After Deployment: Adaptive Parenting Tools (ADAPT) is an intervention-based program designed to add parenting tools to your tool belt by enhancing parenting skills. ADAPT was specifically created for military families with the main goal of promoting healthy parent-child relationships. ADAPT is a 14-week program that includes 2-hour sessions each week. Research has shown that there are several benefits to participating in the ADAPT program. For example, there was an increase in effective parenting (e.g., child skill encouragement) for mothers and improved child adjustment (e.g., having friends at school). Because access to the program is currently limited to specific locations (see information at the end for current locations), this article will highlight some of the skills that are taught in ADAPT to pinpoint specific strategies for promoting connections with your child and healthy development.
Family Problem Solving
What is it: Involving children in the discussion of problems that arise in your family, and collectively finding a resolution together, can teach your child to think critically and find creative solutions. Be sure to include your child in these discussions only if the topic is developmentally appropriate.
Try this: If your family struggles to keep up with daily household tasks, ask your child what they can do to be a part of accomplishing them. Consider creating a chore list with your child that includes age appropriate responsibilities that allow them to be a part of the solution to the family problem.
What is it: Teaching through encouragement requires reassurance and support from the parent, particularly when assisting a child with problem solving or tasks outside of his or her abilities.
Try this: Read a book with your child that is at his or her reading level but that also has unfamiliar words. This strategy can help them read independently, but also become comfortable with asking for help when needed. Don’t forget to cheer them on when they are getting the words they already know!
What is it: Monitoring involves the parents’ supervision and knowledge about their child’s activities.
Try this: During deployment, consider creating a calendar of your child’s daily activities using an online resource like Google calendar. This way both the at-home parent and the deployed parent are aware of their child’s routines. This can also prompt important conversations with your partner including discussion about your child’s peer group and their level of involvement in extracurricular activities (e.g., are they overscheduled?).
What is it: Positive involvement with your child requires displaying warmth, affection, and empathy.
Try this: Try engaging your child in thoughtful discussion about their day when they come home from school. Ask questions that require detailed responses, such as “What was something that made you smile today?” or “Who did you sit with during lunch today and what did you talk about?”
What is it: Research has shown that an overly strict approach to discipline has limited effectiveness on teaching children desired behaviors. Instead, be consistent in the behaviors you do and do not want your child to engage in; if discipline is necessary, calmly tell your child what they did was wrong and what the consequences will be for their actions.
Try this: Be responsive to the needs (physical and emotional) of your child and simultaneously set and enforce boundaries consistently.
What is it: Emotional socialization is the process of teaching children how to understand and express their emotions.
Try this: When your child is upset and cries, begin by comforting them and calm your child down by instructing them to take deep breaths. Once your child is calm, ask them to identify their feelings and what caused them to become upset. If they do not know the name of their emotion, help them learn the appropriate term (e.g., by using emojis coupled with a conversation) and encourage them to explain why they are feeling that particular emotion.
It is important to remember that these practices are most effective when implemented long-term. Consistency is key, so keep trying even when you feel discouraged! Although it is unrealistic to begin implementing every parenting practice at once, consider choosing one area for improvement, and work to integrate new techniques into your parenting tool belt over time.
Note: ADAPT for Active Duty is available at Fort Bragg (North Carolina) and Fort Campbell (Kentucky-Tennessee). If you are interested in the ADAPT program, but are unable to access the intervention in your area, consider implementing a few of the practices we mentioned above.