Deployment and Reintegration, New Spouse

Let’s Talk About Resilience

– Specifically, Resilience for Military Spouses

by Joy Draper


 

​Get it? Seeds spreading = military PCS, Deep strong roots = the relationships military families forge quickly. Thriving in the midst of trials and chaos = thriving in the military.

​We should be willing to work hard to be like the dandelion!

Dandelion- seeds blowing in the wind

​Resilience is way more than a military buzz word. It’s about bouncing back from trials. It’s about understanding that we will face tough situations, but if we learn and grow from them – instead of withering – we will be stronger in the long run. It’s about intentionally thinking positively, even in the midst of struggles. It’s not about fixing things in the middle of trials, it’s about getting ahead of the crises and trying to live optimistically regardless.

​The way this looks for a military family is about managing the stressors (both expected and unexpected). This often means that a spouse is left at home while the service member is deployed. Sometimes, for the sake of the mission, this means that spouses need to dig deep to find strength to make it through difficult situations without a lot of support. By empowering spouses with Resilience techniques, I hope that we are able to not only strengthen families, but also increase mission readiness! I know that if my husband thinks I’m falling apart at home without him, he’s going to be more likely to be distracted. If he thinks we’re managing well – even through trials – he can focus more on the mission he’s tasked with. I think that part of my job as a AF spouse is to allow him to stay focused and do his mission well.

​Likelihood is, if you’re on an active base, there’s a base Resilience program. Military leaders are really getting behind the idea that spouses and families need Resilience programs target towards their needs as well. I have been lucky enough to be at a base where the Wing Commander and his wife are strong advocates for Spouse Resilience. Here, we have been able to partner with the Community Support Coordinator and fall under his leadership to create a Resilience program that is “By spouses, for spouses” but still falls under the leadership of the Base Resilience program which allows us to use resources and support from the military. We have been able to use facilities, equipment, and other resources to train spouses on how to be more resilient.

​The thing we are doing a little different at our base vs. some of the other bases in the military is that we’ve moved away from the typical briefing method used by the military. That was a really cut and paste method that is somewhat dry. Military briefings typically follow a specific pattern to get information across – 1) Here’s what we’re going to teach you. 2) Here’s the information. 3) Here’s a recap of what we taught you. This doesn’t work well for spouses. I’m not convinced it works well for anyone. It can be easy to check out after the 2nd slide. My husband not-so-lovingly refers to it as “death by PowerPoint.” So, we’ve shifted away from that. We’ve found a way to stay true to the teaching found in the Module briefings of Resilience and tailor it towards spouses.

​Ready, it’s something you’d never think of …

We … TALK.

​That’s it, that’s our brilliant change that we’ve brought to Spouse Resilience.

​I say it in jest, of course, but after trying other ways of getting the methods of Resilience to spouses, we’ve landed on this, and it’s really working. It’s taking off like wild fire, actually. We started using a military resource that is basically a webinar chat room. My co-leader and I are hosting a series of webinars where we talk about challenges that face military spouses and how we can utilize Resilience tools in our every day lives to strengthen our families. Without our willingness to work as part of the overall Base Resilience Program, we couldn’t have done 10% of what we’re doing to help spouses. I can’t get over how blessed we’ve been here at Offutt!

​Here’s a little teaser of what we talk about on our Webinars:
1) Deployment Challenges
2) PCS Season
3) Interpersonal Relationships
4) Finding the Silver Lining
​5) Day-to-day Stressors

​Pretty basic stuff. You’ve learned all you need to on these subjects already, right? Think again! Resilience Training adds a whole new dimension to what you’ve already heard on the subjects. There’s an entire military brief called “Active Constructive Responding” that is about how to positively react to hearing good news from someone when you think that maybe the news really isn’t that great. We’re going to be able to talk about that through simple conversations on a webinar instead of a 2 hour briefing. There’s another section on meaning-making that is all about finding the silver lining on a very grey cloud. There’s lots of techniques on how to be more resilient, but this method for spouses is much more user-friendly (for spouses) than the strict briefing schedule. Our program is developed “By military spouses, for military spouses.” It’s different than a lot of what’s circulating out there!

​Obviously, our military leadership has a lot of wisdom, but I’ve seen an incredible amount of understanding as well from our wing commander. He has used the analogy of someone trying to quit smoking. He talks about how an individual trying to quit smoking who still lives with a smoker will have a much more difficult time than one who had a spouse who was also trying to quit. Much in the same way, a service member who is taught Resilience techniques (but doesn’t have anyone to practice with at home) will not be as successful. He has made it part of his mission for taking care of his airmen to also take care of their families and spouses. He has charged the Community Support Coordinator, myself, and my co-lead with an important mission – to get the message out there and to teach Resilience techniques to the spouses.

I’ll write more in the not-so-distant future about my journey on the road to Resilience and walk anyone interested through how we went about developing this program on our base. We are working on gathering more support from leadership and taking it to other bases. We need to inform and empower spouses with the tools to build stronger families in today’s military. We need to teach them how to be more resilient.If you are reading this as a military spouse and want to know more about how we’ve gotten this far, feel free to email me at joy.msan@yahoo.com, and I’ll certainly tell you the right steps to take to get involved in a Spouse Resilience program on your base! I truly believe that even spouses can positively contribute to the mission of the military. So, as always – FLY.FIGHT.WIN!

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