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In early December Reserve members from many communities in Maine will be called to 18 months of duty in Iraq. How do School Counselors help children and families deal with mobilization? Here are some tips from the Brunswick Naval Fleet Center.
As a counselor you can help support communication
within families by encouraging them to:
1. Discuss mobilization with each other, talk about how and why it is happening, and the changes it could bring.
2. Plan Regular Family activities - These activities strengthen bonds and create warm memories providing great sources of comfort during a separation.
3. Encourage Reserve members to explain the mission to family members - If authorized talk about where they’ll be and what they’ll be doing, and whom they’ll be with.
4. Express their feelings - Encourage the family to share feelings with one another.
Tips for spouses:
1. Follow normal routines
2. Keep in touch with others, visit friends, attend social events
3. Enjoy some personal time, read, walk, just do something you enjoy
4. Think “Safety and Security: Keep emergency numbers handy, lock doors and windows
5. “Treat “ yourself, do something special once in a while
6. Seek professional help if you’re having
trouble coping alone.
As a counselor you can help families maintain a
sense of togetherness by encouraging them to:
1. Write letters as an inexpensive way to communicate and letters can be read over and over.
2. Make audio and videocassettes if equipment is available to help know family members are healthy and to share events.
3. Share photographs. Laminate photos for the Reservist to carry with them.
4. Send care packages; they are a little bit of love from home.
5. Make phone calls but remember the price, write down key points to talk about and call during off-peak times.
6. Send kids artwork.
7. Utilize the Red Cross for delivering emergency messages.
No matter how prepared families are when the day finally arrives it will be hard. Intense feelings are normal whether they are feelings of anger or depression the first few days after separation. Routines are helpful in helping life become more comfortable.
Schools can be places of much comfort as they offer routines and consistency. Expressing sensitivity to then needs of children and families in the time leading to deployment will help both families and communities in this difficult time. Examine practices with an eye for the safety of students and the needs of families in precious moments.
As a counselor you may also be going through the same event with a spouse, child, relative, friend. Take care of yourself along the way.