New Articles for Military Families

As about.com’s military families expert, I post several new articles every month.

If there’s a specific topic you’d like us to address here–or if you’d like to write a guest post, please let me know!

Here are the new articles for October:

Finding a Job After the Military
Making the transition from military culture to civilian culture isn’t easy–especially when you need to find a job using the skills, knowledge, and experience you acquired in the service. Here’s what you need to know to make the process a success

Preparing for Emergencies
Statistically speaking, military families–which tend to move a lot more frequently than civilian families–have a higher risk of experiencing some kind of natural disaster. This article will help you prepare so you and your family aren’t caught off guard.

Taking advantage of state military foundations
The federal government has many programs but they can’t resolve all the issues military families face. Fortunately, many states have their own military family foundations that can help. Here’s why you should strongly consider working with one of these great organizations.

Boot Camp for Military Spouses
Whether you’re a newlywed or an old pro, having a spouse join the military and start basic training can be challenging, to say the least. You’re a military spouse now, so here’s what you need to know–and the benefits that are avaialable to you.

Military Kids Suffer During a Parent’s Deployment

kids with deployed parents more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol

Dear Mr. Dad: A few weeks ago, you wrote about how PTSD after deployment affects spouses in addition to servicemembers themselves. You talked a little about how it affects kids too. But what about families where PTSD isn’t an issue? My brother is in the Army and he and his wife are both being deployed in a few weeks. Their two children, a boy age 11 and a girl age 13, will be staying with my husband and me. How do kids do during the actual time when dad or mom is deployment?
[Read more...]

An Uneven Playing Field for Parents with Disabilities

Dear Mr. Dad: My husband and I both have disabilities. He is blind and I suffer from a traumatic brain injury I received serving in Iraq. I’m pregnant and we’re due in about a month. We were both so excited, but a friend told us that there’s a chance we could lose custody of the baby because we both have disabilities. Now, instead of looking forward to becoming parents, we’re both in a panic. Is that true? If so, what can we do?

A: Thank you so much for your question. I often hear from parents with special needs kids, but rarely from disabled parents themselves—which is surprising for two reasons:

First, there are more than four million parents in the US who have disabilities and children under 18. Second, those parents are far more likely than non-disabled parents to have their children removed from their home or to lose their parental rights. Parents with disabilities are also more likely than non-disabled parents to lose their children in a divorce and they face many obstacles when trying to adopt.

I have to admit that this surprised me. I grew up in northern California, which has always been the center of the disability rights movement. And the Americans with Disabilities Act, which passed more than 20 years ago, was supposed to ensure that disabled people—including parents—have rights. But then I read an eye-opening report from The National Council on Disability (ncd.gov), called “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children.” The report shows that when one or both parents have a psychiatric or cognitive disability (which could include your traumatic brain injury), removal rates can be as high as 40 to 80 percent. In addition, “Parents who are deaf or blind report extremely high rates of child removal and loss of parental rights.” The report also tells a number of heart-wrenching stories of people with disabilities who had their children taken away and lost their parental rights.

he big issue, of course, is whether the children of disabled parents are more likely to be mistreated or less likely to be properly cared for than children of non-disabled parents. If the kids are in danger, I’m all for removing them. But the criteria should be the same whether the parents are disabled or not.

One of the best ways to determine how well parents do their job is to ask the kids. And that’s exactly what two researchers at the National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families have been doing for several years. Paul Preston and Jean Jacobs have interviewed more than 1,000 people 17-21 who were raised by at least one parent with a significant physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disability. Fifty-eight percent said their experience having a parent with a disability was positive or very positive. Thirty-four percent said it was mixed, and 7 percent said it was negative. Doesn’t sound much different from the answers kids with non-disabled parents would give.

Interestingly, most of the young people in the study said that having a disabled parent gave them some specific advantages over their peers, such as learning better life skills and resourcefulness, and becoming more compassionate and independent. Only 39 percent felt they had too many responsibilities at home.

Next, connect with other parents with disabilities in your area and familiarize yourself with your legal rights. Through the Looking Glass (lookingglass.org) is a great resource for all of that.

Dads in the Military: Supporting a Pregnant Wife

My wife and I are expecting our first child. The problem is that I’m in the US Marine Corps on tour in Iraq. I have been here since the beginning of the pregnancy and I might not be there for the birth of our child. My wife is having a hard time doing this on her own and I feel that there’s nothing I can do to support her. I’m reading your book, The Expectant Father, which I find very helpful. But do you know of any resources that are specifically aimed at military dads and/or their families?

There are over 700,000 children under five in military families who are separated from their father or mother. As a former U.S. Marine myself, my heart goes out to all of them. Here are some great resources you and your wife can use to get the support you need. And because I know many military dads will be reading this column, I’m also including some tips on staying in touch with the kids and maintaining relationships while away. [Read more...]

Military spouse of the year: And the winner is…. a dad!

A stay-at-home father of two has just received one of the highest civilian honors we can give: the 2012 Military Spouse of the Year from Military Spouse magazine. Jeremy Hilton, whose wife is in the Air Force, is the first man to ever receive the award.

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Dads in the Military: Bonding before Birth

I’m in the military and I’m going to be sent overseas for at least a year. The problem is that my wife is pregnant and due to deliver right about the time I’m supposed to ship out. I can probably finagle things so that I’ll be here for the birth of our child, but the year abroad is unavoidable. What kinds of things can I do to try and bond with our infant early on, before I am deployed overseas? Equally important, are there things I can do to try and maintain a bond with such a young baby while I’m away?

What terrible timing. Try to spend every second you can with your baby as you possibly can before you have to ship out. You don’t need to plan any special activities with newborns-holding, changing, bottle-feeding (either formula or breast milk), reading to her, taking her out for walks, etc–the most mundane and basic stuff but that’s what relationships are based on.
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