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‘U’ Program Seeks To Help Military Families Reconnect

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – For military members returning home from deployment, the adjustment back to everyday life can be difficult.

Veterans can take advantage of many different resources, from job training to emotional support. But one area that doesn’t get a lot of attention is the family.

Now there’s a new study at the University of Minnesota to help parents and children cope with the return home.

It’s called After Deployment: Adaptive Parenting Tools, or the ADAPT Program. Researchers are working with military families to develop tools to help them reconnect and overcome the stress of deployment.

For Iraq War veteran Michael Skelly and his daughter, Greta, there is comfort in a game of cards.

The game of Uno allows them time together, something that wasn’t always a possibility.

“I volunteered to go to Iraq because I wanted to serve,” Michael said.

Michael knew that deployments were par for the course.

“It’s part of being in the military. You got to be willing to leave home and do whatever you’re asked to do.”

And the stress of deployment touched each family member.

“I didn’t see him for, like, a year,” Greta said.

When his tour wrapped up, reconnecting didn’t happen immediately.

“It was difficult,” Michael said. “She still had separation anxiety. That was probably the hardest thing was just, we kind of had to rebuild trust a little bit.”

It’s why Michael is part of the U of M study, where researchers follow veterans for two years to learn how to better serve them, and their family, after deployment.

Dr. Abigail Gewirtz is the lead researcher for the ADAPT Program.

“I think, historically, families have been largely neglected,” Gewirtz said. “We’ve focused on military service members and not the families.”

Two years into the project and the study is already turning out new findings.

“One of the small groups of deployed service members who, I think, are really neglected are mothers who are deployed,” she said.

The ADAPT program is more than just research. Some families also work through a 14-week program learning ways to reconnect with not only with their kids, but all their loved ones.

“This is a hugely valuable resource of information because there’s really not that information about deployments available,” she said.

Cori Stahlecker, Michael’s fiancé, says the program has fostered better family communication.

“The material they present, it gives you good ideas for different ways to look at things,” Stahlecker said.

Michael and his daughter have more than overcome the distance of deployment, all while offering insight to help others who’ve served our country.

“I’m happy that we’re together now, for sure,” Michael said.

There is still room for military members who would like to be a part of the study. Click here for more information.

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