KMC counselors meet, discuss issues that face families overseas

by Monica Medoza
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***KMC substance abuse counselors, school counselors and chaplains will meet this weekend in Bad Herrenalb for the annual European Branch of the American Counseling Association, a non-profit professional organization to support counselors.

“The purpose of the conference is to provide an opportunity for the mental health and counseling professionals working in Europe a chance to refresh and add to their skills and provide an opportunity to network and exchange ideas about best practices in serving clients,” said Zena Bowen, a KMC registered art therapist and president-elect of the association.

The conference benefits servicemembers and their families by ensuring that the professionals who provide care and intervention are able to keep their skills updated and therefore continue to provide excellent service and support, she said.

Keynote speaker Dr. Brian Canfield, president of the American Counseling Association, talked with the KA. He is a professor at the University of San Diego and a practicing counselor for more than 25 years.

What are the biggest issues facing children today?
I believe the biggest issues facing children today have remained consistent over time. Children need a safe and secure home environment which meets their physical, psychological, and developmental needs; free from abuse or neglect. Parents can help by providing for the age-appropriate needs of their children through education and instilling values and beliefs which will assist them in growing into competent adults.

Children of servicemembers deal with parents deploying for periods of six months to more than a year. What is the best coping strategy for them?
Provide children with honesty and age-appropriate information about the deployment. If a child is old enough to ask a question, any question, they are old enough to receive an honest and factual answer. The information needs to be in a language they understand (age-appropriate) and a parent should avoid providing significantly more information than is requested. Sometimes an excess of information may overwhelm a young child.

What is the best coping strategy for the parent at the homestation with the child or children?
To cultivate a support system and sense of community, to attend to adults needs and not just focus on the role of caretaker for children. Above all, children need a parent who is reasonably happy, healthy, and well adjusted, so it’s important for the parent to attend to their own needs as well as those of the children.

How can our Department of Defense Dependents Schools teachers help their students stay focused on schoolwork when they are dealing with missing a deployed parent?
I think it is helpful to understand the context in which the child exists and to refer the child for counseling when normal anxiety leads to behavioral or adjustment problems.

What are some signs that children might not be dealing well with the fact that one or both parents are deployed or will be deployed?
Signs of adjustment usually indicate a change from previous behaviors.  (e.g. a previously outgoing child turns introverted, a previously quiet child begins to act out, a previously “good student’ show signs of academic problems.)

When a teacher sees problematic behaviors, the child should be monitored and if problems persist, the child and his parent should be referred to a counselor for assessment and support.