News: Preventing abuse while remembering sacrifices
Story by Spc. Samuel Northrup
FORT HOOD, Texas - The New Parent Support Program held an open play group for military children April 3 at the Bronco Youth Center here as part of the Month of the Military Child.
Throughout the month of April, there are a variety of activities scheduled for children such as playgroups, bowling nights, a safety festival, a board game night and more.
“The month of the military child is a time where we really celebrate military children,” said Melissa Mistic, a Fort Hood Family Child Care provider. “There is emphasis on the fact that military children are dealing with issues much different than those of civilian children. They are sometimes without a mother or a father for a year or more.”
There are variety of resources and activities on Fort Hood available for children of deployed parents, such as playgroups which help children and mothers get out and explore the local area, and develop healthy outlets for tension through socialization.
Promoting the well-being of children and focusing on what the children of service members go through are the two main points emphasized during these activities.
According to Melissa Scheller, manager of the New Parent Support Program at Fort Hood, parents can release some tension if they and their child get a chance to go out somewhere like the playgroups. Releasing tension can reduce the risk of child abuse.
“All of our activities are geared toward help, support and education,” Scheller said. “We want parents to know places to go to for help.”
“A big purpose of the playgroup is to be a sort of support channel,” said Scheller. “One of the things we find that helps a spouse the most with deployments is having at least one decent friendship.”
“If a mom with a 2-year-old comes in and meets another mom with a 2-year-old they might make that connection and find out that they get along very well,” Scheller said. “That’s someone to setup play dates with and spend your time with. They may feel they have no options or anyplace to go. If they have a friend, they will go out and explore the area.”
Deborah Fisher, a mother of three, agrees that the playgroup is a good way to meet other parents.
“I like that my kids have a chance to meet other kids their age and I get a chance to meet other military mothers who are looking for somebody to socialize with,” Fisher said. “The socialization aspect is wonderful.”
There are crafts and toys for the kids as well as people helping with the children, Fisher said. It’s a very stress free environment for parents.
The month of the military child addresses other issue such as making people aware of what a child goes through during a parent’s military career.
Military children have to cope with frequent moves and adjustments due to the military lifestyle.
“For young children, just moving their bedroom can be traumatic,” said Scheller “They get used to their space. When they’re young like that, disrupting their routine can really throw them.”
Some military spouses come across difficulties in getting their children to communicate with the deployed parent.
“I would get my son on the phone with my husband and my son would freeze up,” said Mistic. “My son would not want to talk and it really hurt my husband sometimes. So we started a family journal.”
“The journal was a way for my son to understand,” Mistic said. “We would write down his feelings and why he felt that way. He knew I was sharing that information with his father. Whatever his father would say would go into the journal. I could show my son that his father really did care, it made him feel better.”
Scheller points out that children of service members, as with all children, did not choose these particular lifestyles.
“I definitely knew what I was getting into when I married my husband, because we were both active duty,” said Scheller. “Even spouses have a choice. Kids are born into military life; they have no choice.”