Wounded Warrior Project Helps Veteran Connect With Family Through Mindfulness
Navy veteran Don Monroe’s children used to wonder which version of dad would walk through the door each day: the calm dad or the angry dad.
All that changed after Don connected with other veterans and participated in activities like mindful parenting workshops offered by Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP).
“I’m more even keel now than I was before,” Don said.
“Mindfulness teaches you to be introspective and realize you don’t have to go from zero to 100. There are many steps before you get there — and you can decide to change at any point.”
Since finding WWP, Don, his wife Shavon, and their two children have taken part in various activities, including recent virtual events that bring families together for yoga, art projects, and watching movies outdoors.
“The virtual events make it easier to include the family,” Don said. Since March, the children have been studying from home. “We’re stuck with each other, so we might as well get to know each other better.”
The Monroes were introduced to mindfulness — a non-judgmental way to focus on the present moment — at a mindful marksmanship class last fall. The class gave veterans a relatable entry point into mindfulness and taught them to apply grounding and focusing principles to a new purpose: healing from the invisible wounds of war.
Throughout 2020, Don and his family attended a series of mindful parenting workshops that began with in-person meetings in Richmond, Virginia, and evolved to online classes during the pandemic. Warriors and family members maintained the connection with their peers during the virtual gatherings.
“My children like speaking to other kids via Zoom, and we can still relate to other parents who are going through similar experiences,” Don said. “Before, I felt alone in my parenting issues. Now I realize I’m not by myself; there are other dads like me out there.”
Don said he’s noticed that his children get along better, and he attributes that positive change to practicing mindfulness as a family. In addition, he feels uplifted and appreciates having “a sort of support group where you can exchange ideas with other fathers and help each other regardless of what stage of parenting you’re in.”
Don is learning that he and his children share similar expectations for their relationship; they’re just learning a new way to communicate those expectations mindfully.
“When I discuss what I’d like to do as a dad with other fathers, I then learn that’s what my children wanted, especially when it comes to providing safety and structure to help my children feel protected and loved.”
WWP provides opportunities for veterans and their families to communicate better and find common ground. The class Don and his children participated in included meditation, communication skill-building, and open discussion.
In a WWP survey of the wounded warriors it serves, more than one in three (37%) expressed they talk with fellow veterans to address their mental health concerns.
Spending more time with immediate family during the current period of social distancing has presented challenges and blessings for many families. Having WWP-led activities provides a break to “have something else to focus on and actually enjoy each other’s company,” Shavon said.
“As personal space shrinks, it’s a stress reliever to have activities that are safe for the family and provide an outlet,” Don added.
For Don and Shavon, doing activities while virtually surrounded by other veterans and families has been a way to normalize the current situation.
“Wounded Warrior Project has opened up resources and connected me to people with similar interests, both before and during the pandemic,” Shavon said.
WWP transitioned many of its lifesaving programs and services from in-person to virtual in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Through engaging events, WWP brings veterans and families together using teleconferencing technology to foster healing and recovery.
Don said that connecting with other veteran families has helped bring out the best in him. “You realize that you’re not perfect, but by meeting other families and practicing mindfulness, you have the opportunity to be the best dad you can be.”
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.