Viral pictures are showing what we are realizing together: Families of Medical Personnel now face a real, life-threatening danger. While danger is something military and police/firefighter families face with their loved one, large-scale danger like a war is new to medical families. This war was quick, leaving not much time for families to prepare emotionally.
And just like any other war, the families of this new war often have to be separated. So, how will the children of medical personnel understand this war? Will they be alright?
I will leave the parenting and psychological tips to the experts, but here are tips that were practiced when I was growing up a military brat during the Vietnam era. These tips also seemed to work for other military families I have taught and known since 9-11.
- Medical Heroes: Share what you are doing... from the war rooms. Send pictures. Facetime from the Hospital when you can. Generations ago, it was “letters from the front lines.” Families can feel they are supporting you better when they see and hear what it looks like.
- Someday, a Tour. When this is over and everything is safe, take your family to where you were working. Let them see, touch, and smell. I walked with my father on the Navy Ship where he served, and it was one of the best bucket-list items in my life.
- Answer questions. Family will be naturally curious. I remember asking questions of a Vietnam prisoner of war (who was a friend of our family) when I was only 9 years old.
- Explain the “Separation.” I learned as a kid, as did the military brats I played with, that our family members were separated in order to help and to serve. It was explained to us that separation right now helps a large amount of other people, even if it is a temporary sacrifice for us. It helped to give us a sense of pride.
Hopefully, medical families will be soon united again, and the song will be “I’ll be home for July 4th" instead of “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” like so many wars ago….
Ms. Buc is a Communications professor in Nashville, TN, and has worked aboard a deployed Navy aircraft carrier alongside other personnel separated from their families. She is a Mayo Clinic-certified health care educator and support group leader for patients at Vanderbilt Medical Center.
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