Military and Family Life Counseling Program: What’s New, What’s Stayed the Same

Husband and wife looking at each other back to back

Current as of May 4, 2020

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program can help you stay strong through life’s challenges, including those due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. We will offer telephonic and video sessions in areas where face-to-face support is restricted.

What is the Military and Family Life Counseling Program?

Military families face unique challenges, such as deployments and moving. The Military and Family Life Counseling Program offers free, short-term, non-medical counseling to service members, Department of Defense expeditionary civilians, their families and survivors.

Non-medical counselors are available through one-on-one, couple or group sessions to help with:

  • Managing stress and changes at home due to COVID-19
  • Adjusting to deployment
  • Preparing to move or adjusting after a move
  • Strengthening relationships
  • Managing problems at work
  • Grieving the death of a loved one or colleague

What’s new?

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program now offers telephonic and video non-medical counseling. This is available in areas where face-to-face support may be restricted due to COVID-19. Contact Military OneSource for contact information and a warm hand-off to your closest military and family life counselor for telephonic or video non-medical counseling.

What’s the same?

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program is here to support you with free non-medical counseling by licensed master’s- or doctorate-level counselors. Sessions are confidential with the exception of child abuse or neglect, domestic abuse, harm to self or others, and illegal activity.

Counselors who specialize in child and youth behavioral issues are available to support children and teens with non-medical counseling.

Military OneSource also offers non-medical counseling by phone, live chat, video, or face-to-face where permitted. Children and teenagers may meet with a Military OneSource non-medical counselor by phone or video, as well as face-to-face where permitted.

How to get help

Contact your installation’s Military and Family Support Center to set up non-medical counseling through the Military and Family Life Counseling Program.

You can reach a child and youth behavioral military and family life counselor through:

  • A child development center
  • Your installation’s youth and teen center
  • Your child’s public school on or off the installation
  • A youth summer camp sponsored by your military service
  • Your commander or unit training point of contact

To connect with your closest military and family life counselor, call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 for contact information and a warm hand-off. Click here for calling options if you are outside the continental United States.

For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, visit Defense.gov, follow Military OneSource’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms, and continue to visit the Coronavirus Information for Our Military Community page for updates. Check Move.mil for PCS-related updates.

Healthy, Active Children and Academic Achievement

Child wearing halloween costume biting apple

We all want our children to enjoy learning, make good grades and achieve success. Nutrition and physical activity are linked to academic achievement, so making sure your children are healthy and active will fuel them to reach their academic goals.

A healthy lifestyle can help improve a child’s:

  • Attention span
  • Thinking ability
  • Memory

Here are some tips for making healthy eating and physical activity part of your child’s daily life. For more nutrition and physical activity help, contact Military OneSource online, or call 800-342-9647, and set up a specialty consultation for health and wellness coaching. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Your child’s nutrition

Hungry kids tend to have shorter attention spans and have difficulty with problem-solving, math skills and memory recall, according to studies from the Journal of School Health. Children need a nutritional breakfast of whole grains, fiber and protein. They also need snacks throughout the day that are high in protein and low in sugar to boost their ability to listen, process and remember what they are learning.

Visit these websites to get tips about healthy food choices:

Physical activity

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Physical activity can include school recess periods, hiking, dancing, playing sports, or walking to and from school.

Check out the following resources for ideas about how to keep your children physically active:

Boost your child’s social and academic success by making healthy eating and physical activity part of your family’s daily life.

When Your Spouse Has a Traumatic Brain Injury

Health specialist points out areas of magnetic activity in a brain displayed on a monitor.

As a spouse of a service member who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, you may be experiencing a range of emotions. It is important to allow yourself to feel every emotion that surfaces and attend to your own needs. Here are some strategies to consider as you prepare to take on your new role as a caregiver to your spouse.

After the injury

Your spouse may spend a few weeks and months in the hospital, which could be challenging for the two of you. In this phase of recovery, it may be helpful to:

  • Gather information. Learn everything you can about your spouse’s injury so that you can compare notes with doctors and other health professionals. Ask questions about your spouse’s treatment program and take stock of the various medical care providers that you interact with during your hospital stay.
  • Pace yourself. Don’t spend all your emotional energy in one place because a brain injury requires long-term care. Save your strength for the long haul.
  • Understand your spouse’s treatment program. Your spouse’s team of medical care providers will develop an individualized plan to treat his or her injury, which could require multiple hours of in-patient therapy per day.
  • Be understanding. Don’t take your spouse’s hostile outbursts personally. Some TBI patients behave angrily toward their caretakers in the first few days and weeks of recovery. This behavior is a result of the injury and not a personal attack.
  • Get help. Let your family and friends help you with the day-to-day stuff like taking care of your children, preparing meals and other chores. Make sure you get plenty of rest and eat healthy meals. If you need assistance, contact a Military OneSource consultant who will put you in touch with a trained counselor in your area. Consultants are available 24/7/365. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options, or schedule a live chat.

Understanding the challenges of TBI

Traumatic brain injuries vary from patient to patient. Some people experience headaches, seizures, dizziness, memory problems and difficulty focusing. Others symptoms include:

  • Chronic fatigue. Rehabilitation consumes a lot of energy. Simple tasks may be exhausting for your spouse, and the brain injury may be disrupting his or her sleep cycle.
  • Anger. Some patients may seem angry or frustrated because they can’t do simple tasks, remember things or focus on a project. Try to be patient.
  • Too much emotion. It may be difficult for your spouse to control his or her emotions. Help your spouse avoid emotional triggers by turning off the TV or radio during conversations. Allow only a few family and friends to visit at one time.
  • Insensitivity. Brain injury patients tend to make inappropriate statements in social situations. You can help your spouse by speaking about your feelings directly instead of using nonverbal cues.
  • Loss of focus. Your spouse may have difficulty organizing his or her thoughts. You can troubleshoot this issue by helping your spouse establish routines.

Taking care of your spouse at home

Your spouse will endure a long-term recovery process. Although coming home from the hospital is a step towards health, there will still be some challenges ahead. You might try these tips:

  • Adjust to changing roles. If you are trying to hold down a job while performing the bulk of the household duties, you might become overwhelmed. Be sure to ask for help. Consider going to couples counseling so that you and your spouse can adjust to changing roles.
  • Understand your spouse’s changes. Brain injury patients can look normal, but still exhibit emotional and behavioral symptoms that take longer to heal.
  • Let your spouse rest. Brain injury patients tire easily. Schedule outings in the morning when your spouse is rested and allow for naps during the day.
  • Treat your spouse normally. Giving your spouse some of the duties he or she had prior to going to the hospital will make him or her feel useful. Increase these duties over time as your spouse recovers.
  • Remember what you have together. As you and your spouse adjust to the “new normal,” take time to nurture your relationship: remind each other of what you most admire in each other, or look through photos of special memories.
  • Find a TBI survivors group. Meeting other couples in similar situations can be very helpful. Connect with other families by attending a TBI survivors group.

For more information about TBI, visit the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury website. They offer a variety of Family & Caregiver resources, including a comprehensive downloadable caregiver’s guide. Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide for Caregivers of Service Members and Veterans includes:

  • Comprehensive lists of medical terms and diagrams
  • Charts to help keep track of medical providers and medications
  • Worksheets to help coordinate caregivers and tasks
  • Helpful suggestions about what kinds of behavior to expect and how best to respond
  • Encouraging stories from other caregivers, and more.

When your spouse suffers a traumatic brain injury, your life will be impacted in ways you didn’t expect. Recovery can be challenging, as it requires large doses of patience and understanding. By educating yourself on TBI and using the tips listed in this article, you can better navigate through this phase of your lives and adjust to your new normal.

Pre-K to 12 Education – The Essentials

American flag

Supporting a child’s education is one of your most important responsibilities as a parent. By cultivating a love of learning and knowledge at a young age, you put your child on a path for success so they can open doors to endless future opportunities. Military OneSource helps you build a strong foundation of learning for your child. This includes nurturing learning at home, building a relationship with your child’s school and tapping into the support and resources of your military community – all to help you help your child succeed.

Support your child’s education with these four steps:

Connect with your child’s school.

Your relationship with the school demonstrates to your child and the school’s staff the importance you attach to education. Even if you relocate often or are temporarily deployed, you can build a relationship with the school by meeting the teachers, volunteering, attending school events or joining a parent group.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Nurture learning at home.

Learning doesn’t stop when the school day ends. A child absorbs as much or more at home and through his or her experiences as through a textbook. To encourage learning at home, establish a routine to keep kids on schedule with their homework and provide plenty of praise for a job well done.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Reach out to experts.

Education consultants can assist you with questions about your child’s education. These one-on-one sessions are free, confidential, and can provide you with referrals to in-home tutors and tutoring centers in your area, as well as public and private school information. Call 800-342-9647 at any time to schedule an appointment. International? Click here for overseas calling options.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Start learning young.

The Head Start program teaches reading, math and other developmental skills to children 5 and younger before they start school. If you are stationed overseas, Sure Start is open to command-sponsored military children who meet specific age requirements and other criteria. Starting early means laying a foundation for lifelong learning and success in school.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Supporting your child’s education requires time, commitment and the right information. Education consultations give you the chance to have your questions answered by a professional and receive referrals to services that meet your needs. These one-on-one consultations are free and confidential. Contact Military OneSource’s education consultants today.

Keeping Your Child Healthy and Engaged Over the Summer

Children running outside

A little leisure is much needed when school lets out, but children with special needs thrive with a little structure. It’s beneficial to maintain a routine during the summer as a way to keep your child learning and developing healthy habits.

Here are a few ideas to help your child with special needs have a healthy and happy summer:

  • Seek out a summer program. Check your installation, local schools, recreation centers and other community-based organizations for programs on topics that might interest your child.
  • Enjoy a book. Whether reading with younger children or encouraging older children to read on their own, summer reading can help keep brains engaged and study habits fresh. Turn to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library for a wealth of resources.
  • Take a field trip. Visit parks, museums, zoos or nature centers for low-cost educational opportunities for your entire family.
  • Count, track and measure. Find fun ways to incorporate numbers into everyday tasks. Measure items around the house or track daily temperatures. Go to the grocery store and practice adding, subtracting or multiplying the prices of items.
  • Think ahead. Check with your child’s school to see if there are summer packets of math and reading skills activities to help prepare for the next school year.
  • Get moving. Don’t forget to schedule time for your child to play and burn off energy with some sunshine and exercise.
  • Eat healthy snacksA healthy diet is just as important in the summer as it is during the school year. Keep plenty of fruits and vegetables on hand to encourage good snack habits.
  • Recharge. Keep a regular summer bedtime to make sure your child is getting enough sleep.

Helping children stay engaged academically and physically throughout the summer helps set them up for success in the new school year. Contact your local Exceptional Family Member Program Family Support provider and look for a Parent Training and Information Center near you to see what types of summer programs are available to your family.

Understanding and Dealing With Combat Stress and PTSD

Service member relaxing

Combat stress, also known as battle fatigue, is a common response to the mental and emotional strain that can result from dangerous and traumatic experiences. It is a natural reaction to the wear and tear of the body and mind after extended and demanding operations.

Recognizing combat stress and stress symptoms

It can be difficult to detect combat stress because the symptoms include a range of physical, behavioral and emotional signs. However, there are some key symptoms, which include:

  • Irritability and anger outbursts
  • Excessive fear and worry
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Depression and apathy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Problems sleeping
  • Changes in behavior or personality

How to deal with combat stress

It is important not to blame yourself or a family member for experiencing combat stress. It has nothing to do with weakness or a character flaw. Like an overused muscle, the brain simply needs to heal from too much exposure to trauma and stress. Here are a few steps you can take to recover:

  • Attend to your health. Stress can be an important signal that we are overextending our bodies. It is important to stop and attend to the body’s needs by eating right, exercising and getting adequate rest.
  • Rest. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Sleep restores the body and can protect you from the negative consequences of too much stress.
  • Reach out for help. Working with a counselor can be very helpful in identifying some thoughts and behaviors that might be worsening your stress. A trained expert can also share some strategies that will promote positive health. Military OneSource confidential non-medical counseling provides service members and their loved ones with resources and support to address a variety of issues and build important skills to tackle life’s challenges. Consultants are available 24/7/365. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options, or schedule a live chat.

    If you feel as though you are in crisis, or know anyone who is in crisis, please call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, and press 1.

  • Practice relaxation techniques. You can decrease stress and build resilience by learning how to relax and pay attention to positive things. Do things during the day that you enjoy – listen to music, take a walk, remind yourself of things you are grateful for, and use your sense of humor. Simple breathing exercises can also release stress by relaxing the central nervous system. Check out these Department of Defense recommended wellness apps, and resilience tools. These mobile applications are free and for iOS and/or Android devices.

Combat stress or PTSD?

Combat stress is often confused with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, which can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event like war, assault or disaster. While many of the symptoms are similar between the two conditions, they are different.

Combat stress usually happens for brief periods of time and is considered a natural reaction to the traumatic events that service members experience. Symptoms often disappear after a service member is home for a few months, or even weeks.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, on the other hand, is more severe. It can often interfere with a person’s daily responsibilities and demands a more aggressive treatment. PTSD usually requires sessions with a mental health professional and methods to process difficult emotions.

A person diagnosed with PTSD often experiences specific symptoms – such as recurrent dreams or flashbacks – following a traumatic event as part of the combat experience.

In summary, PTSD tends to be more severe and usually requires working with a mental health professional. Combat stress is a more common reaction to demanding and traumatic experiences. Service members can usually recover and resume their everyday lives by following some simple strategies and taking time to heal.

4 Tips for Transition and Career Success

Service member looking into sunset

Making the transition into civilian life is exciting but does take preparation. Make sure you are well-prepared by following these four tips.

Receive personalized support for your transition.

Military OneSource assists in easing transition stress with our specialty consultation for transitioning veterans.

  1. Maximize your individual transition plan: Make the most of your individual transition plan. Your ITP is your transition road map, and you will develop one during pre-separation counseling. If used correctly, your ITP will help guide you through tough decisions like your next career move, meeting your financial goals or continuing your education. Develop your plan with care and thought toward your goals and objectives for any areas of your life affected by the transition. Update and refine action steps to help keep you focused on your goals.
  2. Stay motivated: Bring your “can-do” attitude to this next step in life. Approach civilian life with the same strength, curiosity and courage with which you carried out your military mission.
  3. Practice networking: Transition assistance programs emphasize the importance of networking for your job search and career development. Networking simply means talking to people about your career goals. Seek out people who may be able to help you with advice, job leads and contacts, and let them know about your skills and employment goals. For helpful tips on networking, visit the Department of Labor sponsored CareerOneStop website.
  4. Show confidence: Take time to recognize and appreciate the scope of knowledge, skills and abilities you acquired in the military. It will be easier to present yourself to any prospective employer when you show confidence in your military experience. Not only do you have exceptional technical skills and training, you’ve also mastered the military traits of good discipline, teamwork, leadership and the ability to put mission first. Employers value these qualities in applicants regardless of the nature of the work.

Practice these four simple steps to help boost your personal and career development and ease your transition from military to civilian life.

Staying Financially Fit With Financial Assistance, Counseling and Resources

Hands taking notes holding phone

Current as of Nov. 24, 2020


Your military member is trained to stay focused on the mission at hand. But personal and family concerns can make that hard to do. And financial hardship is one common stressor that is on the rise.

If your service member has seen a drop in family income due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, is struggling with managing a paycheck for the first time, or is facing money troubles for other reasons, help is available. This includes service members and their immediate family having access to free resources such as financial counseling and emergency financial assistance.

Emergency relief for service members

When money is already tight, a job loss, costly car repair or other unexpected expense can increase debt quickly. But service members who are struggling to pay the rent or utilities may qualify for short-term help.

Each branch of the service has an emergency relief organization. Depending on the circumstances, these organizations provide interest-free loans, grants or a combination of both:

Financial counseling can help now and for the future

Free financial counseling is available virtually through Military OneSource, and in person through installation programs. Financial counselors are experts in money management and are familiar with the issues that service members face. They can help your service member:

  • Come up with a plan to pay back debt
  • Take steps to resolve credit problems through referrals to appropriate military and civilian resources
  • Create a budget and control spending
  • Save for short- and long-term goals such as buying a car or home, or saving for college

Learn more about free financial management counseling options through Military OneSource.

Your service member can schedule one-on-one financial counseling through:

Free financial education builds knowledge

Military OneSource and installations offer free financial management classes, seminars, online tools and more. Your service member can check the installation’s Financial Readiness Management Programs to see what’s available. There are virtual options, too, including:

  • Money Matter courses. These 45-minute courses were developed by financial experts who understand military life. Topics cover car-buying strategies, consumer credit, developing a spending plan, investing in your future and moving in the military.
  • Consumer, business and financial publications are free for your service member through the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library. Publications include Consumer Reports, Business Plan Builder, Entrepreneurship, Morningstar Investment Research Center and Weiss Financial Ratings.

Financial protections for service members

Your service member makes many sacrifices to serve our country. Financial hardships due to the demands of active duty or unethical lenders should not be among them. That’s why the federal government has added a layer of financial protection specifically for military members.

  • The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides service members with financial and legal protections for financial hardships brought on by the demands of active duty. These range from interest rate reductions to eviction protection.
  • The Military Lending Act protects service members and their families from predatory lenders who charge high interest rates and fees.

Help your service member stay mission ready and financially fit with the help of these free resources. Your service member can find more financial tools, information and resources, including military pay charts and calculators, on Military OneSource’s Personal Finances in the Military page.

Your service member doesn’t have to face financial hardship alone. Free information, resources and counseling are available.