By Elaine Sanchez
Jan. 26, 2012
The Defense Department has launched a new website intended to bolster military children as they deal with deployments and the other stressors of military life.
Military Kids Connect offers military kids — from children to tweens and teens — an online community where they can learn about deployments, share feelings with each other and develop coping skills.
“We felt by connecting military kids with each other, through providing peer-to-peer support, they’d be able to build on the resilience they have already and learn new coping skills to deal with deployments,” explained Kelly Blasko, a psychologist from the DOD’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology. The center, dubbed T2, developed the site.
The site features tools for all stages of the deployment cycle — from predeployment to reintegration — and is packed with activities, games, information and resources.
To best suit kids’ age-specific needs, the developers created tracks for three different age groups: 6 to 8, 9 to 12 and 13 to 17. With kids who fall in two of those age groups — I have an 8- and 9-year-old — I decided to check out the site for myself.
One of my favorite features was the interactive map. Kids can click on the country where their loved one is deployed and learn about the area and culture. To further keep them informed, they can view the weather and time there and have it appear on their home page whenever they log on.
To foster friendships and connections, older kids can register for a message board where they can talk and share their experiences with other military kids around the world.
Another section is dedicated to videos of military families, with kids of all ages talking about their deployment experiences.
While the site is geared for the younger generation, adults shouldn’t hesitate to log on. A parent module explains behavioral changes they should keep an eye out for and parenting strategies to help their kids weather the tough times. Another module helps educators recognize in-school behaviors that may indicate deployment-related anxiety.
Blasko pointed one of the best aspects of the site. Kids learn coping skills, she said, “they can carry through their whole life.”