I talk all the time about working with military families in a quest to help you be strong, safe and resilient. As a business owner, we start every year by submitting the business to a S.W.O.T. analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This means that we try to get a head start on looking at what might enhance or get in the way of us having the business we want. This month I want to help you do a SWOT analysis on your military family, and focus on the power of the Strengths and Opportunities. The reason you’ll want to identify the Weaknesses and Threats too, is because you can prepare and strengthen yourselves ahead of time if you know they might hit you. Here’s how to start:
- Get out a sheet of paper and fold it into four columns.
- Write STRENGTHS at the top of column one, WEAKNESSES at the top of column two, OPPORTUNITIES on three and THREATS on four.
- This can be a work in progress because you won’t think of everything all at once. Feel free to add to this document as you think of things.
- Begin with the STRENGTHS column because that’s easiest. List those special attributes that your family has that add to what make you resilient and strong as a military family. These can include things ranging from the fact that you talk comfortably with each other, that your kids actually do get along, to the talents and interests that each family member has. These are important because they all lead away from negative thinking.
- Next, look at the WEAKNESSES. I really hate the word weaknesses. I tend to call them concerns – but they don’t fit the acronym, and we know that the military is all about acronyms. These are the things that get in the way of the strengths you’ve identified. Maybe you don’t talk as a family and your teen walk in the front door, straight into their room and onto the computer and you don’t know how to approach them. Maybe you have an extended family that’s not as supportive as you’d like, or you don’t like your job, so you’re cranky when you come home and take it out on your family. It could be trying to budget when military finances aren’t enough to pay all the bills. Hopefully you won’t have more than two or three of these.
- Third, brainstorms the OPPORTUNITIES available to you as a military family. I love this one and it’s why we spent more time on it in the January 2011 newsletter and shared how 7 families answered the question, “What do you like about being a part of a military family?” What opportunities do you have that others might not. Some of these could include healthcare benefits that so many Americans don’t have, military discounts at stores and entertainment venues, exposure to more support systems if you take advantage of them, and even the pride you feel by being a part of something bigger than yourselves. One response almost sounded negative, but in reality was good for many to maintain a balanced home life. It came from an airman in the Air Force Reserves who said that occasional deployments actually give him some occasional time away from his “real” life. It added to his appreciation of coming home! So go ahead and think outside the norm.
- Finally assess the THREATS. These are different from weaknesses/challenges because threats usually come from outside the family, might be unforeseen and sometimes unpreventable. In this case you may only be able to identify them and prepare yourselves for them in a proactive manner. Deployment is usually seen as a threat to the stability of the family. Other threats can include seeing that your child is making bad choices in friends and the influence they have, or is maybe being exposed to drugs or being involved in destructive relationships. For adults and parents, there may be alcohol abuse or domestic abuse, or even depression. These threats are huge and should be addressed immediately if you are to work together as a family to keep on going.
Ok, now the next step: In each column, identify those things that you feel require attention in order to help strengthen your family unit, or those things that are going well and you want to be sure to keep doing. If a strength involves some amazingly mature behavior from one of your children, be sure to recognize and reward that behavior so that they know it’s valued. Go out for ice cream or something similar.
When you identify the weaknesses that are in the family, talk with each other to see what you can do together to make it better.
Under opportunities, are you actually taking advantage of all there is out there for you? Do you view yourFRG support as just another meeting that you don’t have time for? Do you ask for a military discount every time you’re in a store or restaurant?
Now analyze the threats. These can be really destructive and often they get brushed aside mainly because we have no idea how to do otherwise! Look at accessing outside resources to get help. Going through deployment? Go get a Flat Daddy®to help the family make it a bit more fun. Get copies of “I’m Already Home…Again” and “The Road Home” to find connection ideas and resources to implement. Staying connected helps the time seem to go faster, and maintains the strength you’ll need as you reintegrate. If your threats are more serious, please don’t bury your head…or your family…in the sand. Get help. Don’t know where to start? Check out www.MilitaryOneSource.com.
It’s easy to see why businesses that do a SWOT analysis are better prepared for what the year ahead will bring. There’s no reason that your family can’t benefit from the same knowledge. If you’d like to comment on anything you discover as you do your analysis, feel free to contact me at this website. Enjoy the year.