Help for the Stresses of Military Life – FOCUS (Families Over Coming Under Stress) – DoD Roundtable

I have a love for military families! It came from so many years of observing them enjoy life around the globe! Young spouses, children, teenagers, couples, the entire spectrum have a zest for life! For my kids they became the aunts/uncles and cousins that always seemed so far away! The good neighbors that watched our pets while we were on leave. Military kids are not really “brats” but they like that moniker I think. It is a bit edgy! But, they know how to stand for the national anthem and when to be respectful. Military families serve our country in many unique ways and sometimes due to this service they need our help! Today I had the opportunity to discuss a Navy program, Project FOCUS (Families Over Coming Under Stress) developed by Ms. Kirsten Woodward, Director of Family Programs Division, Bureau of Navy Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) during a DoD Bloggers Roundtable. I must say I was impressed with the assistance this program offers to military families! Identified as a best practice, FOCUS, has been expanded from the Navy into pilot programs at four Air Force and four Army installations. While teaming with contractors from UCLA, FOCUS has served 97,000 parents, children and community leaders at ten Marine installations and eight Navy installations in addition to the pilot sites.

Why this new program for military families? A RAND corporation study identified the additional stressors on military families from more frequent and longer deployments as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military families were seen as more stressed due to these longer and more frequent deployments with a need for intervention in some cases. The program developed a shared language and color coded stress or need levels of green, orange, yellow and red. Communicating with children is always a challenge and if you add in the deployment factor with resultant parental absences, changes to the family roles, spouse issues, couple issues, adolescence and many other factors you can see why a military family could use some help! According to the media announcement from DoDLive, “Post traumatic stress, other mental health conditions, and physical injuries in a military parent are likely to disrupt family roles, sources of care, and instrumental support.”

FOCUS is an anytime program! Before, during or after deployments – with prevention highlights, intervention when needed, resources for the entire family from pre-schoolers to adults, it provides a mechanism for families to improve. The families identify their own goals and are assisted by trained contractors from UCLA. Started in 2007 it has been measured as being an effective tool with metrics measuring significant results according to Ms Woodward!

How do you find out more information and where to sign up for assistance? The FOCUS website has a list of the installations with a FOCUS group with points of contact, phone numbers, how to access the program, appointments and more information. Remember, there are no set criteria for this program! It is intended to educate, provide coping skills through groups meetings (child, adolescent, adult, family) and specific family sessions to help you deal with your goals to reduce stress! I asked Ms Woodward if they were using social media to spread the word about this program (specifically for adolescents and young military families) and she said they were just getting started. If you know someone using facebook, twitter, blogs or other media please spread the word! Just think a click could send the right person the message to make their lives less stressful and happier!

Data from this program has shown, “…significant reductions in parent and child distress over time, suggesting longer-term benefits for military family wellness.” Do you need to get involved in this program? Not sure? Do the research and contact them! It might be just the avenue you need to help your family!

Thank you Ms Woodward for taking the time to talk to me and the Roundtable about FOCUS! If you would like to listen to the audio of the Roundtable or read a transcript please go to DoDLive. For more family information please go to MilitaryAvenue’s Reading Room to find multiple sources of information maternity, education, moving (PCS) and much more!

Photo Credit: 100423-N-0641S-135 PEARL HARBOR (April 23, 2010) Mara MacDonald, from the Navy New Parent Support Home Visitation Program, leads a group of new mothers and their babies in an infant massage class. The program is administered by the Navy Region Hawaii Fleet & Family Support Center and assists new parents and expecting parents with home visits, information on parenting, referrals, support groups and nurturing skills. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Swink/Released)

Photo Credit: 100401-N-4649C-001 BREMERTON, Wash. (April 1, 2010) Children are greeted to a homecoming celebration after returning from a Kids’ Day Deployment. The Kids’ Day Deployment, sponsored by the Fleet and Family Support Center, along with the Child and Youth Program, was designed to give military children a taste of what life is like when their parents go on a deployment. The children experienced a boot camp-like setting along with demonstrations from the explosive ordinance disposal unit, military working dogs, and security personnel. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chantel M. Clayton/Released)

Photo Credit: 100423-N-6674H-003 PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (April 23, 2010) Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert greets Sailors and staff at Navy Region Hawaii’s Fleet and Family Support Center during a roundtable discussion. The group discussed current family readiness issues and programs available to Sailors and their families. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Paul D. Honnick/Released)byColonel KonWednesday, April 28, 2010Military Life:,,

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