Article by By Heidi Smith Luedtke, Air Force Spouse
Life as a milspouse and parent can be overwhelming. At 8 a.m., all seems calm. But by late afternoon, the car has a flat and your emotional fuel tank is almost empty. Your spouse is on duty 24/7. Then – to make matters worse – your preschooler wets his pants (and the sofa), while your school-age child flatly refuses to do her homework.
If you don’t regroup right away, a full-scale mommy meltdown may pre-empt dinner. No matter how independent you are, no matter how much you truly adore your military kids (and we know you do), there are moments when you need strategies to keep the chaos from taking over.
Former Army spouse and holistic health coach Katie Slachciak found out she was expecting Baby Number Two right after her family PCS’d to Fort Hood, Texas.
This was just weeks before her spouse’s first deployment.
“My then 4-year-old son had temper tantrums that would often lead to emotional breakdowns,” Slachciak recalls. “He would do or say things he knew he shouldn’t do, just to get my attention. I knew it was serious when he told me he hated me! It broke my heart to hear those words.”
Experts say it’s common for kid chaos to escalate during transitions and separations, when the stresses of military family life may exceed kids’ coping skills. Kids most often act out with aggression, says family psychotherapist Fran Walfish, Ph.D., author of “The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with your Child.”
She notes many kids hit or become verbally abusive to express their anger and lack of control. Others withdraw from family activities and refuse to talk about their feelings. Teens may act out by using drugs or alcohol, or engaging in sexual or delinquent acts.
Although you can’t avoid life’s hassles and upsets, you CAN be prepared with an emotional management plan. In tough times, use these practical strategies to establish a positive environment, offer fun distractions, and meet everyone’s needs for connection and independence.