Supporting our Military Children
April is the Month of the Military Child, and for good reason.
Military children are just like other children in that they desire acceptance, love, and want to sink roots into their communities. Where they differ is that their presence in a community may not be for more than three to four years at a time due to frequent moves in the military. They learn that the definition of “home” is more than just a structure. It is when their family is together again.
Military kids often have to face life without one or both parents due to temporary duty (TDY) or trainings or deployments. These situations can cause major stress and anxiety. They witness first-hand the strength of a family unit by pulling together to make it through these extended periods of time spent apart. The many transitions they encounter in the military lifestyle forces them to build strength and resilience. This allows them to persevere and accept their family’s unique way of life.
So this month, we celebrate the resilience of military children while at the same time remembering our role in supporting them!
How can you help military children?
1-Listen and Acknowledge: Allow them time to process upcoming changes and listen to how they are feeling. Give them the space they need to express their feelings and fears, help them find ways to cope. Encourage them to use their voices. Ask military childrenhow they are feeling about a recent move, where they have traveled to and what they enjoyed about their adventure? Ask them about their loved one who is away. Encourage them to share stories and be curious.
2- Offer to “Stand In”: Deployments can last up to a year. During that time communities, schools or churches may host “Donuts with Dad” or “Muffins with Mom.” It can be a sad time for a child whose parent cannot join and celebrate with them. Offer to be there as a “stand in” for mom or dad. Both the child and their parent will be overjoyed that they were able to participate.
2-Offer respite: By helping the parent, you are in turn helping the child. When a service member is absent, it puts stress on the entire family unit. If you are able to lend a hand in some way, it will greatly help that military family as a whole.
3- Celebrate their Achievements and Milestones: Military children can attend up to 10 different schools by the time they graduate from high school due to frequent moves. For some students, adaptation following relocation happens with ease, while for others there are more challenges—especially for those entering school for the first time or during adolescence. Children often struggle with establishing a sense of self. The frequent loss of old friends, rebuilding of social networks, adjusting to new routines, and activities can be very stressful. Being there for the child, no matter how large or small the achievement, can be crucial to their self-esteem and confidence. Be their biggest cheerleader! They have worked hard and overcome many obstacles in the process.
Get Out and Be Active– Having a physical outlet can help children with any negative emotions they are feeling. Exercise is extremely beneficial for children as they navigate their feelings. Think about how much better adults feel after a workout or long run. Children reap the same benefits and will be better equipped and calmer during such an emotional time. Offer to volunteer with youth programs in your local military communities.
Military children are unique and very special. They may not wear a uniform, but they sacrifice as much as those that do. Their resiliency is built and strengthened by the constant support and encouragement from their families, friends, schools and communities. Together we can all make an impact in the life of a military child.
If you are a parent of a military child and would like to learn more about how the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics at Centerstone may be able to help support you and your family please call our offices at 1-877-463-6505.