New resources aim to help children from ADF families understand health challenges
Children growing up in families associated with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) can face unique challenges, such as extended periods of separation from loved ones, regular interstate and international moves, and exposure to physical and mental health challenges when family members return from service.
University of New England (UNE) researcher Dr Marg Rogers has been involved in a project which is producing a series of three e-books for young children, as part of a broader study into how children in ADF families are supported, and how educators can work with ADF children and families to understand the unique challenges of those in defence.
The e-books will give young children, whose parents have military service related health issues a better understanding of their parents conditions, in an age appropriate way.
Nathan’s Story, for example, uses Australian wildlife characters to explain the situation of a parent returning home from military service with mental health issues such as post traumatic stress disorder.
The books in the series cover mental and physical health issues arising from military service, addressed in empathetic and age appropriate ways. As well as being helpful for young children, the stories also contain research based information to help parents, carers and family workers to connect with further literature on the topics raised in the books.
As the research which underpins the stories is ongoing, the content will be adapted based on feedback from parents and military service family workers throughout 2021 and 2022, before being released more broadly.
“Children in these families are potentially vulnerable due to the huge changes and stressors taking place within their family,” Dr Rogers said.
While the concepts of these changes are very difficult for young children to understand, she added, the use of friendly animal characters can open a door for children to engage with the concepts and changes in a way that increases emotional intelligence and promotes resilience.
“The narrative portrays practical ways of coping and understanding. It is really important for these children to see their lives reflected in age and culturally appropriate children’s literature so they have a sense of belonging and acceptance within the community.”
Each of the e-books will have video and audio read-along, activity based teaching materials, content for older children, and activity sheets which can be used by family workers, parents or educators to extend the story off the page.
To follow the work of the Early Childhood Defence Programs research project, please see here.