March 2011
February 17, 2011

Help for students in military families

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT United

In all likelihood, every educator across the state has some interaction with a student who has a parent in the military, said Kelly Caci, a school psychologist in Newburgh. Now there are resources readily available for all NYSUT school psychologists and educators to help students with their unique struggles.

A new online toolkit on military culture, resources, school-based programs and building school support groups was to be available March 1 from the New York Association of School Psychologists at www.nyasp.org.

Students in military families are affected by the comings and goings of the parent, major shifts in the household structure and finances, and worry and uncertainty when a parent is deployed. The Children's Institute estimates that more than 700,000 children nationwide have a parent who is serving overseas. More than 100,000 children with a parent in the military attend New York schools, Caci said.

"It's important for psychologists, teachers, counselors and other educational professionals to have an understanding of military culture and what military family life can be like," said Caci, a member of the Newburgh Teachers Association and NYASP.

NYASP's online toolkit will help school psychologists provide tips for parents, and to provide teachers with strategies for students who have a parent in the military, along with activities to tie into curricula.

"Military parents are continually leaving, returning, returning, leaving again, or working long hours," said Caci, who has worked with students whose parents were deployed to war zones.

The stress of a parent's deployment, and the emotional shift once they return, are "very disruptive" for students. It can leave them struggling with school work, behavioral problems, depression or possible drug and alcohol abuse, Caci said.

How students react to the upheavals of military life can be different, based on their age, maturity, gender and the coping skills of the child's caregiver. The toolkit includes development of responses to deployment.

Having an informed support system in school can make an important difference, Caci said, helping students when military parents are absent and when they return home.

"Our school psychologists provide invaluable services to students," said NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue, whose office oversees health care issues for the union.

They are very active in our Health Care Professionals Council and great advocates for the health of students."