“Why aren’t there any real resources for Army parents? There is an assumption that we don’t want to know information, or that we don’t care. We are not sure which. Do you know of any resources to help us out?”
Pat & Ryan Bryant, Milwaukee, WI
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Bryant:
Why the absence of resources?
There are some resources out there, but admittedly, most apply to military spouses and children. It is not that “they” do not think you care, but you are not in “their backyard” so to speak. Military families live on the installation, they use the military resources, and let’s face it what is in front of you is what you pay attention to. We think the old adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” can apply here. It is about time military parents become the squeaky wheel.
What do military parents need?
Soldiers and spouses have the means or know how to navigate the military system. If they don’t, they get baptized by fire by living it. But, parents need to know the ins and outs of military life too. Unless they are prior military they probably don’t understand things as basic as the PX or the commissary. They certainly don’t innately know how to read a leave and earnings statement (LES). They need to know how to support their soldier (and their family) physically and emotionally: things like how to understand the basic setup of rank and structure of the Army to things like what to pack in a care package.
What applies to spouses does not always apply to parents.
Author and military mom Sandy Doell told Tara in a interview once, “I found resources, but they did not speak to my needs. Military spouses are unique, they are a member of a team and they have a partner who is in the military. That partner that they share life responsibilities with is about to leave on deployment. Their needs are different than mine because I have my partner here. I don’t need to know how to hug a pillow in the middle of the night not to miss my husband, how to change a tire, or how to get quotes from a plumber. I needed to know how to get emotional support, how to support my son, and where to find all this information.”
What about being part of the family readiness groups?
The definition of an Army Family Readiness Group (FRG) does offer support by including extended family members as part of the FRG. The only issue is that their “content” does not always apply, depending on the situation. The most important advice given to parents in regards to FRGs is to make sure that your soldier is turning in your information and requesting you to get emails/calls and information from the group. Remember, that as a family member you may have to use Sandy’s logic above and hit delete a few times, because not all resources will apply to you.
Bridging the Gap
We want to point out that if you are a soldier or a military spouse it would benefit you to start explaining and teaching your parents and/or in-laws about this life. We know there are things we “don’t tell them,” but there is so much we could that we don’t. Make it your mission to educate them, for in educating them you are empowering them to understand and to educate other civilians about the military lifestyle and to better support you and your soldier in turn.
We were able to locate some great resources that are recently developed specifically for parents. This is not an all inclusive list by any means, but it will give you a great start on your journey.
- National Military Family Association (NMFA) – www.NMFA.org
- Vicky Cody’s Guide, Your Soldier Your Army, is a deployment survival guide for parents and spouses. Mrs. Cody turns her own 30-year experience as the wife and mother of Soldiers into advice and consolation for other parents with deploying children. Mrs. Cody covers the whole gamut of deployments, from the preparation through the endurance to the homecoming, and includes a personal view into Army life and an explanation of Army terminology. Download your free copy by visiting http://www3.ausa.org/pdfdocs/yoursoldier.pdf.
- Sandy Doell’s book, Mom’s Field Guide, is a wonderful compilation of information relative to military parents. You can purchase a copy of this guide at www.MomsFieldGuide.com.
- For new or possible military parents wanting to find out more about the military before your son/daughter joins up or before they go to Basic, check out http://www.TodaysMilitary.com/.
- A great article on emotional support and coping for military parents is located at http://www.Emilitary.org/fam1.html.
- http://www.MarineParents.com/ offers tons of support and they are open to all services not just Marines.
- http://marriedtothearmy.com/new-army-parents-guide/ has some great information for parents from the basics to the complex.