Student Assistance Programs: Helping to Close the Achievement Gap
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children of deployed members of the military experience a broad range of reactions to the stress of deployment, including anger, sadness, fear, confusion, feelings of abandonment and loss, anxiety, and depression. These reactions can lead to significant problems, such as school absenteeism and failure, social isolation, family emotional abuse and violence, medical issues, and depression. Health-care providers and those who work with youths should be aware of these issues and be prepared to offer substantive support and resources to families experiencing deployment-related stress.
How Student Assistance Programs Can Help
Student Assistance Programs (SAPs) represent a group of adults who could play a special role in the lives of children during a parent’s deployment. When everything else feels unsettled, school can serve as an oasis of stability for children. Educators and school staff can serve as extra eyes and ears for the parent or guardian. Due to the amount of time children spend in school, teachers are often the first to notice behavioral or performance changes. Reaching out to children and families who are experiencing difficulties during deployment can be helpful, especially if the support includes teaching coping skills.
Phases of Deployment
When the family is notified that a parent or caregiver will be deployed to another location in the United States or abroad, there will be general feelings of shock and disbelief. Students will ponder questions such as, “How could this happen to me?” The order, security, and safety of their lives feel shattered.
As deployment day approaches, there is usually family and community support. After the troops leave, emotional impacts on the community and those less affected by the event fade. But students and their families are often left with feelings of loss and grief that they must now manage on their own. Conflicts may surface.
Euphoria and joy are typically experienced when the parent or caregiver returns. However, issues that must be addressed and resolved may be hidden beneath the surface. As the family works to re-incorporate the returned family member, old and new conflicts may arise over roles and responsibilities.
Military K-12 Partnership , U.S. Department of Defense