Practices in Military-Connected Schools
The Building Capacity project is identifying and providing support for military-connected students by creating appropriate evidence-based programs, and assisting school districts and educators access resources to support military children.
Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA)
The official website for DODEA activities including Safe Schools Program.
Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC)
MCEC website offers a full array of training opportunities, continuing education, and community based programs for professionals. The MCEC Student 2 Student (S2S) program trains civilian and military-connected high school students to establish and sustain peer-based programs in their schools to support mobile children as they transition to and from the school. http://www.militarychild.org/parents-and-students/programs/student-2-student
- Building Resilient Kids
Web-based course for school administrators, support staff and teachers to help students meet life's challenges with resilience, focusing primarily on students from military families.
For Family Members
For Family Members
An online resource supporting service members, their families, and veterans, with common post-deployment concerns. Provides self-care solutions targeting post-traumatic stress, depression, anger, sleep, relationship concerns, and other mental health challenges.
- Your Soldier, Your Army: A Parent's Guide
Book in which an Army spouse and mother shares her experiences in dealing with the stress of deployment
>En Español: Su Soldado, Su Ejército: Guía Para Padre (PDF)
Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury
This website is an online resource supporting service members, their families, and veterans, with common post-deployment concerns. It provides self-care solutions targeting post-traumatic stress, depression, anger, sleep, relationship concerns, and other mental health challenges.
- Children of Military Service Members Resource Guide (2011) (PDF)
An online resource to assist families and healthcare providers in addressing the mental and emotional needs of military children. Identifies age-appropriate resources on community, deployment, homecoming, mental/emotional health, and moving.
- Living in the New Normal: Supporting Children through Trauma and Loss
Strengths-based program for educational and youth specialists that provides support for military children in times of uncertainty, trauma, and grief.
- Military Parent Information
Information and links for parents whose children are undergoing school transitions.
Military OneSource (call 1-800-342-9647)
Military OneSource is a free service provided by the Department of Defense to service members and their families to help with a range of concerns including money management, spouse employment and education, parenting and child care, relocation, deployment, reunion, and the particular concerns of families with special-needs members. They can also include more complex issues like relationships, stress, and grief. Services are available 24 hours a day — by telephone and online.
- Becoming a Caregiver for Your Adult Son or Daughter
- Guide for Helping Children and Youth Cope with Separation (PDF)
Created for parents, relatives, teachers, service members, and community members. Includes the effects of seperation on children and youth ages 7–18; audience-specific information, tips, and resources; and a reference list.
- Preparing a Child to See an Injured Service Member for the First Time
- For Veterans and the General Public
Resources on deployment, homecoming, women in the military, and PTSD.
National Military Family Association
An organization that is comprised of and works on behalf of military to "empower husbands, wives, and children to understand and access their benefits."
- 10 Things Military Teens Want You to Know (2008) (PDF)
Tips developed from a project that surveyed military children about their experiences while attending Operation Purple® camps, a national summer camp program for children of service members. Designed to help the people who are in the lives of military teens in managing the stressors and affirming the positive aspects of military life; includes resources to incorporate into readers' own activities, programs, and day-to-day interactions with the military teens in their life.
- Finding Common Ground: A Toolkit for Communities Supporting Military Families (2011)
Offers "easily-achievable action items and useful resources to guide anyone who wants to support military families, but doesn’t know where to start."
- The "So Far" Guide for Helping Children and Youth Cope with the Deployment of a Parent in the Military Reserves (2005) (PDF)
A publication of SOFAR (Strategic Outreach to Families of All Reservists) that provides information to help families understand and support children throughout their deployment experience.
- Operation Purple
A free, week-long overnight camp for children of military families.
- Resources for Wounded or Injured Service Members and their Families (PDF)
Our Military Kids
Provides substantial support through grants to the children of National Guard and Military Reserve personnel currently deployed overseas and to the children of Wounded Warriors in all branches.
- The "SOFAR" Guide for Helping Children and Youth Cope with the Deployment and Return of a Parent in the National Guard and Other Reserve Components (PDF)
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Inc. (TAPS)
Resources—including a hotline, kids' camps, and peer support programs—for those grieving the death of a loved one serving in the armed forces.
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences - Courage to Care Campaign
Electronic health campaign for military and civilian professionals who serve the military community, and for military men, and families. Includes fact sheets on timely health topics relevant to military life that provide actionable information. Developed by leading military health experts from the university.
- Helping Children Cope During Deployment (2006) (PDF)
Developed by "experts in military medicine and family trauma who understand the impact of delopyment on families." Includes Commonly Asked Questions from Parents About Delopyment, General Tips for Communicating With Chidlren of All Ages, and Additional Resources.
- Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF)
Resources from the VA for OEF/OIF veterans and their families.
Zero to Three
This ongoing initiative aims to strengthen the resilience of young children and their families who are experiencing the stresses of deployments, reunifications, injury, or loss of the Service member parent. The Duty to Care professional development training, sponsored by the Department of Defense and conducted by ZERO TO THREE, is a key component of this initiative.
- Military Projects at Zero to Three
Information for parents and mental health providers on the needs of very young children of military parents.
For Children and Adolescents
Animated video produced in conjunction with the United States Army Medical Command for school-age children with a family member who has been deployed. Copies may be ordered online.
Activities, games, and tips for children whose parents have been deployed.
An online community of military children (ages 6-17 yr old) that provides access to age-appropriate resources to support children from pre-deployment, through a parent's or caregiver's return.
Sesame Street provides much-needed support and practical education with Talk, Listen, Connect, a multiphase outreach initiative to help kids through deployments, combat-related injuries, and the death of a loved one. Videos, storybooks, and workbooks especially created for this program guide families through such tough transitions by showing how real families — as well as furry monsters — deal with similar circumstances.
- Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployments, Homecomings, Changes
Videos and other resources to help families cope with the military deployment of a loved one.
Materials to help pediatricians provide support to youth in military families.
Center for Deployment Psychology
CDP trains military and civilian behavioral health professionals to provide high-quality deployment related behavioral health services to military personnel and their families.
Defense Center of Excellence (DCOE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury
The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) was established in November 2007 to integrate knowledge and identify, evaluate and disseminate evidence based practices and standards for the treatment of psychological health and TBI within the Defense Department. DCoE is part of the Military Health System, which provides a ‘continuum of care’ – from initial accession to deployment to discharge. DCoE works across the entire continuum of care to promote resilience, rehabilitation and reintegration for warriors, families and veterans with psychological health concerns and traumatic brain injuries.
From the War Zone to the Home Front: Supporting the Mental Health of Veterans and Families
The Home Base Program in collaboration with the Department of Veteran Affairs’s National Center for PTSD is providing this free, CME-certified educational series to assist clinicians in the diagnosis and treatment of the silent wounds of war in returning veterans and their families. This on-demand, on-line educational series is led by nationally recognized faculty with expertise in diagnosing and treating PTSD and TBI with traditional and complementary evidence-based therapy. The faculty addresses the needs of military families and review how to recognize and treat the emotional stress present in spouses, parents, and children of veterans with PTSD or TBI.
- Caring for Kids After Trauma, Disaster and Death: A Guide for Parents and Professionals, 2nd Edition (PDF)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration
The military webpage of the SAMHSA website features an overview to their Military Families Initiative, as well as a wide range of resources to find treatments for PTSD and substance abuse.
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences - Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress
Articles, reports, research tools, guidelines and other materials on traumatic stress.
United States Department of Defense - Military Health System
A partnership of medical educators, medical researchers, and healthcare providers that works to ensure the delivery of healthcare to all Department of Defense service members, retirees, and their families. The MHS promotes a fit, healthy and protected force by reducing non-combat losses, optimizing healthy behavior and physical performance, and providing casualty care.
- Honoring Our Babies & Toddlers: Supporting Young Children Affected by a Military Parent's Deployment, Injury or Death: A Guide For Caring Professionals (2009) (PDF)
A three-part guide: (1) Working With Military Families in a Wartime Environment; (2) Situations That Families and Their Babies and Toddlers May Be Experiencing; and (3) Creating Respectful, Responsive Relationships With Families / Supporting Babies and Toddlers, which explores five key relationship-building strategies.
For Policy Makers and Advocates
Presents the multiple stressors that children of active duty military personnel, National Guard, and Reservists often experience during their parents' multiple deployments. Includes 2010 statistics on the 1.76 million children and youth in military families. Topics are: Impact of Deployments on Children’s Mental Health including mental health, trauma, and related problems; Role of Employment Status on Child Outcomes; Resilience and Importance of Support Systems; Inadequacy of Military and Civilian Mental Health Systems for Addressing the Problems Faced by Children and Families of Military Personnel; and Effective Public Policies Can Improve Mental Health Outcomes for Children of Military Families.
DoD/VA Clinical Practice Guidelines: Management of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Acute Stress Reaction
The guideline describes the critical decision points in the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Acute Stress Reaction and provides clear and comprehensive evidence based recommendations incorporating current information and practices for practitioners throughout the DoD and VA Health Care systems. The guideline is intended to improve patient outcomes and local management of patients with one of these diagnoses.