Kids with deployed parents struggle with behavior issues

Filed under: Opinions

More than 2 million American kids have at least one parent who is serving in the military overseas, and one recent study indicates that kids as young as 3 years old are exhibiting signs of behavioral problems related to their parents' absence.

Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine and the Boston Medical Center surveyed 169 families with children ages 18 months to 5 years old. The kids were enrolled in a day-care center at a Marine base. Of those families, 33 percent had a parent deployed abroad, and the average length of that deployment was almost four months.

Kids ages 3 years old and older exhibited more overall behavior issues than kids the same age with both parents at home. The findings, published in the the November issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, indicate that this population needs more services than previously thought.

An editorial that ran along with the study states that the length of deployment for military parents must be examined, and that there is a serious need to attend to the mental health of their children.

Of course kids are acting out when their parent is gone for a prolonged period of time. Heck, my kids get hinky when I go the grocery store. I can't imagine how they would feel if I was absent for more than a few days. Add in the stress of worrying about a parent in a war zone, and you have a recipe for acting out.

With the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, families continue to look at extended periods of time without parents and spouses. The grown-ups aren't the only ones affected, and I hope the military recognizes that fact and provides these kids with the services they need.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.