Sometimes the act of asking for help can be more difficult than just doing the task yourself. Military families are not strangers to adjusting family roles and taking on extra responsibilities, especially during times of deployment. Asking for help and allowing yourself to receive help can be two of the most challenging aspects of adjusting your life while your soldier is deployed. There are several reasons why it is important to share your burdens, and ways to go about it that won’t leave you feeling helpless or alone.
Why Accept Help?
Whether you are the spouse, sibling, child, or parent of a soldier, your life alters when your soldier is deployed. The contributions your soldier would typically make at home, both tangible and emotional, can’t easily be replaced. However, allowing those around you to help you not only eases your responsibility load, but it can give someone who is helping a feeling of contributing to more than just your family. For those people without loved ones in the military, assisting those who do have soldiers in their lives can be one way they are able to support military families and the troops. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons of all, though, why accepting help is a positive thing, is that it will give peace of mind to your soldier to know that you are not alone and that you are supported.
How Can You Ask for Help and Receive It?
First and foremost, don’t just dismiss offers of help or generosity. You don’t need to accept on the spot, but you can let the person know that you appreciate the kindness and that there might be a time in the future when you need the help. You can even ask what the best way is to get ahold of them – phone, email, or other – so that if the need arises you have some way of reaching them and accepting help.
When someone says, “Let me know if there is anything I can do,” you might be tempted to shout, “Make this deployment over today!” However, try to refrain asking nearly the impossible, and instead find some little ways that others might help ease your stress level. These things might be:
- Drive the kids to practice one day a week.
- Provide a meal one day a week.
- Help with a home maintenance project, even as simple as rearranging furniture.
- Assist with yard work.
- Help with pet care – walking the dog and checking in on pets can be ways for even kids to help share the responsibilities at home.
- Be available to listen to the stress so you don’t have to dump on the kids or someone who is going through the same stresses as you are already.
- The list goes on and on!
You can even keep a list handy of “one time” things that you need help with that normally your soldier would be there to do. Keep another list of people who you know are willing to help with certain tasks, and one more list of people who have simply offered to do anything. Even though you might never call upon these people, having the tangible proof that you are surrounded by support can ease stress.
It is important to remember that even if someone hasn’t offered to help, it doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t ask. Sometimes people are just waiting for the invitation because they don’t want to offend you and present an image that they don’t think you are capable. You can also seek out other sources of support from places such as:
- Community outreach programs
- Neighborhood groups
- Online forums
- Military resources
Asking for help is not easy for most people, but if we can pay it forward and offer help to others, sometimes that action allows us to accept help at some point in our own lives. In the end it is much better to swallow a little pride, accept the generosity of friends and strangers alike, and take care of yourself as your soldier would want to be able to take care of you.
Photo credit: Tom
If as an adult you struggle with your soldier being deployed, try to imagine for a moment how your children feel about this confusing and stressful time. Or perhaps you were a military child yourself and you understand the angst that goes along with waiting for a deployment to end and wishing for a sense of normalcy to return. Parents, grandparents, and caregivers often face the challenges of caring for children who struggle with understanding their emotions about their soldier’s deployment. They do this all while trying to deal with their own roller coasters of feelings during deployment. Fortunately, there are several things that can be done to help children understand their own feelings and keep communication open between you and them.
Establish a Safe Method of Communication
Kids sometimes simply don’t know what is OK to talk about and what causes people to become agitated or frustrated at the mere mention. As they try to handle their own emotions, they add to that worrying that brining up their own sadness will make others sad, so they avoid the conversation altogether. Try some of these activities to keep kids talking and give them safe zones for doing so.
Invest in an inexpensive conversation ball, like the ones available here. There are numerous vendors who offer these fun, inexpensive conversation starters. There are dozens of phrases or questions listed all over the ball. It gets tossed around and when given a prompt or when the music stops, the person holding the ball reads the question under his left thumb (for example), and provides an answer. These can be as basic as: “When I grow up I want to be a…” to something more significant such as, “The last thing I prayed about was…”. These balls give families opportunities to have active fun together but still incorporate conversations. You might be surprised at what your child reveals during this game.
Whether you play a game or not, find a way and a time each day to let your kids know that you would like to hear from them how they are doing. Make sure you are not rushed, there are no spying ears around to overhear, and you come into the situation without your own overwhelming emotions.
Help Your Kids Understand their Emotions
Find a method that works for your child to record her feelings. For some kids this is a simple as a diary or journal, but for others it might be recording their own stories onto the computer, keeping a collection of drawings and artwork, or using a camera to capture pictures that reflect how they feel. They can use the camera to take reverse images in the mirror, seeing themselves and the emotional faces they can make.
Give words to emotions and build your child’s emotional intelligence. Instead of using general terms to sum up emotions, such as sad, happy, OK, scared, and fine, elaborate on deeper feelings. You can do this by discussing the feelings that others display, even on television or in a movie. Say something such as, “It looks to me like that man is feeling frustrated that his family didn’t listen, and he might be feeling scared about what he will do next. What do you think?” This is an example of how you can show your child that sometimes we are feeling more than one thing at a time, and it is not always easy to figure that out and find a way to deal with those emotions. Then you can ask for their thoughts and ideas. It is safer sometimes to discuss what someone else might be feeling and how they deal with that, and then apply those examples to our own lives.
Children move through transitional stages physically, emotionally, and mentally, and it is challenging to raise them even in the best of circumstances. Work to acknowledge their feelings and give them opportunities to share them. If you are ever concerned that you just can’t give them the help they need with their emotions and concerns, bring someone into their lives that can help – a friend, neighbor, or even therapist. Our children’s emotions require more care than all of the glassware in the world, but you can do it through persistence and patience.
Photo credit: Andy
Surround Yourself with Positive People Who See Their Glass as Half-full
A glass that is half-full is capable of sharing, providing, and giving. Optimism is not only something that can put smiles on faces, but it is something that can make families healthier and stronger. It is imperative that families surround themselves with others who have glasses full enough to give to others, and they will find themselves with lives that are overflowing with positive support.
When it comes to difficult times in our lives, such as when loved ones are deployed overseas, the company we keep at home can be extremely influential, and not always in a good way. No matter which path we find ourselves on as siblings, parents, or friends of soldiers, we need to make sure that we are bringing people into our lives who can lift us up with their words and actions, and to whom we can provide the same sort of positive energy.
How to Know if Someone is Spilling Your Glass of Optimism
Military families need all of the support they can get. The trick is to make sure that they type of support is positive and optimistic. It is all too easy when there is instant access through media to a tragedy overseas to assume the worst for loved ones. If we surround ourselves with friends who tend to let emotions run high and get worked up easily, we can fall into those traps as well. These situations can suck the energy and common sense right out of us.
Look for these signs of relationships that spill your glass:
1. The first reaction is likely negative.
2. The person tends to jump to conclusions easily.
3. If you are concerned and go to this person with your concerns, she builds on those with her own worries.
4. When you have a positive experience, such as a phone call from your soldier, this person diminishes your joy, perhaps by complaining she hasn’t received her own, instead of sharing in your joy.
5. Your own sense of security, well-being, and peacefulness is not increased by this relationship.
Relationships that display these signs can make your efforts to lead a less stressful life while your soldier is serving overseas more difficult. These people can be in your life through personal contacts in your neighborhood, other family members, or even online forums. In order to combat the Negative Nelly in the crowd, keep your distance when there are extreme emotions, no matter if the emotions are sadness or elation. Seek the companionship of others who can help you find a positive balance and see things clearly for what they really are. When loved ones are serving overseas it can be too easy to jump on board with Negative Nelly when you are feeling down. Be careful to search for a more positive relationship so that you can keep afloat through turbulent times and rejoice in the good.
Photo credit: Kalyan