While They Serve
By Edie Melson

Support a Military Family, Without Adding Stress (Part 1)

We all know that deployment is stressful for military families. But if you haven’t been in that situation, it’s hard to know how to help.

Navigating this unknown territory can cause some of us to back away, with only vague offers of help. The offers are sincere, but we don’t want to add to the burden we see.

Others err in the opposite direction, trying to insist on help that isn’t actually needed or wanted. Neither extreme is good, so today I’ll share some tips that will equip you to ease the burden of a military family, without adding stress.

  • Telephone calls, texts and notes.
    This is a good place to start when it comes to offering support and help. Always remember: You’re reaching out to a family that isn’t functioning under normal operating conditions.
     
  • Keep it short.
    This is true for phone calls and texts. Let the family know that you’re thinking about them and praying for them. You can also ask for specific prayer requests. But don’t be offended if they are ready to end the conversation fairly quickly. If they want to talk, let them. But often, especially at the beginning and end of a deployment, family life is in chaos and a long phone call is more of hindrance than a help.
     
  • Leave a message.
    Life is far from normal for a family with a deployed solider. This is especially true if they have kids. As a temporary single parent, it’s not always possible to get to the phone when it rings. Beyond that, families sometimes screen their calls during deployment. If there’s no answer when you call, leave a brief message verbalizing your love and support.
     
  • E-mail means a lot too. 
    E-mail messages are also a good way to show your support for someone who has a deployed loved one. They’re such a good way to reach out that families are sometimes overwhelmed by the number that arrive in their inboxes. They seem to come in waves. During our son’s deployment, we’d have more then 20 on one day and none the next. I tried to answer them all, but often wasn’t as punctual as I wished and occasionally was too overwhelmed to respond.

In my next post, I’ll share some tips that ensure that if you visit a military family, it’s supportive, instead of stressful.

Edie Melson is a leading professional in the publishing industry. She also knows what it’s like to send a loved one off to war. Her oldest son went from high school graduation, to Marine Corp boot camp, to Iraq; where he served two tours fighting on the front lines as an infantry Marine. Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle, is Edie’s heart project. Look for her two newest books for military families debuting in 2014: While My Son Serves and While My Husband Serves. You can also connect with Edie on Twitter and Facebook.

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