WASHINGTON — Service members who deploy or are otherwise separated from their families due to mission needs now have an online resource allowing them to hone their parenting skills as they reconnect with their children.
Pam Murphy, the Defense Department’s lead psychologist for the website, said the launch of http://www.militaryparenting.org offers unprecedented, comprehensive and free computer-based training from a service member’s perspective on parenting and building strong relationships with their children.
A clinical psychologist with more than 20 years of experience in community and private practice, Murphy said the Integrated Mental Health Strategy Program is a collaborative initiative between the Veterans Affairs Department and DOD.
“We initially did an environmental scan of everything within the DOD as well as commercially available, and one of the areas that seemed to be at a deficit was a comprehensive parenting program that looks at the basics,” Murphy said.
She noted that while a plethora of parenting information exists online, it was difficult to identify a free, private “military-centric” program.
“This is one of the first of its kind,” Murphy said. The interactive site, she explained, develops and reinforces parenting skills to help families reconnect through in-depth technology solutions that appeal to younger parents.
“Many of the parents in the service member population are generally younger,” she said. “Prominent age groups of their children are typically 5 or below.”
Murphy added that the site goes beyond the job and hits home in terms of affecting family relationships, building resilience and helping service members to be happy with their lives within the military.
She also noted that service members’ personalized accounts interwoven into the site make the situations and solutions relatable.
“We included videos of real service personnel … to talk about their real-life experiences with parenting, reintegrating and making those everyday decisions,” Murphy said.
The website consolidates and simplifies information that was previously accessible across multiple resources, said Senior Airman Matthew Siegele, a protocol specialist, and his wife, Staff Sgt. Sabrina Siegele, NCO in charge of knowledge operations, both of whom work at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
“We’ve been through so many parenting classes, counseling and therapy, and a lot of the resources and advice is mirrored on this site,” Sabrina said. “This website is excellent — it’s a one-stop shop instead of jumping around to multiple appointments.”
During family separations, Murphy said, applications such as Skype and Facetime can help in keeping families connected, but the military parenting website provides ideas for technology-based activities that can help in reuniting parents and children after a deployment. “A lot of times, kids don’t know what to talk about with their parents when they are on the phone or on the computer with them,” she said.
Murphy said the website can help military parents to reconnect with their children.
“Parents can benefit from this site, and I believe they want their kids to grow up to be happy, healthy, fully functioning adults,” she said. “Here, they’ll find strategies and ideas to (get) even better in terms of helping kids to grow, mature and blossom.”