Family Readiness Corner: Resiliency headlines the TAG Family Readiness Conference

Moffett Federal Airfield, Calif. -- "Resiliency Life Ties" was the main topic at the recent TAG Family Readiness Symposium and Commanders Conference for Family Readiness staff and volunteers.

Consistent with concerns voiced by First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Biden and Mrs. Mullen, wife of Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, building resilient families is the stronghold of our armed forces, but it isn't easy.

The National Guard Resiliency Training Center realized the importance of building resilient families in 2006, when the number of Kansas National Guard member suicides equaled the number of combat deaths.

As a result, they requested funds from National Guard Bureau to stand up a pilot program to create resilient service members and families. The effort has received positive reviews since then, with the number of Guard units seeing the value of this adopted mindset and lifestyle change quickly growing.

With high-profile individuals campaigning to ensure that military spouses and their families get the necessary support, resiliency skills for families is becoming a unit priority. Twenty-two states have sent personnel to receive training through the Resiliency Training Center, with California being one of them.

During the symposium, two key concepts from the "Resiliency Life Ties" course were presented: resourcefulness and reframing. Volunteers came away with a sense of validation; their life experiences have already provided them with a solid foundation of resiliency skills.

This sense of validation is key to providing the hope that ongoing deployments and other military life challenges could be managed better each time. Many spouses and family readiness volunteers shared their many accomplishments in finding community resources that have helped their own family and others in scenarios such as moving to a new area, finding childcare, instructions on local school registration, locating affordable dining and shopping, etc.

Now, the most important support the family readiness volunteer leader can provide is modeling hope and perseverance during deployment separation and helping with the reintegration process. This is where reframing becomes the honing tool to resiliency.

The cumulative experiences of both the family readiness staff and volunteers was helpful in identifying key family resiliency factors such as: family problem solving, communication, equality, spirituality, flexibility, truthfulness, hope, family hardiness, family unit, resourcefulness and health.

The art of reframing our thoughts to support resiliency becomes a matter of being aware of the kinds of thoughts that hinder resiliency-building, such as the "all or nothing" mindset, catastrophizing, personalizing and overgeneralization.

With little provocation, many could recall various examples of these mindsets in different areas of their lives, past and present, without summoning the skills of reframing. Such mindsets could be responsible for marital discord, career sabotage and family dysfunction.

The mindset of choice is flexibility - the ability to handle different situations in different ways. It is especially effective in response to new, complex and problematic situations. Given our audience base, the concept of flexibility was an easy conversation starter as it is considered a characteristic that defines the military family. To sustain the mindful skill of flexibility, the course examines the concepts of optimism, self-confidence, willingness to accept uncertainty and most importantly, self-control.

All of these topics were very well received and an urging to see more of these courses for leaders and families was widely expressed. If your unit would like to have an abbreviated training for leadership or for your unit's Family Readiness Group, contact Carolann Wunderlin of the Airman & Family Readiness Office at 650-603-9118.