San Diego Study Looks At Impact Of War On Children
March 27, 2014 5:50 p.m.
Mary Jo Schumann, Ph.D., Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research, School of Leadership and Education Sciences, University of San Diego.
Ann Garland, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of School, Family & Mental Health Professions, School of Leadership and Education Sciences, University of San Diego.
Related Story: San Diego Study Looks At Impact Of War On Children
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Doing the board have effects across generations, that is what the first of its kind study on children of seriously wounded veterans is found, the investigation conducted by the Castor Center at the use of University of San Diego focused on kids of military personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. The research finds if the challenges faced by kids devoted warriors not address the could have long-term consequence. Jamie to discuss the study are my guests, Mary Jo Shumnann with the Castor Center at University of San Diego, and Ann Garland, with the Department of school family and mental health professionals at USD, welcome to the program. The study was commissioned by the Marine Corps scholarship foundation, Mary Jo, does seriously wounded mean a veteran who is affected by their injury and post service life?
MARY JO SHUMNANN: Absolutely, we found that servicemembers who come back from war of a lot of challenges to cope with with their seriously physically wounded situations. That translates to the whole family.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What about brain and mental health history?
MARY JO SHUMNANN: Those are invisible wounds, in our study we looked at the physically wounded and they often go hand in hand in hand, physical wounds are there and quite honestly they take a bigger toll on the family because it is a long-term process and sometimes it's just out of the blue that they don't know when those post traumatic incidents is a come into play.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How is the study conducted?
MARY JO SHUMNANN: We were very fortunate to catch with the Marine Corps scholarship foundation which is the nation's oldest and largest provider of need space scholarships for military children and I commend them for recognizing the importance of investigating the needs of children because they are often overlooked. There is research on servicemembers, and to some degree on caregivers but children are often overlooked, so we really are fortunate to study that. And the Marine Corps scholarship foundation was interested in identifying needs of children and also we conducted an asset map or environmental scan. They wanted to identify what organizations and programs and services are out in the country and nationwide, and what services are available for this population.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Had you find families tended to adapt to this seriously and it injured veterans?
MARY JO SHUMNANN: They adapt very well, and many of you have heard about resiliency. These families are resilient, children are resilient, but is a big process, it's a huge stressor and I think as a community and through the government and military organizations and nonprofit organizations and the Canadian as a whole we need to provide them with resources and services and programs that they need to enhance the resiliency.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We think about a filmy family dynamic and family structure, children are usually given the book of concern and attention within the family and does that change of a veteran comes home Sears injured?
MARY JO SHUMNANN: Absolutely, the focus is on the service member and many of the wife that we spoke with ñ they were wives because most of the service members were male ñ they talked about the need to mother their spouses well and take care of children as well and these are serious long-term injuries, there in hospitals for a long time and then they need to transition and the added complexity and navigation for benefits ineligibility and it's just a lot to deal with and medical care and mental health and thin children.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: To the stresses a child faces in this situation since this is a caregiver can face?
ANN GARLAND: Children are used to being cared for by their parents and that is the natural order of things, and here we have this incredibly disruptive event in the family and the changes, it changes all of the dynamics and we know that kids thrive when their environment is very predictable and consistent and they rely on their parent or parents to be there to fulfill their needs and this control all of that up for question and the lack of consistency and protect ability that an event like this can cause can be quite traumatic for a child and it can also result in the child needing to take more of a caretaking role. There used to be taken care of but one apparent comes back in its physical and emotional help it can really change things and roles in the family.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That phrase that we hear, forced to grow up too soon.
ANN GARLAND: Exactly and we use a term called the prettified child, the same idea. We know, and we so appreciate the focus on resiliency because we know that this does not have to be a story of doom and gloom, can be a story of resiliency, some kids have shown that an event like this can result in greater strengths and greater empathy for others and tolerance and this can be a real strong growth experience but it certainly is disruptive in every respect to a child, it's instructive on the practical side and day-to-day lives, maybe the parent has to move away, or other caretakers that come in and friends or family, financial implications, all kinds of tactical implications and then you have the emotional side, the relationships that change and the predictability that the stress and anxiety that kids feel, they pick up on it they are so perceptive no matter how much we try to protect them from it, it can be worsened to them.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Mary Jo, you get to some of these interviews, tell us with the kids have said about their chat life-changing since their parent has come back tears they wanted from the war?
MARY JO SHUMNANN: We did talk to children and on a side note we did talk to their mothers and fathers and free also talked to other professionals in the military and in the community and nonprofit organizations that support this population but the children, but really came out I think that struck me was the empathy that and just referred to, and that the became more empathetic of others. I can't tell you how many of them said I wish people would stop staring at my dad, he's still my dad and he is still the same and just because he does not have a lake or an arm, he still might dad and so, I think what comes from this they become much more empathetic and caring for others, because not everyone is the same.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What did you find out about how children in military families are perhaps prepared for the reentry into the home of a parent who is now dealing with ongoing serious injuries?
MARY JO SHUMNANN: That is what is missing, it's hard to prepare and one of the spouses that we talked to said it very well when she said, the military does a great job of preparing you for deployment and a great job of preparing you for the worst, but there is not preparation for the between. And the parent comes home and their whole world has changed and there really isn't a lot of preparation that can be addressed in the future.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The call how much information should apparent give child when the veteran is seriously injured?
MARY JO SHUMNANN: Is a great struggle we all have spirits when we have really difficult information to give to our kids, how much do we tell them, when do we tell them how to we tell them, so the advice that I would give is that it's important how you tell your child something difficult is as important as exactly what you tell them, the content, parents need to his much is possible under their own emotions, and that is so difficult in a crisis situation, but we want to be reassuring kids that will be there as much as we can because that is the greatest fear and that is important to be honest but it is different than saying it's important to tell them everything, you really need to look at what we say to be targeting this information in a developmentally appropriate way. Great, but what is development lead appropriate for three-year-old versus the girl that are worth fourteen-year-old? What are the things that I would advise is taking the child's lead and answering their listings, it is important to answer the questions but not necessarily to go beyond that, don't give them too much information, perhaps stage it, don't give them inaccurate information because they can come back to really be a problem if the child feels that the parent is not been honest,, but being honest is not mean every single detail and it certainly does not mean drawing on the worst-case scenarios. That is in the important piece of advice, you want to be truthful but not poured all out when it is also to see. Think of information coming in stages.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I was also wondering, when a kid's home life is going through a disruption sometimes they can find a sanctuary in school or with their peers, but this kind of real trauma in a household can actually isolate a child, can't it?
MARY JO SHUMNANN: Yes and that was a major finding of this study and a recommendation for going forward that we have to provide peer to peer support and mentoring and so that children who are in the same shoes can talk to each other because as we all know, predicaments occurred and you really don't understand unless you have been in their shoes.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How is it that parents can recognize when a child might be struggling with this issue?Your dad that is come back from Iraq or Afghanistan and has a serious injury, how can you tell if a child is doing or having real palms with this?
ANN GARLAND: A great question that we hear from parents all the time, how do what distinguished from a natural reaction to an event or circumstance compared to need to actually seek professional help and guidance? One of the things I think that is critical and sounds obvious, you really want to look for a pattern of behavior. It is very natural that a child would be sad or worried or perhaps temporarily disengage from friends and activities, that is expected and that would be a normative spots. But when we see that continues over time and we see that check a child can't enjoy the activities they used to enjoy and they're not doing everyday things the top want to do, they don't want to play sports the used to enjoy your birthday parties or if they are particularly withdrawn or not communicating with anyone, these are signs. What we call there exhibiting functional impairment, they are not functioning the way that we would expect them to does not need for professional help.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How is this report going to be used?
MARY JO SHUMNANN: We're having to say that the Marine Corps scholarship foundation has taken the lead in spearheading a consortium and partnering with other organizations that divide us for it and services to this organization so this is one step here and thank you for having us to raise awareness in the community and get collaborative efforts among organizations so that they can work together and not reinvent the wheel and work together to fill any gaps that exist.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm out of time I want to thank you both very much.