Veterans have amazing coping skills. The war and survival skills that a veteran used to stay alive during conflict and to return home are extraordinary and resulted in him/her doing just that, staying alive and returning home.

These skills sometimes DO NOT easily transfer back to civilian life. However, the Strengths found in many of these skills can be tapped into during the transition home.

The skills that the veteran engaged were:

    • Safety
      • Being constantly alert for dangerous situations
      • Seeing anything unexpected or out of place as a possible explosive device
      • Watching people and looking for escape routes
      • Veteran have learned acute alertness and vigilance. This exaggerated state kept him/her alive in wartime. It can be difficult to adjust, but these are helpful and useful skills at home if brought into balance
    • Trust and the Enemy
      • Being suspicious and seeing everyone as a potential enemy
      • Being uncomfortable and alert around crowds or strangers
      • Checking people for trustworthiness
      • The veteran understands trust at the deepest level. It may seem more like “mistrust” at first, but the core value is intensely understood. It will take time for the veteran to be willing to expand this trait and open their heart to the most comforting trust of all, a spiritual trust. This, too, gives the family an opportunity to grow together in that dimension
    • Mission Orientation
      • Focusing only on a single task and not wasting time on unimportant things
      • High use of energy and resources while on a mission
      • Exhaustion and withdrawal when the mission is done
      • Since the veteran is adept at finishing and focusing on certain, specific tasks, your family can begin to use this strength. Instead of asking the veteran to multi-task, perhaps start with specific missions that need completed that will be a win-win for the family
    • Decision Making
      • Chain of command determines who makes decisions
      • Little questioning or discussion
      • Deciding and acting without hesitation
      • The veteran will do what needs done. Seek together things in your life together that can use this strength to help everyone
    • Response Tactics
      • Act first, think later, and be ready to respond with force when necessary
      • Avoid planning, be ready to act
      • Be prepared and have things in place
      • Since the veteran is very conditioned for “preparedness”, discuss the things in your family and family life that can use this trait for everyone’s advantage
    • Predictability and Intelligence
      • Be unpredictable, vary routes and behaviors
      • Do not let others know what you are thinking
      • Avoid talking or giving out information that could be used against you
      • Your veteran has had to use the trait of discernment to stay alive. While it might seem heightened, acknowledge it and discuss how you can use that skill for the families welfare
    • Emotional Control
      • Control emotions to enhance performance
      • Numb emotions, others may see them as weakness
      • Have anger readily available to respond with
      • We are emotional beings. Often veterans had to learn to NOT be an emotional being to survive. Do not take it personally, but do not ignore times to discuss healthy emotional responses. Do this without blame and as learning experiences for you and your family
    • Talking about the War
      • People will ask you stupid questions, prepare your answers well
      • It may be very difficult to talk to people who were not there
      • People may not want to hear about details, don’t be surprised
      • Learning who to talk to and when is important
      • Discuss with the veteran what makes him or her comfortable or uncomfortable. Ask if it is ok to share that information with your friends and family. Do what you can to honor the veteran, but also do not “walk on eggshells” because learning to readjust is about learning to live life on life’s terms

(adapted from James Munroe’s “Vet and Family Information Booklet”, Boston VA)

Disclaimer: Veterans’ Families United Foundation does not guarantee results or outcome of the information provided in any of its materials.

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