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Tips to Help Students Who Have a Parent at War

written by: Julia Bodeeb • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 8/2/2012

High school students with a parent at war typically experience extreme anxiety that may impact their academic progress and their social life too. Here you'll find ways, as the teacher, to help students as they handle the difficult situation of having a parent deployed to war.

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    Stressful for the Student and the Other Parent

    Many students in America and around the world currently have a parent who is serving at war.This is a very stressful event for students of all ages. High school students especially feel much stress when a parent is deployed to war; they are old enough to understand the danger the parent is in and to watch the daily news report of the war on television.

    Talk to the Student’s Parent

    Talk to the parent of the student who is at home and let them know you are available to talk at anytime about the academic progress of the student. A parent with a spouse at war is very stressed and very concerned about how their children will fare during the time of the deployment. Reach out to parents with a family member in the military. They will be grateful that you care and will appreciate your close attention to their child’s progress during this difficult time for the family.

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    Put the System to Work for the Student

    Alert the Guidance Department

    Students with a parent at war are in a lot of emotional turmoil.Any bad news report about the war may send them into a panic or into an isolated state where they feel they cannot talk to anyone about their fears. Let the guidance staff know the student may be in crisis at times. Also tell the student you will give them a pass to guidance department anytime he or she needs to talk to someone about their feelings about their parent being away, deployed to war.

    It may be beneficial to have the student’s guidance counselor speak to the student regularly.This will give the student an outlet to talk about the difficult feelings they are having such as fear, feeling different from peers who do not have a parent in the military, stress over not knowing when or if the parent will return home from war and other emotions the student may experience. The chats with the guidance counselor will let the student know someone is there anytime they need to talk.

    Alert the School Psychologist

    Teachers should also alert the school psychologist when a student has a parent deployed to war.The school psychologist should meet with the student to help them allay their fears. Also, it is important for the school psychologist to get to know the student now, so if the student experiences a major crisis like the injury or death of the parent at war the school psychologist already knows the student and the family dynamics and will be better able to help the student through the crisis situation.

    Make Pamphlets and Books Available to Students

    Many social service organizations have pamphlets or books about helping teens or children with a parent at war. Reach out to local social service organizations and try to obtain copies to help children and teenagers in crisis at a time like this. Ask the school librarian for anything that's available within the library.

    Let Student Know You are Available to Talk

    When the student informs you their parent is at war let them know you are available to talk if the student wants to share their feelings. High school students are sometimes hesitant to talk to peers about their fears and struggles while a parent is at war. Their family situation makes them feel different and isolated. Be sure to tell the student that they may talk to you at any time if they see you around the school campus.

    Get Information from ROTC Officers

    If the school has an ROTC office on site you may want to check with them to see if they have any brochures that may be helpful to your students. Also, the ROTC officers on duty may have experienced previous wartime deployment and could typically give you valuable advice about what to do to help students with parents at war.