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Motherhood can be stressful, and for those connected to the military the pressure can be even greater. But free help is on the way for military moms at Arizona State University.
Designed and supervised by ASU professor of psychology Suniya Luthar, Authentic Connections is a science-based program consisting of groups that address the stresses of mothers in demanding roles.
This will be the first time the Authentic Connections groups will form at ASU to work with military mothers. Organizers are looking for university-affiliated military moms in active service, veterans, guardsmen/reservists or anyone else serving in a caregiving role for significant others in the military, said Luthar.
“The program will help them develop, sustain and strengthen close, mutually supportive, authentic connections with other moms like themselves,” said Luthar. “It is through these close connections that participants show significant improvements in multiple aspects of well-being plus parenting-related and other stress.”
Luthar and her group are committed to working with mothers who by the nature of their life circumstances or professions are under more stress than most. Moms in the military — or with military spouses — certainly meet this criterion.
The Authentic Connections concept was recently tested at the Mayo Clinic here in Arizona with mothers who are medical-care providers, including physicians, registered nurses and physicians assistants.
It was a success.
“Mayo administration gave them one hour freed time a week to attend the three-month program,” said Luthar. “Mothers who participated showed significantly greater improvements across multiple indicators of well-being and stress as compared to a control group, who also had one hour freed time.”
Like physicians, military moms are women who display remarkable personal strength and resolve in their professions. Being a “good enough mother” month after month, year after year, is hard enough under the best circumstances, Luthar said.
“When mothers experience high everyday stress, it is essential to ensure that they receive ‘tending’ themselves, on a regular basis,” said Luthar.
Focusing on military moms made sense to Luthar. She highlights three reasons why.
“One, there are significant challenges associated with deployment and therefore absences from home, which can be difficult for all in the family,” said Luthar. “Two, the nature of their profession involves constant exposure to events that can be potentially disturbing, if not traumatic. Three, as with physicians, seeking help for distress is not something that comes easily to military folk, given the culture emphasizing strength and self-reliance.”
Luthar is a mom of two grown children herself and understands first-hand (and not just through her research on resilience), the enormous challenges associated with being a parent — especially when one is the primary parent and raising kids under conditions of high everyday stress. She is committed to doing all she can to ensure that all mothers in these circumstances regularly receive "mothering" themselves.
“Benefits of the program at Mayo actually increased in the three-month period after intervention finished,” said Luthar. “It is our hope that military moms will also show incremental gains in well-being over time, as a result of strong, sustained personal relationships that they forge through the program.”
The Authentic Connections program for military moms at ASU is a collaborative relationship among Luthar, the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and the Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement.
Organizers want to recruit and start the groups the week of Sept. 12, said Nancy Dallett, assistant director with the Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement. The groups will meet for one hour once a week for three months.
Military moms interested in participating should email Dallett at email@example.com and include “Moms Group” in the subject line. She may also be reached at 480-965-9331.