Resilience Building for Military Families

“Were it not for the strength of our military families and their willingness to sacrifice, we couldn’t protect our nation and way of life like we do,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. at a 2016 National Military Family Association event.

It takes a tremendous amount of emotional and physical strength for men and women of the military to do their jobs. But when military parents go off to work, they are gone for months at a time, often in other parts of the world, unable to see their children on a consistent basis. Imagine being asked to do one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Now imagine not being able to have regular contact with your spouse or children. This is the case for active military parents or spouses.

Military families deal with the “normative family stressors” such as marriage, childbirth, parenting, divorce. In addition, they deal with “normative military stressors” such as relocation, geographic isolation, and extended separation from family associated with deployment. This can double the amount of stress on military families.

The most common reasons military families seek mental health services are:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Behavior dyscontrol
  • Mood instability and anger
  • Problems at school (academic and social)
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Social isolation.

The 3 R’s for Military Families: Regulate, Relate, Reason

Teaching military families about the three R’s is the best way to start building the resilience needed!


This refers the regulation of emotion. Teaching children and teens ways to regulate their emotion with calming activities such as 4-square breathing (or “box breathing”), or helping them to create a calm down kit can help to regulate intense emotion.

4-Square (or Box) Breathing

      • Envision a box and breathe in while mentally tracing the top side of the box.
      • Now breathe out as you trace the right side.
      • Breathe in as you trace the bottom side.
      • Finally, breathe out again as you trace the left side.


In other words, learning to relate to emotion by identifying it managing it. Relate skills include making feeling cards or using a feeling scale.


Being able to come up with reasonable ways to think about difficult situations.

Active-duty military and their families make sacrifices in many different ways. The reason, however, that service members and their families make those sacrifices is because they all believe very deeply in the mission and in serving their country.

As we take time to recognize those who have fought for our freedom, please be sure to take time to recognize the sacrifices made by their families as well.


Need help for you or a loved one? Pine Rest provides compassionate, world-class treatment with proven clinical outcomes for all ages and stages of life.

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