Family programs highlighted at AFA conference

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Chris Gross
  • Air Force News Service
Programs geared toward assisting caregivers and helping children of military families with resiliency skills were highlighted during the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15 in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Lynda Davis, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors executive vice president, and Chrissy App, Sesame Workshop’s U.S. Social Impact director, highlighted their programs and the opportunities that exist for military families.

Military and Veteran Caregiver Peer Support Network

Davis spoke about the Military and Veteran Caregiver Peer Support Network, a site offered through TAPS that allows caregivers to interact with one another. Caregivers, who are taking care of ill, injured or wounded veterans from an era of war, are able to reach out for help and ask for advice from others who have dealt with similar circumstances.

For example, spouses who have a wife or husband suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, can reach out through a private forum asking about ways to cope or how to better help their spouse.

“The point of this … is to get peers supporting peers to reduce isolation, increase connectivity, engagement, hopefulness, knowledge and skills,” Davis said.

Davis said peers supporting peers, whether it be a similar operation, illness or death, has proven to be the best method of support. It reduces the challenges that occur with a caregiver’s mental and physical health, family relationships, and work relationships.

Davis pointed out that it’s impossible to address all the behavioral and medical health challenges that caregivers may face. Having somebody who can empathize with a caregiver and share their story will help fill many of those gaps.

Whether a civilian or veteran, and whether or not the wounds are even visible, “one of the things that helps most all of us, under all circumstances, is this ability to affiliate with other people with a common lived experience,” Davis said.

“It’s somebody who can get it, who understands,” she added. “There’s no need for lengthy elaboration. There is no stigma, there’s no judgement, and they have the benefit of having perhaps gone through the same thing you are and they can pass on their experience.”

Helping children be resilient

App talked about how Sesame Workshop has focused on and addressed issues concerning military families for the past 10 years. They’ve made tools available through their site and produced USO shows that help children cope with deployments, reintegration, moving, transition and more.

Helping children to be resilient was a topic App stressed, and she broke down a five-step approach parents and guardians can follow to help.

Steps included: setting routines; helping children understand their emotions; having honest communication; helping children break down a situation by breathe, think and do; and finally, having a caring adult around.

“Research shows (that having a caring adult) is the most important factor -- not any of the tools and techniques -- but just that there’s a person there that the child can go to who cares about the child,” App said.

Resources and more information are available through the Sesame Workshop website.