The Jackson in Action Foundation’s sole mission is to help maintain military families during a deployment. Our job is to provide the information, the support, and the tools to help military Mom and Dad’s continue to raise their children even when separated by thousands of miles.
In putting together our programs we solicit information and ideas from academic experts, from social workers treating military families, and from families themselves. What the consensus of our research shows that there are three areas of concern for the boys and girls of deployed families:
1. Emotional – 2.Educational – 3.Physical
But let’s face it any mom or dad could have told you that. We all want our kids to be happy (Emotional), healthy (Physical), and do well in school (Educational). So it just makes sense that the added stress of deployment could create problems in one or all of those areas.
The Emotional, the Educational, and the Physical wellbeing of the children of deployed families is the mission of the Jackson in Action Foundation.
The Emotional, Educational, and Physical are the pillars of our program.
There is a lot written today about “emotional intelligence” and “happiness”. We all know that how we feel impacts what we do. With kids it’s harder because they don’t always have a vocabulary to tell you how they feel. They may be sad that Mom is away and can’t come to their basketball game. They may be angry that Dad is overseas and can’t tuck them in at night. The may “act out” their emotions: kicking the cat, refusing to obey, fighting with siblings. Lots of times Mom (or Dad) doesn’t have the time to figure out that little Johnny is fighting with his sister in the backseat because he misses his Dad (or Mom).
Part of planning a mission is to know what to expect. What we try to do is provide some preview of what might happen with your kids. That way you won’t be surprised. Also provide you with some ideas and some tools to deal with the problems. And that goes for the parent that’s deployed too. The deployed parent wants to help but how do you do that in a five-minute conversation on the phone or an occasional letter or video chat? If both parents know what’s going on, they can work as a team. And instead of thinking it is a major catastrophe they can see it as a normal reaction to the stress of deployment.
Again it’s not surprising that kids have problems in school when a parent is deployed. First of all, there’s one less parent to supervise homework and that parent has to do the work of two. Kids spend a lot of time in school. Some military parents have been transferred and the kids have been to numerous schools and don’t have solid relationships with teachers or counselors. And they may take their anger or sadness out on classmates or teachers. And remember they are using a lot of their emotional energy to cope with the frustrations of not having mom or dad around. So when they run into some frustrations in school, math that’s a little harder or a book they don’t quite understand, they don’t have their usual reserves to overcome the obstacles.
Again, knowledge is a valuable tool in dealing with school problems. And knowing that a little drop off in performance can be relieve parents of some of their concern and let them work effectively with teachers and counselors to solve the academic problems.
There’s a lots of temptations in today’s world to be physically unfit. There’s fast food! There are video games. There is cable television. Add to that the stress of deployment it’s not a shock that some kids start getting less exercise and eating more of the wrong foods and snacks. And it’s harder for the stateside parent to prepare healthy meals when they may be working a job and trying to be both Mother and Father to the kids. And physical inactivity can become a habit. Video games can be a fun escape from the sadness of missing Mom or Dad, or the resentment that they’re not there. Also physical activity is a good way for all of us adults or children to deal with difficult feelings. Our brain produces chemicals that make us feel better after we exercise.
Knowing in advance that physical activity and meal planning will be a challenge helps us anticipate some of the problems. Also knowing some ways that have worked for other parents help kids get more active. What works with a 5 year old won’t necessarily work on your teenage daughter.
As you can see the emotional, the physical, and the educational all overlap. Whether we are dealing with school or exercise we are usually dealing with some feelings regarding deployment. And when we look at the feelings of anger or sadness or disappointment kids are more likely to act them out then tell us about them.
The Jackson in Action Foundation 83 wants to help your family in all three areas. We provide resources and tools to help your children express how they feel. We have techniques to help them get more active. And we have tools to improve school performance. The reality is that if your family was not deployed you would probably have some challenges in one of these three areas with your kids anyway. What we try to do is demonstrate in practical ways how to solve the problems but also recognize that part of the problem is connected to deployment even though the connection might not be immediately clear.
We want what you want: Strong, happy, healthy, smart kids!