The Military Family Readiness System is a system of programs and services operated by the Department of Defense and other federal, state, and community-based agencies and organizations. The Military Family Readiness System enhances military family readiness and resilience and promotes military family well-being. Collaboration and integration across the system promotes positive outcomes for service members and their families across the domains of career, social, financial, health and community engagement.
The Military Family Readiness System supports every service member and family member, regardless of activation status or location, in person, by phone and online.
What services are available through the Military Family Readiness System?
The following services are available through the Military and Family Support Centers.
- Mobility and deployment assistance — Services are designed to promote positive adjustment to deployment, family separation, reunion and reintegration.
- Relocation assistance — Information, education and referrals can help prepare service members and their families for a permanent change of station move, including moving costs, housing options, spouse employment opportunities, schools, community orientation, settling in at their new duty location and much more.
- Financial readiness — Life cycle financial education and counseling services provide tools and information to help you achieve financial goals and address financial challenges. Topics include consumer education, budgeting and debt liquidation, retirement planning, savings and investment counseling.
- Spouse education and career services — Services include career exploration opportunities, education and training, employment readiness assistance and employment connections.
- Personal and family life education — Education and enrichment services focus on increasing resilience, building and maintaining healthy relationships, and strengthening interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
- Emergency family assistance — Services can promote short- and long-term recovery and the return to a stable environment after an emergency.
- Domestic abuse prevention and response services — Education, support services and treatment can help promote healthy and safe intimate relationships, reduce the occurrence of domestic abuse and address domestic abuse when it occurs.
- Child abuse prevention and response services — Services can help promote positive parent-child relationships, prevent child abuse and address abuse when it occurs.
- New Parent Support Program — Home visitation services are designed to help new parents adapt to parenthood, through education, playgroups, classes and access to books, booklets and other written materials on parenting.
- Exceptional Family Member Program support — For families who have special medical and/or educational needs related to the Exceptional Family Member Program enrollment and/or assignment coordination process, non-clinical case management and relocation support.
- Non-medical individual and family counseling — Short-term, confidential non-medical counseling services address topics related to personal growth and positive functioning.
- Transition assistance — Services can prepare separating service members and their families to re-enter civilian life.
- Information and referral — Provides a full range of support services, information, tools and resources available within the Military Family Readiness System to meet identified needs.
- MWR — Provides other resources within the military that contribute to the readiness and resilience of the force. MWR’s quality of life programming gives service members and families the opportunity to relax, recharge and have fun during their downtime.
How do I access services?
You can visit, call or log on to one of the Military Family Readiness System access points listed below. Regardless of your service branch or geographic location, you will have access to helpful support and resources. Military Family Readiness System access points include:
Installation-based Military and Family Support Centers
Installation-based Military and Family Support Centers are a one-stop shop for family readiness information and services. Centers are open to all service members and their families, regardless of the service member’s branch. Find your local installation’s center by visiting MilitaryINSTALLATIONS or the links below. Each branch of service uses a service-unique name for this access point:
Reserve Component Family Programs
Reserve Component Family Programs deliver family readiness services through facility-based locations, online and by telephone. While these access points deliver a limited number of direct services to members and their families, they can readily refer you to other Military Family Readiness System resources. Find your Reserve Component Family Program by visiting the links below:
Non-military community organizations that support military families are also considered a part of the Military Family Readiness System, as they play a key role in providing the services you need for everyday life. Your local access points, Military and Family Support Center, National Guard and Reserve Component Family Program and Military OneSource, can also connect you to other approved providers, offering services in your local community.
For MilParents, deployment preparation has an extra, important step — preparing your children for each phase of the deployment cycle (before, during and after deployment).
There may not be one right way to prepare children for a deployment, but you can use these tools, resources and methods to create a customized plan to support your family.
Preparing for deployment as a parent
Put your textbooks away. There is no by-the-book way to prepare your child for the separation that comes with deployment. Formulating a family-specific plan for your military deployment will take parental instinct, communication and planning. Here are some strategies to get you started.
Having a baby when deployed
Birth doesn’t wait for deployment to end. Whether you are the spouse of a deployed service member who has just given birth or a service member away from the magical moment, you still can be connected to each other and experience the delivery. Military OneSource provides strategies so you can stay connected to your growing family.
Helping children and youth deal with deployment
A deployment can bring out strong emotions in family members and cause stress and anxiety, especially in children. By understanding how preschool and school-age children react during deployments and by preparing ahead of time for this big change, you can make sure each phase of the deployment is successful. Check out steps to create your own deployment plan and tips for supporting your children through each phase of the deployment cycle. In addition to Military OneSource resources, Sesame Street for Military Families and Military Kids Connect have programs and videos for children and youth whose parents are deploying.
Helping families transition when deployment ends
Reunion after deployment can cause mixed emotions. While it is often an exciting time, some stress also is normal. Whether this is your family’s first or fifth reunion, each one is different and the change can be difficult. Be patient with yourself, your spouse and your children, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
No matter where you are around the country or the world, you can take an active role in supporting your child’s education. With communication technology and strong interest, you can keep up with their grades and stay in touch with teachers. Children tend to perform better in school when their parents are involved in their education. Set the stage for success. Let your child know that school and education are important — whether you’re home or deployed.
Plan ahead to stay involved
Make a plan to stay active and involved in your child’s education at every stage.
- Take advantage of Plan My Deployment. Let the Plan My Deployment articles and resources, including the printable list of pre-deployment tasks and considerations, help you manage your numerous tasks, including setting the stage for your child’s education while you’re deployed.
- Meet with teachers prior to deployment. Set up a meeting before you prepare for deployment so you can work out your plan for staying connected.
- Talk about how to stay in touch. Ask your child’s teachers before you go about the best way to stay in touch. It might be through email, a school website or even texting.
- Discover technologies. Find out what communication technologies you can access once you deploy.
- Use the school’s online resources. Department of Defense schools use GradeSpeed to keep families up to date on grades and attendance. Civilian schools may offer similar services.
- Take advantage of the EFMP & Me services. EFMP & Me can help you effectively navigate through the Department of Defense’s network of services and support for families with special needs, especially during deployment.
- Share when you want to be informed. Tell teachers what specific issues you want to know about, such as a low grade or an unexcused absence. It’s a good idea to let your child know what you’ve asked their teachers to share, and it’s also helpful to ask your child to share his or her school issues and concerns throughout your deployment, too.
Keep in touch
There are lots of creative ways to stay in touch with your child and support his or her education. Try these ideas:
- Stay in regular contact with your child’s teachers. Check in as frequently as your mission allows via email or telephone.
- Send a class gift. Pick up something special from the area of the world where you’re deployed. You’ll be the students’ favorite parent. If it relates to what the class is studying, you’ll be the teacher’s favorite parent, too.
- Ask your partner or child’s guardian for assistance. Your partner can be your “boots on the ground” for all things educational. Reinforce your partner’s role to your children, and set your partner or guardian up for success. Your child’s designated guardian can oversee homework, talk with teachers and help your child get to school on time. Discuss successes and challenges with your care partner regularly. If your partner or child’s guardian has difficulty speaking English, ask the school to provide a translator.
Find time during your deployment to work on strengthening your connection with your child’s school. Your commitment to staying involved can set them up for success in the classroom and beyond.
Your local school liaison is your primary point of contact for all school-related matters, including helping with your child’s education questions and concerns while you’re deployed. You can also contact Military OneSource to speak with an education consultant. Call 800-342-9647. OCONUS/International? View calling options.
In the military, stress happens. But too much stress can have negative effects on performance, safety and well-being. During deployment, it is especially important to know the signs of stress and to be ready with good stress management techniques.
Deployment Support for Spouses
If you feel the effects of stress due to your spouse’s deployment, check out tips, resources and articles specifically for you and your family on Plan My Deployment.
Know the symptoms
Don’t ignore the signs of stress. It can affect your performance and safety. These are a few of the symptoms:
- Problems sleeping
- Unusual irritability or angry outbursts
- Unusual anxiety or panic attacks
- Difficulty completing tasks or making decisions
- Trouble concentrating
- Signs of depression (such as apathy or loss of interest in things once enjoyed)
- Any unusual changes in behavior, personality or thinking
Nine tips for effective stress management
- Keep up the routine of regular meals, sleep and exercise.
- Watch your health. Drink plenty of water. Eat nutritious meals. Exercise and get enough sleep.
- Give yourself a break. Rest after stressful events. Learn relaxation techniques.
- Download the free Chill Drills app. This collection of audio mindfulness exercises was developed for the military community to help manage stress.
- Talk to others who’ve been there. You’ll see you’re not alone.
- Work to build trust with your unit, at home and within your community.
- Have a laugh. Humor can be a powerful stress reliever and can help you see things differently.
- Address your spiritual needs. Many find strength and calm in prayer. Discuss your concerns with a chaplain.
- Ask for help with problems back home, or ask someone on the home front to take care of stressful issues that may arise while you are deployed.
How to find help for stress
Stress is a physical reaction, not a sign of weakness. If you or someone nearby is having trouble with stress, get professional support as soon as possible to speed recovery. Here are some resources for stress relief. They’re confidential, won’t affect your security clearance, and are not reported to the command:
- Contact us at Military OneSource. We offer confidential sessions with licensed professionals at no cost to military members and their families — and we have helped many service members work through issues, including stress management. Health and wellness coaching is also available to help you manage stress by developing better diet, exercise and sleep habits. Find out more about Military OneSource’s confidential, non-medical counseling here. Or call us at 800-342-9647.
- Military and family life counselors are also available through your installation’s Military and Family Support Center.
- Combat stress control teams. These mental health professionals support service members on site during deployment.
- Your unit’s chaplain. Military chaplains can provide counseling, guidance and referral on many issues during deployment.
For medical help with stress:
You may be eligible for a referral for medical counseling services in your community through a military treatment facility or TRICARE.
- Therapy services may be available at your nearest military treatment facility or a local network provider.
- Your primary care manager can refer you to appropriate counseling, or you may contact your regional TRICARE office.
Remember, we all experience stress, but it doesn’t have to run your life. Reach out, take steps, take control.
If you are in crisis, or you know someone who is, there are immediate resources available to support you or your loved ones. Contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255.
A big part of staying strong while your partner is deployed is being positive. Staying positive can help make things a little easier on you and family members. Making the time for new and old friends can help relieve stress. The more connected you are, the better you’ll feel.
Find things to look forward to
Setting goals and getting involved in new activities are great ways to manage stress, as well as build a new sense of self-confidence and independence. Here are tips to help you stay positive:
- Stick to a routine: Consistency is important for everyone, especially children. While your partner is away, create family rituals such as Friday make-your-own pizza night to keep the family involved and excited.
- Set a money-saving goal: While your spouse is deployed, you can expect to receive extra money. Set up a system for saving some of that extra cash with your installation’s Personal Financial Management Program or call Military OneSource for financial counseling.
- Plan a post-deployment vacation: This can be something to look forward to and talk about with your family while your partner is deployed.
- Try something new: You can find yoga, cooking and other classes and activities at your installation’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation program. Consider volunteering. If you don’t work, volunteering provides an opportunity to serve the community, learn new skills and create lasting friendships. Your installation Military and Family Support Center can help you find opportunities on the installation and in the community.
- Treat yourself: Take time out for a relaxing bath, get a massage or find a babysitter and go out with friends.
Stay socially connected
Your comfort zone might be at home, but getting out of the house creates opportunities to see old friends and make new ones. Here are ways to stay connected:
- Visit your family: Deployments can be an ideal time to visit good friends or family members you haven’t seen in a long time.
- Connect with an online community: Consider joining an online community like the Blog Brigade. This blog is a place where you can get tips from other military spouses on how they stay positive throughout the deployment cycle.
- Network with other parents: If you have children, you can set up play dates with neighbors and kids from school. This gives you a chance to hang out with other parents, and potentially find friends you trust to watch your kids while you do something for yourself.
Find support services
Download the Chill Drills by Military OneSource app.
Keep calmness close by with simple audio drills designed for the military community to help manage stress.
Reaching out to others who are in the same situation can help. Talking with others can reduce stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. The following services support military spouses:
- Military OneSource’s health and wellness coaching: A Military OneSource health and wellness coach can help you manage your weight, stress and life transitions. Call 800-342-9647 and a Military OneSource consultant will register you and schedule your first session right away.
- Confidential non-medical counseling: Both Military OneSource and the Military and Family Life Counseling Program offer services for coping with deployments.
- Family readiness groups: These groups help connect you with other military families and give helpful information about staying positive while your partner is deployed.
- Support centers: Call or visit your installation’s Military and Family Support Center for a host of free programs and resources that can help with managing stress.
- Chill Drills: Tune into this collection of audio mindfulness exercises whenever you need to relax and reset. Developed by a therapist for the military community, this free app can help you manage stress anywhere, anytime.
One of the rewards of being in a healthy relationship is the emotional fulfillment it brings. Sharing a deep connection with someone can make the hard times easier and the good times even better. But it’s not unusual to sometimes feel disconnected from your partner. Work or parenting stress, along with the challenges of military life, can cause couples to drift apart.
When this happens, take action to reinforce your bond and strengthen it against further challenges.
Noticing when you are feeling disconnected from your partner
It might seem easier to ignore warning signs in your relationship than to do something about them. But if you don’t address them right away, they can quickly pile up.
- Reach out to your partner if you notice behavior changes. Avoid being confrontational. Instead, have a conversation about it. Be open with your concerns and ask your partner to do the same.
- Take a team approach to identifying the problem. Avoid the impulse to get angry or blame one another. Instead, work together to identify and tackle the issue.
- Focus on finding a solution. Write down your options for dealing with your problems. Talk through each one and consider moving forward on a path that feels right.
- Reinforce your bond by listing what you are grateful for. Seeking out the good in your relationship will remind you of what you love about each other and help you feel more satisfied and closer in your relationship.
- Have a conversation about your values and desires. Describe what is important to you and ask your partner to do the same. You might find you share the same values and desires, but define them differently. Talking it through will lead to a deeper understanding of each other’s needs and expectations.
Reaffirming your emotional connection
When you feel distant from one another, be proactive about strengthening your bond. Here are steps to take:
- Carve out time each day for conversation. Talking about your day builds closeness. Remember to give each other your full attention during your conversations.
- Set expectations for how often you will be in communication during the day. Prioritize quality of conversations over quantity.
- Mix and match time together. Spend time as a couple with family and friends. But also try your best to make time to be alone with each other. Even getting up a few minutes early to have breakfast together before the kids wake up will give you a quick boost.
- Resist using your cell phone when spending quality time with your partner. Put your phone on silent so you’re not tempted to check it.
- Get moving outdoors as a couple. Physical activity outside will boost your mood, translating into positive feelings toward each other. Go for a bike ride, take a hike or even walk around the neighborhood as a couple.
You can find more ways to communicate effectively with your partner in the article, Tips to Improve Communication in a Relationship.
Staying connected while apart
Military deployments or other separations can make it harder to stay connected as a couple. Take a proactive approach to staying emotionally close.
- Make a communication plan. Work out how you will handle obstacles like different time zones. List various scenarios you might run into and come up with solutions for each.
- Share an experience together. Watch a movie while on video chat. Read the same book and schedule a time to discuss it. Start a fantasy sports league as a couple. Play virtual games and use your favorite apps together.
- Send photos, audio clips or videos. This will help you visualize each other’s lives and feel closer to one another.
You can find more tips and resources for every stage of your relationship by visiting Military OneSource’s Re the We page.
If you and your partner need additional support, free, confidential non-medical counseling is available through the Military and Family Life Counseling program on your installation and through Military OneSource.
Non-medical counseling is available in person, by phone, video or secure chat. To learn more or schedule time to connect with a non-medical counselor, call 800-342-9647 or start a live chat. OCONUS? View international calling options.
You want your family to receive the best care possible while you are deployed. And a family care plan provides the information and documents necessary for a designated caregiver to help your family until you return home.
Family care plans
The family care plan is a blueprint that describes how your family should be cared for while you’re away. Although family care plans aren’t required for all service members, they are required if you’re a single parent, a dual-military family with children younger than 19, or if you have sole responsibility for caring for a disabled or elderly family member. You and your designated caregiver should work together on this document to be sure it includes all necessary information, including:
- Child care guidance – Expectations and schedules for child care, school and extracurricular activities
- Medical care information – Medications, allergies and doctor’s appointments
- Parenting responsibilities and challenges – Should include information on food preferences and restrictions, bedtime, discipline, religious observances and activities, social and leisure-time activities, safety precautions and allowances and spending
- Contact information – For friends and relatives, health care and other service providers, community resources and your unit
- Important documents – Location of documents such as wills, insurance papers and birth certificates
- Finances – Information on how the financial support of family members should be managed
- Alternative caregiver – Name and contact information of an alternate caregiver
Other important documents
Also keep these documents current and available to your designated caregiver:
- Power of attorney: This authorizes your caregiver to make parenting decisions on your behalf for a specified period of time, including decisions related to medical care. A POA is required as part of your family care plan.
- Military ID cards: Make sure each family member age 10 and older is registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System and has a current ID card. Caregivers do not get their own ID cards while caring for your family.
- Agent letter of authorization: Caregivers can access on-installation facilities to support your family members in their care, but they must have a letter of authorization signed by the commanding officer of the installation. You can request this letter through the ID card office at your installation.
For more information about documents your designated family caregiver needs, talk with a Military OneSource consultant at 800-342-9647. OCONUS/International? Click here for overseas calling options. The legal assistance offices on your installation can also help with any legal documents to support your family care plan.