Reconnection Workshops, Presented by Walmart: Come See What the Buzz is all about!
Feedback from another Red Cross program (Coping with Deployments) and from reviewing surveys of returning service members and their families helped us identify common challenges during reintegration. Five topics were chosen: communication, anger, stress and trauma, depression, and relating to children. Using a structured approach, we created short (90-120 minutes) workshops that can be taken alone or in any combination desired. They provide support and skill-building exercises for participants in a confidential setting, but are not therapy groups.
We also wanted to make sure the program would be accessible. With so many National Guard and Reserve warriors being deployed, we knew we needed to bring our program to their families, not make the families come find us. The solution was to offer the Reconnection Workshops locally. When someone asks for a workshop, we do our best to offer it in their community. If we don’t have a facilitator available in the area, we will bring one in for the workshop. Furthermore, the workshops are free to anyone affiliated with the military or a service member or veteran.
Most Red Cross services are provided by volunteers. This program is no exception. Our facilitators are specially trained Red Cross volunteers who are licensed mental health professionals. We wanted to make sure that we had facilitators who would appreciate the ups and downs military life, who are knowledgeable about the workshops’ content, and who excel at engaging group participants. Our facilitators are undeniably a gifted group of volunteers.
Give yourself or your family some extra support and/or some new ideas to help manage reintegration – consider taking one of these workshops. They are simple, practical and effective. Perhaps you know of friends or other families with a service member or veteran who may like these workshops as well. Share this information with them. Additional information can be found at www.redcross.org/Reconnection. If you would like to request a workshop, contact us at: Reconnection@redcross.org.
Home is Where the Heart – and Habits – are.
We all have heard the phrase that we are creatures of habit. Some habits may be good, others fun, and some unhealthy. Sometimes we develop habits intentionally, while other times we may realize that what we are doing is a habit that developed unintentionally.
Habits are patterns of well-practiced behaviors that we may develop in response to life circumstances. They help us cope with change because they provide a consistent routine. When we have routines, we typically feel more comfortable - and more in control – to the extent that they make life predictable, which often means that we can manage our circumstances more effectively. In this way, habits are adaptive, i.e., they are a form of coping.
Whenever we encounter a new or unexpected situation, we may feel uncertain and less able to cope. As we develop regular patterns, we are cultivating habits, and slowly we begin to feel more in control of our environment and more comfortable. We can anticipate what will happen – habits help us manage what is new and unfamiliar.
When a family member deploys, everyone’s life is changed dramatically. The service member has to adapt to a new physical environment, different conditions – sometimes harsh ones - and new work expectations. Those at home must cope with their family member being away and adjusting to living without all the many things that he or she contributed to our lives. Each of us begins to find ways to cope, and in doing so we begin to exert some measure of influence over circumstances that have significantly disrupted our lives. We begin to develop new routines, which over time become habits as we continue them. These habits give us as sense of predictability and control of our lives; we adapt and then settle in with our new ways of living and dealing with the absence of a loved one.
The return of our loved one to our families is long awaited and anticipated. We can’t wait for that day, and when it occurs, in spite of the joy associated with reunification, everyone’s lives are disrupted again as we adjust to another new circumstance: reintegration. The habits that everybody developed to get through the deployment may or may not be the same ones that we had prior to the deployment, or, they may not be as helpful during reintegration as they were during deployment. The rub of these different habits can make reintegration more challenging. But, if we become aware of our habits, particularly those that don’t work so well during reintegration, we can more easily choose to change them.
The American Red Cross offers a program, Reconnection Workshops, Presented by Walmart, which helps participants address some of the challenges commonly associated with reintegration. These free, confidential, small group discussions are designed to help participants try new and effective ways of dealing with those areas that are challenging during reintegration.
The Reconnection Workshops are short (1.5 – 2 hour), skill-building, small group meetings that address a variety of issues. There are five different workshops, each of which deals with a common challenge to reintegration: communication issues, anger, depression, stress and trauma, and relating to children. Held locally, these workshops help participants identify, discuss, and practice ways to develop additional skills to better manage the challenges of reintegration. So, start a new habit today – take a workshop. Tell a friend about them. Take one together.
Additional information can be found at www.redcross.org/Reconnection.
Blog posts written by Marjorie Kukor, Ph.D., Senior Associate, Mental Health, Service to the Armed Forces, American Red Cross