Friday, October 19, 2012

Helping military families stay strong

SUPPORTING FAMILIES: From left, Mark and Michelle Avery; Jerry and Lisa Parisella; Rauch; Bonnie Ohye, PhD, Home Base Family Team Program clinical director; and Hammond

“When I’m away, I want to be focused on the mission and not be worried about the home front,” began U.S. Army Reservist and State Rep. Jerry Parisella. “But as the father to a girl who was just 6 at the time, it was hard to do. When I was in Iraq my daughter’s school really stepped up – and it made all the difference.”

Parisella addressed a crowd of nearly 200 people Oct. 1 at the State House during a celebration of the launch of Staying Strong, an initiative to support families at home and in school communities. It is the latest effort to come out of the Red Sox Foundation and the MGH Home Base Program.

The event included a screening of the film “Staying Strong: How Schools Build Resilience in Military Families,” which profiled the North Beverly Elementary School, the Parisella family and the Averys, another military family. The documentary highlighted an in-school support group for students with loved ones in the military as one way to support families.

“Military families deal with a long absence of a parent, concerns about his or her safety, and the adjustment when the parent returns home,” said Paula Rauch, MD, director of the Family Team Program at Home Base. “We need to better help the children of those who serve us.”

Also unveiled at the event was the website, which offers free parenting advice for families dealing with change when a veteran deploys or returns home. It also includes tools for educators, caregivers and community members who want to do more to support military families at school and in the community.

“For many families, when a parent comes home from the war, it can be a very stressful time,” said retired Brig. Gen. Jack Hammond, executive director of the Home Base Program. “Through our Staying Strong initiative, we encourage the entire civilian community to renew a commitment to support our military-connected families and not forget them.”

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