Time to Disband Family Readiness Groups?


Our SpouseBuzz readers sure are hot over a recent post about how few young spouses participate in Family Readiness.

Readers said they did not have time for the FRG because of work commitments, a lack of tolerance for gossip, legal restrictions against raising money and distributing information, lack of welcome, lack of contact from the unit, etc.

Have Family Readiness Groups outlived their usefulness?

It made me wonder if Family Support Groups and Family Readiness Groups have just outlived their usefulness. What would happen if we just dissolved all these groups?

Hold back the howl for a minute. Be curious with me—especially you senior spouses. What if changes in technology like cell phones and email and websites and Facebook and Skype really have made FRGs obsolete? What would happen if commanders no longer had to have these volunteer organizations in place?

These groups served a real function in the not-so-distant past. When I was a young spouse, hundreds of women and children would attend meetings for the ship.

The FRG was the only way we could get any information.

This was the only way we could get any information. This is where they told us when the ship would be in port so we wouldn’t miss that one call from our sailor. This is where they told us about homecoming. This is where they gave away those handouts about how to cope with deployment.

The meetings were still boring. The same bossy people who run the meetings now ran the meetings then. Newbies were still outsiders back then. But there were enough newbies present that you might sit next to someone who was just as much of a newbie as you were so you might meet a friend. Which I did. A lot.

Today, the research says that the person a military spouse or girlfriend or partner depends upon is their service member. That’s what our readers said in their comments, too.

So if we disband all those organizations, what will take their place?

Organizations to replace Family Readiness Groups?

Which organizations could replace FRGs and FSGs?

Government organizations like Military OneSource? Most of those organizations provide information online. Or contact with a paid counselor. Or a webinar.

Paid support organizations like Army Family Team Building or the Fleet and Family Support Center? Those folks do good work. But family programs are being cut and consolidated all over the place. Those people contact me on LinkedIn all the time.

Unit professionals like the Marine Corps Family Readiness Officer or the Army’s Family Readiness Support Assistant? Those jobs seem to turn into a lot of paperwork, don't they?

Nonprofit organizations?  There are nearly 50,000 nonprofits registered with the IRS that include "military" in their mission statement.  Good in major crisis.

What about Facebook? Seems like a new study comes out every day showing that people are more depressed after using Facebook. It is comparison not connection.

And what about websites like Military.com and SpouseBuzz? I can collect a lot of ideas here and keep you up on the news, but I can’t get a cup of coffee with all of our readers. I can’t go get formula for your baby if you are sick or your car is in the shop. I can’t bring everybody a lasagna (even though I make a really killer lasagna and it has been known to soothe even the most savage breast).

I think we need real people.

That’s what the research shows, too. Military spouses who do best during deployment have been shown to depend on their service member, a family member or longtime friend, AND at least one real live person in the community.

No matter how many of us work full time, we still move every 2.5 years. We are still newbies with painful regularity. We still have those times where we have no local friends yet.  Or our moms are sick of us.  Or our non-military friends say stupid things.

We used to use the FRG or the FSG or the wives’ club to meet people.  But if no one shows up because they are focused on how boring the meetings are or how they are too busy then how do you make those friends?

This is where I get confused. Because if I have learned one thing on the job it is that people aren’t made to function alone in the world--especially in the military part of the world. People do need a little help and encouragement. People need other real people who have had similar experiences.  I just don't think we have figured out how to get all those people together in this ever-changing, ever-deploying, ever-moving world.


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