Staying Safe While Staying Healthy: Tips for Military Families

Two young girls cooking in a kitchen

Current as of September 25, 2020

The Department of Defense is committed to keeping you and your family safe 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. The coronavirus pandemic is no exception.

During this uncertain and unpredictable time, there are ways to promote the safety, health, and well-being of yourself, your spouse or partner, and your children — even if your family unit is feeling tested or strained. Emergencies, unexpected events and disruptions to our workplace and home can increase stress and put added pressure on our family and personal relationships. You may have increased anxiety about the health and safety of family members who are deployed, or worried about older parents who live far away.

To reduce the threat of COVID-19, we have all been asked to modify our habits and activities. If self-quarantine and social distancing have made you or your children feel anxious, stressed or even depressed, know that you are not alone. There are practices you can take to reduce your stress, increase your safety, and still allow your connections with friends, loved ones and your community to thrive.

Need More Parenting Resources During COVID-19?

You may be looking for new ideas for managing children at home during the pandemic. Try this updated list of extensive parenting resources.

Maintain your daily routine.

For the mental wellness of both you and your children, it is a good idea to stick to your usual routine as much as possible while homebound.

Going to bed and getting up in the morning at your normal time, sharing meals as a family, and sticking to an exercise regime you can do indoors or outside on your own, or with your kids or partner, are all ways to stay resilient. Sticking to a routine is also especially nurturing for young children.

Learn about creating and maintaining routines »

Take steps to promote child safety in the home.

If you have made the decision to self-quarantine, your family may not be used to being home together at all times.

To reduce risk of accidents or injuries to your children, take care to make sure any dangerous or potentially deadly items are safely stored, locked, and inaccessible to children. These items may include certain medications, chemical detergents or bleaches used for cleaning (for especially young children) or firearms.

Get tips on safe firearm storage from the Defense Suicide Prevention Office »

This is a new and frightening time for all of us, kids and adults alike.

There are ways to communicate the seriousness of the pandemic to your children, while taking care not to alarm them. Child development experts have recommendations for how you approach this conversation with your children.

Get recommendations for conversations about COVID-19 with your children »

Remember the importance of self-care.

Taking time to create daily rituals for yourself is a vital strategy to preserve and strengthen your mental health during this challenging time.

Self-care is unique to you, whether that’s a quiet bath, a jog, or even video-chatting with friends and loved ones. By making your well-being a priority, you are building the resilience you need to guide your kids and your family through this period.

Read about the pillars of wellness »

Talk to someone.

It is normal to feel scared and lonely during this time, even while at home surrounded by your children. You can strengthen your coping skills by taking advantage of Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultations that can help with communication, relationships and so much more.
If you are feeling hopeless or disconnected, there are a number of options for you to speak with someone who can help. A great first step is Military OneSource, where you can speak with a confidential, non-medical counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Military OneSource counselors are available to talk with you about any concern, big or small, and can also connect you with other helping professionals, like the Family Advocacy Program.

Learn more about confidential, non-medical counseling »

Seek help.

If self-quarantine and social distancing have made you or your children feel less safe, know that you are not alone.

If you are quarantined with a spouse or partner who threatens, intimidates you, or makes you feel afraid, call your installation’s Family Advocacy Program. Family Advocacy Program staff can help you think through ways to stay safe while staying at home, or plan to stay with a friend or family member.

Learn more about the Family Advocacy Program »

You may wish to consult the tips from the National Domestic Violence Hotline regarding COVID-19, or call 800-799-7233 to speak with an advocate, or chat with someone at thehotline.org.

The coronavirus national emergency and global pandemic is causing difficulty and uncertainty for everyone. The military community will get through this challenge together, and the Department of Defense and Military OneSource are standing by to help.

For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19:

For PCS-related updates, check Move.mil »

Navigating Relationship Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Girl holding a phone

Current as of Sept. 25, 2020

Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and it is impossible to completely clear your browser history. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 en Español.

The Department of Defense is committed to the safety and well-being of service members, their partners and families 24/7/365. The national emergency spurred by COVID-19 is no exception. To tackle the threat, public health leaders are calling on all of us to modify our behaviors, change our daily routines, and make sacrifices to curb the outbreak.

However, some recommendations, like social distancing and self-isolating at home, may be especially challenging for individuals who do not feel safe in their relationships with their spouse or partner, particularly if they live with that person. For some relationships, the added stress brought on by the pandemic, which could include financial implications, may also bring out unhealthy or even abusive behaviors.

Support is always available

No matter what your personal situation is, the military community has resources to support you. Whether you’re questioning your partner’s behavior toward you or looking for ways to manage your safety and maintain your boundaries at home, help is available and you are not alone.

Take time for self-care

To the extent possible, make time for yourself with daily rituals that provide you with mental and emotional space, even joy. Making your well-being a priority can help you build the resilience you need to guide yourself (and your children, if you have them) through this challenging period.

Stay connected with friends and family

While you are removed from your social network and community due to quarantine, be sure to keep in touch via email, text, phone, or other means. Maintaining these connections can boost your mental and emotional health, and also help to keep you safe.

It is especially important to stay in touch with loved ones while you are at home with an abusive partner. Check in with them every day to let them know you are OK. Make sure they know how to reach you in an emergency. You may also want to develop a code word or phrase that indicates you are in danger, so they discreetly know when to send help.

Be advised, however, that some abusers may monitor computer and cell phone activity. Learn more about safe internet browsing and practice those tips every time you browse. 

Learn tips for cell phone safety »

Create a safety plan

Even if unhealthy behaviors in your relationship have not escalated to violence or abuse, it is a good idea to develop strategies for finding space to be away from your partner. A safety plan is a personalized checklist that helps you to identify ways to maintain your welfare, your children’s and your pet’s if you need time and space apart from your spouse or partner.
Victim advocates at your installation’s Family Advocacy Program are available by phone to help you map out safe places to go, if needed, like a friend or family member’s house. If you already have a safety plan, consider calling FAP to connect with a victim advocate who can help adapt it to your current situation.

Find contact information for your Family Advocacy Program and Victim Advocate Services »

The National Domestic Violence Hotline also offers information on safety plans specific to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Get help in an emergency

Yes, it is important to self-quarantine during this time to the extent possible. But be assured that frontline professionals, including law enforcement, are available to help you in a crisis.

Call 911 if you are in immediate danger, or if your partner or spouse has threatened you, your children, or someone you know. If you are on a military installation, call your military law enforcement office.

If you are feeling panicked, stressed, anxious or depressed about your relationship while you remain at home, support and counseling is available.

  • Contact Military OneSource any time to arrange for non-medical counseling.
  • Call the support staff at your installation’s FAP. They are ready to listen and provide assistance.
  • Connect 24/7 with an advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 800-799-7233, or chat online at thehotline.org.

It is natural for all relationships to feel tested during an emergency or crisis. If your spouse or partner has made you feel unsafe or afraid, help is available through the Family Advocacy Program. Speak to a victim advocate to explore next steps, or call or chat with the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7, at 800-799-7233 or thehotline.org.

10 Tips for Safe Internet Browsing

Woman typing

Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and it is impossible to completely clear your browser history. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 en Español.

Most of us use smartphones, hand-held devices and computers without thinking twice about safe internet browsing. But every online interaction leaves a trail of electronic breadcrumbs others can track.

If you feel that your partner is monitoring your online activity, you might be right. Today’s technology has allowed for new forms of domestic abuse, by increasing:

  • Access to private information
  • Control over online accounts
  • Use of mobile devices to track a person’s whereabouts

Start practicing safe internet browsing today by following these 10 tips.

1. Browse the internet somewhere else. add
2. Know the Safe Exit button on Military OneSource. add
3. Avoid sharing sensitive information over email or social media apps. add
4. Log out of accounts, apps and forums. add
5. Lock your computer. add
6. Create new email accounts. add
7. Switch to private browsing mode. add
8. Clear browsing history. add
9. Clear cookies. add
10. Erase toolbar searches. add

 

For more information regarding technology safety, you may wish to consult this compilation of tips and resources from the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Inclusion of this information does not imply endorsement of the National Network to End Domestic Violence by the Department of Defense.

For more resources and support for surviving domestic abuse, contact your local Family Advocacy Program Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate. For immediate support, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

10 Tips for Safe Internet Browsing

Technology abuse — when one partner seeks to control how the other accesses or uses technology and the internet — is a common form of domestic abuse. This article shares 10 tips for safe and smart browsing based on best practices recommended for everyone’s cybersecurity.

Family Advocacy Program – The Essentials

Child hold cut out paper of family holding hands

The Family Advocacy Program, or FAP, is the Department of Defense program designated to address domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect, and problematic sexual behavior in children and youth. FAP works on every military installation where families are assigned, and supports service members, their spouses, partners and families to prevent abuse, promote victim safety and offer treatment and rehabilitation for healing after a traumatic event has occurred.

Learn more about how FAP works, how to get help and additional options for assistance in the event you, your child or someone you care about is impacted by violence or abuse.

How the Family Advocacy Program works

Relevant Articles:

Domestic abuse and intimate partner violence

The Department of Defense does not tolerate domestic abuse, and violence of any kind degrades military readiness. Through FAP, each of the military services is committed to promoting a culture of support for victims, and works with service members and their families to promote the rehabilitation of individuals who use violence in their relationships to learn healthy behaviors. Victim safety is always the number one priority.

Understanding the military response to domestic abuse

Getting help for domestic abuse and intimate partner violence

  • Use the Victim Advocacy Search Tool to find the FAP victim advocate closest to you
  • Call Military One Source to be connected to your closest Family Advocacy Program, 800-342-9647
  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-7233 or chat with an advocate at thehotline.org

More about domestic abuse and intimate partner violence:

Relevant Articles:

Child abuse and neglect

The Department of Defense does not tolerate child abuse and neglect, and is dedicated to ensuring the safety of every child in the military community. Through FAP, each of the military services works with service members and their families to promoting nurturing, healthy environments for children and youth. When child maltreatment does occur, FAP swiftly responds and works with child protective services, command, parents, and law enforcement to secure the child’s safety.

Identifying and reporting child abuse and neglect

Relevant Articles:

Getting help for child abuse and neglect

Problematic sexual behavior in children and youth

A new Department of Defense policy expands the responsibility of its Family Advocacy Program, to include addressing problematic sexual behavior in children and youth. Problematic sexual behavior in children and youth is defined as behavior, initiated by children and youth under the age of 18, that involves using sexual or private body parts in a manner that is developmentally inappropriate or potentially harmful to the individual or the individuals impacted by the behavior.

Identifying and reporting Problematic Sexual Behavior in Children and Youth

Getting help for problematic sexual behavior in children and youth

Medication Disposal Tips for Your Old or Unused Medicines

Service members at medical group pharmacy table

Getting rid of old or unused medicine is a tricky issue. Throwing it in the trash might pose a risk to a child or pet that finds it, and flushing it might hurt the environment. Keeping it “just in case” or for another time isn’t safe either, as expired meds don’t work as well and can even be harmful. Keep your family and community safe by cleaning out your medicine cabinet periodically. Take the following steps.

  • Read the medication’s label or the patient information that comes with it to see if there are disposal instructions. Don’t stray from those instructions; follow them strictly.
  • Take the medicines to a local drug collection or take-back program if your unused medications have no disposal instructions. Contact local law enforcement for an authorized site near you or find the nearest drug disposal location.
  • Follow the FDA’s simple steps for throwing most medications away in household trash if no authorized take-back site is in your area. Don’t throw the medicine away as is; instead, mix the medicine with coffee grounds before tossing it out.
  • Check the FDA’s authorized list of medications that can be flushed down the sink or toilet. Don’t flush any medicine not on the approved list.
  • Remember, these disposal methods can apply to over-the-counter drugs, too. Don’t think of over-the-counter medications as less important than prescription drugs. Treat them all the same when it comes to safe disposal.

Visit the Drug Enforcement Administration to learn more about drug disposal, national take-back events and locations of authorized collectors in your area, or contact Military OneSource if you’d like additional information on safe storage and disposal of prescription medications.

Expanded Access to Substance Use Disorder Services

TRICARE recently expanded mental health and substance use disorder services, including outpatient programs and reduced treatment copays. Keep reading to find out more about TRICARE’s new services.

FAQ and Resource Guide for Parents and Caregivers: Problematic Sexual Behavior in Children and Youth

Girls walking outside

Background

Problematic sexual behavior in children and youth is defined as behavior initiated by children and youth under the age of 18 that involves using sexual body parts in a manner that is developmentally inappropriate or potentially harmful to the individual or individuals impacted by the behavior.

A new Department of Defense policy expands the responsibility of the Family Advocacy Program to address problematic sexual behavior in children and youth. This change in policy allows the program to support families whose children or adolescents have exhibited, or been impacted by, concerning or problematic sexual behavior. It also allows the program to convene a multidisciplinary team to manage the coordinated community response to these behaviors, and recommend a safe way forward for all involved.

For Parents – Understanding Child Sexual Development and Concerning Sexual Behaviors

Learn more about child sexual development

Find ways for parents and caregivers to cope and offer more support

Talk with your children

Start early, and talk often with your children about healthy body boundaries to help them understand what safe and respectful interactions should look like.

Questions and Answers

What is problematic sexual behavior in children and youth? add

How can parents learn more about child sexual development? add

How does the Family Advocacy Program respond to PSB-CY and what kind of help is available?add

Who should refer concerning sexual behavior to the Family Advocacy Program?add

Contact your Family Advocacy Program to assist your child and family with:

  • Information
  • Supportive counseling
  • Specialized resources

FAQ and Resource Guide for Parents and Caregivers: Problematic Sexual Behavior in Children and Youth

Connect with support and resources for families impacted by problematic sexual behavior in children and youth.