Helping Service Member Families Avoid the Triggers of Substance Abuse

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A Veterans’ Day Guest Post By Rick Romley, Founding Board Member

Between long-distance moves, deployments and potential injuries and illnesses suffered by parents who have been deployed, the lives of service member families can be stressful ones. Oftentimes that stress can fall on the children. Dealing with being the new kid in school, losing friends from a move, taking on more responsibility at home, worrying about a parent’s deployment and sometimes having to deal with a parent who returns from duty injured, ill or distracted, service member children may have an even tougher time than their teenage counterparts.

Between moves and deployments, a service member’s family life is in constant transition. Unfortunately, studies show that adolescents who haven’t used drugs or alcohol are more likely to start using drugs during times of transitions to cope with stress. Of course, major events like deployments, changing schools and injury or illness in the family are clearly stressors for kids and parents alike.

But it doesn’t have to lead to substance abuse. Not if we are keeping open communication and teaching our children the importance of prevention and the dangers associated with these behaviors. The single most important thing we can do as parents is stay involved. These transitions are tough on kids and simply being there and having an open dialogue can make the difference. Here’s a checklist for service member families:

-          Set aside one-on-one bonding time

-          Monitor your children’s activities

-          Talk more

-          Discuss the risks of using drugs and drinking

A stopping point for many parents is HOW to talk with their teen about drugs and alcohol. When it comes to having these important discussions, there are many ways to better relate to them, which includes in their Military Family Tool Kit that is available online. The kit includes the following:

-          How to say it! – Ways to start the conversation with your child at any age

-           How to answer the question “Did you ever use drugs?”

-          How to teach kids to turn down drugs

-          Friends, Family and Beyond: How others can help

Only 18% of teens whose parents ARE significantly involved in their life resort to high-risk activities, such as unsafe sex and drug use. That’s an 82% chance your children are NOT partaking in alcohol and drugs IF you are staying involved in their life.

While these rules apply to any family, it’s even more important for service member families to remember the extra stressors their kids deal with on a day-to-day basis. As adults we oftentimes forget how hard it may be to move to a new city or state, make new friends and say goodbye to a parent with hopes that they return. is here for you at every step of the way for support and guidance in your journey to raise a healthy family.

Brittany Richardson
Brittany Richardson
A former HMA Public Relations employee.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you, Rick, and others who serve our country.

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