Civilian Primary Care and the Military Child

Author: Dr. Kelly Blasko is a research psychologist at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology.

In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, it was noted that 65 percent of all military children received their health care from civilian providers. This is an important statistic because your military children may receive care from a provider that knows little or nothing about the unique aspects of military life.

Over the last decade, military children have been affected by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan just as their parents have. The effects of the cycle of separation and reintegration can show up as physical complaints that can be sign of anxiety and stress. You may hear complaints from your children of headaches, stomach pains, nausea, and tiredness. Their stress may be expressed through acting out, such as more aggressive behavior, outbursts of anger, or risky behaviors. Any of these symptoms is a cause for concern and you should consult with your medical provider.

Civilian medical providers may unintentionally overlook the psychosocial aspects that result from military life. Many of these providers are not aware of what it means to move frequently or be separated from a parent during a deployment. You can assist in your child’s care by sharing information about what is happening from the perspective of a military parent. Don’t assume that the provider will know the day-to-day stresses that are all too common to you. You should tell them when your partner left for deployment or when you last moved. It is also important to share how your children coped with these transitions in the past.

With some guidance from you, your civilian medical provider can treat your child with a better understanding of what it means to be a military child.