Military parents not alone with free program for new families

  • Published
  • By Caroline Clauson
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – On top of daily missions, deployments and drills, many Airmen serve double duty as moms and dads. And while parenting young children hits anyone hard, service members must navigate unique challenges to uphold their responsibilities on both sides. 

A program through Wright-Patterson Medical Center’s Family Advocacy makes juggling diapers with OCPs a little easier. The New Parent Support Program connects military families with health care, education and referral services from registered nurses and counselors. 

“My biggest goal with my families is to allow them to feel heard and supported, to have a safe space to share the less-than-flattering thoughts they have about the difficulties of parenting,” said Jessica Welz, a New Parent Support Program nurse at the 88th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron. “I find that our services help parents the most by decreasing their anxieties related to what they don’t know. Knowledge is power.”   

The voluntary and free service was developed to assist military families in ways that friends and family often would back at home. 

NPSP is available for active-duty and TRICARE beneficiaries who are expectant parents, those with children under 3 years old or adoptive parents. 

“As we just PCSed here and don’t have a strong support system or friends yet, Jess has really helped us feel heard and given us the comfort of having connections to all the resources on base,” said Senior Airman Kaitlyn Dickerson, 88th Communications Squadron member and new mother to Benjamin. “We wouldn’t have had any of that without her. I think it’s kind of like having a little family.” 

The program offers the flexibility of these services through home visits, phone consultations or on-site support at the medical center. Visits typically occur about twice per month.  

“I love how much growth in confidence I can see my parents have from the moment I walk in for a visit to the moment I leave,” Welz said. “Some days, I even hear audible signs from family members as they release their fears and nerves about parenting by having someone come in to talk through their concerns with their children. Being included in these times with families is a blessing I could never fully describe.”  

Health care professionals can offer guidance on topics from baby delivery, sleep concerns and toilet training to positive discipline, sibling preparation and play. They are also equipped to address issues specific to military life, such as preparing children for a parent’s deployment or moving. 

Welz also emphasizes that participating in the program can encourage and lift a burden off both parents. 

“We love getting to have both parents present,” she said. “Having the non-birthing parent present as well is such a massive benefit to see how the family unit works or answer questions that can come up in conversation.” 

In addition to visits, NPSP also holds parenting and self-improvement courses such as Dads 101, Parenting with Love and Logic, Managing Anger for Healthy Relationships and Baby Basics.  

“A lot of the time, especially when you have your first child, you find yourself not knowing what to do,” said Staff Sgt. Ty Dickerson, Benjamin’s father, who’s assigned to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center. “If your baby sneezes a little hard, you’ll go on Google and look it up. So it’s nice to have somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about instead of Googling it and terrifying yourself.”  

For more information about the New Parent Support Program, call 937-257-4608.