Tech for Military Kids (“Next Generation Behavioral Health” podcast)

Tech for Military Kids (“Next Generation Behavioral Health” podcast)


[Dr. Christina Armstrong] Hello. And welcome to “Next Generation Behavioral
Health”. [Dr. Julie Kinn] 10 minute tips for modernizing
patient care. [music]
[Armstrong] I’m Dr. Christina Armstrong. [Kinn] And I’m Julie Kinn. [Armstrong] This is a three-part special episode
where we interview psychologist and military child and family expert Dr. Kelly Blasko. [Dr. Kelly Blasko] Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. [Armstrong] Maybe you can help our audience
understand the scope of the issue here. How many military children are there and then
what are some of the unique needs and challenges that military kids have? [Blasko] Yes. Actually, there are quite a few military children. In fact, every year since about 2010, there
have been approximately 1.7 million military children that have active duty parents. [Armstrong] Wow. [Blasko] That includes both Army, Navy, Airforce,
Marines, and National Guard and Reserve. Many of those children have experienced a
deployment, and in some cases, multiple deployments. This, as you can imagine, can be very stressful. Certainly, leading up to preparation when
they’re knowing that their parent is going to be leaving any time soon, then while they’re
deployed being separated where parents miss kind of common, everyday types of events,
whether it be getting an A on a test or a prom or their birthday. And then when a parent comes home it can often
be stressful during the time when they kind of just back to home life. So what we’ve been noticing, and a lot of
the research shows is that these children really have quite a few stressors. Some of the ways that they experience that
is through anxiety. They start acting out with negative behaviors. They sometimes regress to behaviors that,
for example, they’ve already kind of grown out of. Maybe they used to have a lot more nightmares
or waking up quite frequently at night and that’s been resolved and then when they’re
separated from their parent that kind of emerges again. What we also are noticing, increases in depression
and that is very concerning. And since over the years, the problem has
been highlighted even more so where military children as compared to their civilian peers
are likely to have higher rates of suicidal ideation and attempts. So it’s really, really important that we give
these military children help and the resources they need, particularly before it turns into
something more serious like depression and anxiety. [Armstrong] Thank you for describing that
to our audience, the scope of the issue and how critical it is that we put resources toward
helping military kids and their families. [Blasko] Another issue that I failed to mention
was around moving. Actually, this is not unique to our current
military children, but as long as the military has existed, families move quite frequently. Sometimes every year and more than once in
a year. But what we do know is that military children,
on average, move six to nine times before they graduate high school. And that can be also tough being the new kid
on the block or adjusting to a different situation. And the struggle of moving can be different
depending on their age or the circumstance if they’re separated from their parent and
so on. So just in day-to-day life military children
have everything that other civilian children, they go to school, but then on top of it,
they have these additional stressors of moving or deployment and so on. [Armstrong] That’s right. Can you tell our audience a little about some
of the resources that you and the Department of Defense have created to help support our
military kids? [Blasko] Actually, the Department of Defense
has done quite a bit in recognizing that this is actually an issue for our families. We’ve created two programs. One for young children, age’s infancy to five
years old. So that is the Sesame Street for Military
Family program. And then for older children, from ages six
to 17, The Military Kids Connect Program. [Kinn] Kelly, both of these programs are incredible,
and I want our listeners to hear about it. We’re going to invite you back next week to
talk about Military Kids Connect. So today in our remaining time, can you tell
us about some of the programs for younger children? [Blasko] Yes. Really, the Sesame Street for Military Family
Program is the program that helps our young military children. The strength of that program is building on
Sesame Street’s Muppets as trusted sources for kids and parents. The whole program really provides skits of
the Muppets so that kids and parents can watch these together and learn about how to talk
about deployments. Kids get to see Elmo talking about his fears
when his dad goes away, and parents get to see how the father handles questions that
Elmo might have. [Kinn] What about some of the mobile apps
that are associated with that program too? [Blasko] So there’s the website sesamestreetformilitaryfamilies.org
and we have a mobile app called “The Big Moving Adventure”, which really is great
because it takes a military child through the process of moving and learning skills
like saying goodbye to their friends, moving, and then learning how to say hello and meet
new friends at the other end. There also is an app called “Breathe, Think,
Do”, which happens to be one of my most favorite apps ever because it teaches about
how to breathe and to solve everyday problems. Little kids run into challenges such as they’re
frustrated tying their shoes or having to say goodbye to a parent at day care, and this
app enables them to learn how to breathe, how to think about what they’re frustrated
about and figure out what they can do. It’s a very good skill for them that they
can use throughout their life. [Armstrong] Yeah. Kelly, I’ve got to say, “The Big Moving
Adventure” and “Breathe, Think, Do” are also my favorite apps. Not only have I used “Breathe, Think, Do”
with kids on the Autism spectrum, but I have also used them with my own kids who are now
ages seven and nine, but I started using these with them when they were one and four. Especially during a move, it was so important
to use those tools. And I saw them generalizing the skills that
they learned through those apps in their daily life, which was pretty incredible to see. The other thing I really love about those
apps is they have parent sections, kind of hidden back end parent sections, which I found
incredibly useful. [Blasko] Even though Sesame Street appears
that it is just for children, it actually is more geared towards the parents. And we know if parents are feeling good and
confident as parents that, in fact, that kind of rubs off on their children. And so those parenting tips are really, really
important for parents to know how to handle different situations. Actually, when we evaluated the app with parents,
“The Big Moving Adventure” app, we actually found it to be helpful not only in preparation
for a move but also once they had moved to talk about what had happened. That was kind of an unintended consequence,
but it really did make a big difference because sometimes kids don’t really know what’s going
to happen even though you prepare them, but they’ve run into a lot of feelings afterwards
and it helped with that as well. [Kinn] It’s clear that the Department of Defense
and the Defense Health Agency have made some phenomenal products here that are good for
our military beneficiaries but civilian kids as well as you point out. Thank you so much, Dr. Blasko. [Armstrong] Thank you for sharing “Next
Generation Behavioral Health” on social media and subscribing wherever you get your
podcasts. [Kinn] You can connect with us on Facebook
and Twitter. We’re @MilitaryHealth. [Armstrong] “Next Generation Behavioral
Health” is produced by the Defense Health Agency. [music]

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