Military deployments can take their toll on families, especially children. Part of the difficulty stems from the instability that naturally accompanies this level of stress, states Mona Johnson, with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Washington State. One way children react to stress is to exhibit violent behavior.
When a child has a parent in military deployment, the child has a higher chance of participating in school fights, carrying a weapon and gang involvement, states the American Public Health Association. Statistics include children of both genders, with girls exhibiting two times greater risk of carrying a weapon.
Some children may be at a higher risk for excessive stress and negative responses, states the North Carolina Public Schools website. If a child has suffered previous emotional or social issues, the difficulty of a deployment may raise the stress to levels that become hard to manage for a child. In addition, a family that functions in a disorganized manner or that has struggled with other issues or problems may not support a child effectively throughout deployment.
Symptoms of excessive stress in children include prevailing sadness that doesn’t resolve after six weeks of deployment, depression, withdrawal, violent thoughts, violent writing or drawing, self-harm, intentional harm to others, angry outbursts and recklessness. A child may also communicate intense worry, show separation anxiety and begin to show rebellious behavior if the stress mounts to unhealthy levels.
During deployment, a youngster needs adult support to help her work through the myriad feelings and emotions, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Maintain an active connection with your child every day – staying involved and available to answer questions and talk about concerns. It may help to provide a child with opportunities to spend time with other children experiencing deployment so your little one knows she isn't alone in her situation. Maintain as much composure and strength as you can for your child to witness. Because children often imitate and mirror parental example, if your child sees you having difficulty coping, your child may also have a harder time. If your support for your child does not alleviate the violent behavior, have her assessed by a professional to get help.
- Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Washington State: Supporting Military Kids During Deployment
- American Public Health Association: Children of Deployed Military at Greater Risk of Engaging in Violent Behavior
- North Carolina Public Schools: How Deployment Affects Families
- Healthy Children.org: Deployment and Children
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