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Healthy Relationships Matter for Military Families


Written by: Karen Shirer, PhD

Healthy relationship skills can make a big difference for the strength and resilience of military families. Each year, thousands of military families make transitions when a service member (SM) deploys, relocates their family to a new state or country, or returns from deployment. At the same time, many also go through family-life cycle transitions like parenthood, separation or divorce to name a few. Military families are resourceful and resilient but at times these transitions can be challenging for them.

Learning Relationship Skills Benefits Military Families
Both military couples and co-parents benefit when they have the skills to plan for these transitions and successfully manage them as they move through them. Even if service members are no longer intimately involved with their children’s parents, these skills help them manage their co-parenting relationships for their children’s well-being.

The research-based skills that make the biggest difference for couples and co-parents can be learned by military couples and co-parents with family education and engagement provided by Military Family Service Providers and Extension Educators. These research-based skills include communication and listening, emotion and stress management, dealing with conflict, resource and financial management, and caring for self.

A Close Look at Relationships Webinar Series
This fall and winter, Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Family Transitions is offering a series of five webinars,A Close Look at Relationships, on how to strengthen military couples and co-parents’ relationships with family education and engagement. The first webinar, De-stigmatizing Help-Seeking for Military Couples, is planned for November 11, 2021 from 11:00 am-12:30 pm EST.

Plan to join the webinar to learn more about the Office of Military Community and Family Policy’s “Re the We” campaign. Kelly Smith with Military One Source (MOS) will describe this initiative designed to provide tools and resources to help rekindle, repair and reset relationships. The campaign’s ultimate goal is to break down barriers, destigmatize help seeking and inspire more people to get relationship support. The webinar is free. More information about the webinar and registration is here.

Co-parent & Relationship Resources
MFLN and MOS also have resources for co-parents and those experiencing a relationship break-up. Family Transition offered a two-part webinar on the diversity of military family units and resources for strengthening the co-parenting relationship. You can access the webinars and other resources here.

Military One Source is also offering a complimentary campaign to “Re the We” for service members whose relationships have ended. It is called the “Re the Me” campaign. Find information and resources here.

MFLN Family Transitions provides online professional development for Military Family Service Professionals and Extension Educators across the U.S. and around the globe who support military families with military and family transitions.

National Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Network.  (2007).  Cultivating Healthy Couples and Marital Relationships: A Guide for Effective Programming. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Karen Shirer is a member of the Military Families Learning Network Family Transitions Teamand previously the Associate Dean with the University of Minnesota, Extension Center for Family Development. Karen is also the parent of two adult daughters, a grandmother, a spouse, and a cancer survivor.


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The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

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