Just as service members can build resilience, families can also take steps to boost their resilience or “family fitness.” Family fitness is every military family’s ability to use physical, psychological, social and spiritual resources to prepare for, adapt to and grow from military lifestyle demands.
By helping family members feel more secure and connected in daily life, families can build resilience to cope with common military stressors like deployment, permanent change of station, combat injury and operational stress. This resilience also helps protect the psychological health of children who may struggle with change, fears or missing a parent. What’s more, the more fit military families are, the better able they are to support their service member.
The Department of Defense offers service-specific resources to help military families build resilience. Programs may vary by branch and location, and may include referrals to local community resources, outreach programs for families new to the military, classes in parenting or stress management, or help for relocating families.See the box to the right for helpful resources by branch.
Family Fitness Tips
- Physical. Exercise can relieve stress and help you and your family stay healthy. Exercising as a family can also help bolster family connections.
- Psychological. Have regular family dinners to talk about the day and strengthen bonds or talk with a family therapist about fears or concerns.
- Social. Get involved in activities through a local military family support group to stay informed and strengthen your social network.
- Spiritual. If spirituality or religion is a source of support for your family, stay with it. Whether it’s personal practices or support groups, the support of friends makes the going easier.
Service members and families can build resilience by using internal and external tools. Internal tools, like family traditions, dinners or game nights, are important for strengthening bonds. External tools like Family Readiness Groups (FRG) can be helpful during all stages of military life.
FRGs offer families a supportive forum for sharing experiences, tips and resources. FRGs also provide social activities to help people stay connected and positive, and they provide moral support to one another during deployments. For more tips on coping with deployment as a family, see the Real Warriors articles below:
- Preparing Children for Deployment
- Taking Care of You – Taking Care of Your Children
- Transitioning Through a Reunion
- United Through Reading
- Sesame Street’s “Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families During Military Deployment”
- Hooah4health.com, Deployment Guide for Families of Deploying Soldiers
- Families and Friendships, afterdeployment.org, Defense Centers of Excellence
- Families with Kids, afterdeployment.org, Defense Centers of Excellence
- National Military Family Association
- Healthy Parenting Initiative, MilitaryHOMEFRONT (For Leaders)
- Becoming a Couple Again – How to Create a Shared Sense of Purpose After Deployment