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Long military deployments can weigh heavily on children

People who have volunteered to serve their country are going on increasingly long deployments abroad, and that is having a profound impact back home.

English: BAHRAIN (Aug. 26, 2009) Lt. Miles Hic...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the homes of these men and women of the military.

“A leading pediatricians’ group is highlighting the plight of children in military families in a new report,” according to an article on the website of HealthyDay News. “Tours of duty can last up to 18 months, and studies have shown that one in four children of active-duty service members has symptoms of depression. One in three children experiences excessive worry, and half of children have trouble sleeping, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics report.

These problems can be even worse when there are other psychological issues in the family …”

The HealthyDay News item was based on an article that appeared in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry also highlighted the special mental health concerns of military families.

“A family that loses the active presence of a parent through separation faces significant challenges and stress,” a report on the academy’s website states. “During the parent’s deployment, family members may feel isolated, unsupported and anxious. They may also experience financial stress. Media coverage of events can also increase concern.

“While most families and children manage successfully, it is important for parents to be aware of signs of stress and possibly serious problems. The responses of children to stress of separation are determined by their individual makeup and developmental age.”

“By understanding the military family and the stressful experiences of parental wartime deployment, all pediatricians, both active duty and civilian, and other health care providers can be the front line in caring for U.S. military children and their families,” Dr. Benjamin Siegel, co-author of the journal report, said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.

“In the past 10 years, more than 2 million children in the U.S. have experienced the emotional and stressful event of being separated from a loved one deployed for active duty,” the other co-author, Dr. Beth Ellen Davis, said in the same press release. “Most children cope and adapt quite well, but all children experience a heightened sense of fear and worry during a parent’s deployment. It’s important for pediatricians caring for these families to be aware of their family’s situation so they can guide them appropriately.”

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