Introduction: More than 1.2 million children in military families face long separations from a parent due to deployment or extended assignment, which can lead to significant family dysfunction as well as behavioral, emotional, and scholastic problems for the child. The purpose of From Caring 2 Coping is to identify and provide healthcare providers of military children tools to recognize and address maladaptive and externalizing behaviors of these children, while also assisting the nondeployed parent or caregiver to provide their children with the necessary support to reduce stress and increase their own coping skills.
Materials and Methods: After approval from Arizona State University IRB, children aged 4-11 years who are currently or forecasted to be separated from a military parent due to a deployment or extended assignment, were recruited from a military pediatric clinic along with their primary caregiver. An intervention was adapted from Bowen and Martin’s (2011) Resiliency Model of Role Performance for Service Members, Veterans, and their Families to identify and improve individual assets and family communication skills, find support through social connections, and prepare for potential stressors by constructing a Roadmap of Life. The Parental Stress Scale (PSS) and Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC-17) were completed before and after the 4-week intervention along with a final caregiver survey to evaluate the caregiver’s perceptions of From Caring 2 Coping.
Results: Four mothers and eight children completed the program for which Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed-rank test compared results from pre- and post PSC-17 surveys from the children showing significant improvement post-intervention (p = 0.017). The post PSC-17 results were compared to post PSS results with Spearman Correlation Coefficient, r = 0.949, that is statistically significant (p = 0.05). From Caring 2 Coping is rated as an effective program by parents in a postintervention survey that is easy to incorporate into daily activities. Parents ranked highest satisfaction through use of the Family Communication Plan and Family Timeline.
Conclusions: From Caring 2 Coping intervention tools improved family communication, use of individual assets and Roadmap of Life coping skills, thereby improving child and caregiver coping response as evidenced by improved PSC-17 and PSS scores. Basing the intervention on the Resiliency Model of Role Performance which has proven successful in the military population, improves the chances for success in this target population. However, the small sample size of four families requires further study with more families at all levels of the deployment cycle in order to refine the intervention.