For a military family facing the challenges of a deployment, preparation is key! Research shows that while many families experience stress throughout the deployment cycle, certain issues tend to be tied to specific phases of the process. To help families cope before, during and after a deployment, the Department of Defense (DoD) offers a wide range of support programs and services in areas from emotional readiness and financial planning to communication strategies and reunion. The programs are designed to reduce stress and help your family through all stages of deployment.
Your installation Family Support Programs may operate a deployment support program, leading you and your family through the three main stages of deployment: pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment (return and reunion). Installation service providers working within family programs are uniquely prepared to help you and your family get ready for and cope with the effects of deployments. They understand the military environment, the emotional and financial challenges families face during deployment, and all of the programs, services, and resources available to you and your family to help you through each stage of the deployment process.
Deployment support programming may vary by Service branch or location but generally consists of a variety of support and services including programs, briefings, leadership training, and information and referral. Programs may be targeted to service members alone, service members with their families, or family readiness groups. You can contact your local Family Support Programs to find deployment readiness assistance and obtain related information and support. Topics to be addressed may include the following:
- practical preparation (wills, powers of attorney, updated contact information, etc.)
- financial readiness issues such as budgeting, allotments, and credit card limits
- personal preparation, including education or training plans
- emotional readiness, including an understanding of the emotional cycle/spiral of deployment and children's reactions to separation
- communication plans
Before you deploy, your Family Support Program will likely offer you and your family assistance in preparing practically, emotionally, and financially for deployment. The center may address such topics as coping with separation, children and their concerns during deployment, preparing for reunion, and personal growth for spouses.
Family Support Programs work closely with other installation programs, such as the legal assistance program, the personal financial management program, and the chaplains, to ensure that you and your family are properly prepared prior to deployment.
Military and Family Life Counselors
Military and Family Life Counselors (MFLCs) are master's- or PhD-level, licensed, and credentialed counselors. Counselors are often available during pre- and post-deployment training, and can meet with you in libraries, local restaurants, or other public places to provide confidential non-medical counseling. MFLCs are there to help with life's challenges.
The MFLC program provides support for relationships, crisis intervention, stress management, grief, occupational hazards and other challenges military families face. Their goal is to empower individuals to work through their challenges, increase individual and family harmony and promote confidence in handling the stress of military life.
To locate an MFLC in your area, contact your installation Family Support Coordinator or the Coordinator assigned to your National Guard or Reserve unit.
Before deployment, your leadership will also provide information and deployment support through briefings for you and your family or through newsletters, unit websites, the family readiness group, or ombudsmen or key volunteers. They may address such issues as emotional readiness; communication; coping strategies; children and deployment; financial readiness, including allotments, savings, taxes, and credit cards; and document preparation, to include wills, ID cards, a family-care plan, and powers of attorney.
During deployment, Family Support Programs may partner with family readiness groups, counseling programs, or other forms of support to ensure that your family can cope with the emotional stress of a deployed loved one and can meet basic family responsibilities (day-to-day needs such as child care, paying bills, etc.) while the service member is away.
Your unit may establish a family support team to prepare you and your family for deployment. Family support teams contain key unit staff including chaplains, legal personnel, and human resources personnel. Teams may also include volunteers such as family readiness assistants, ombudsmen, family readiness group leaders, leadership spouses, and others. Family support team members can help with program logistics and identify service members and families who could benefit from deployment programming, marketing, and information/referral. These teams also ensure that all links in the chain between the command and families are trained to work together as a team.
To prepare families for the return of a service member, the deployment support program consists of various programs to provide information and resources to teach family members to help the service member make a smooth transition back to normal life and identify any potential issues affecting him or her as a result of the deployment. For Reserve Component service members, the deployment support program provides information and resources to educate you and your family about specific benefits and entitlements available during mobilization and deployment.
Return, reunion, and reintegration programs for you and your family should also be provided. Family members should receive reunion services prior to the service member's return. Follow-up services, especially for those having difficulty reintegrating into their family or community, should be offered. Contact your Family Support Programs for further information.