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Navigating the Challenges: The Lives of Military Children



Did you know that April is the Month of the Military Child?  As a SHERO Ambassador, I wanted to share the unique challenges of America’s youngest heroes, offer tips for showing support, and provide some resources.  This week I interviewed Noah and Aiden Steele-Allen, two brothers in a military family.  

The military life for children comes with some pretty cool perks such as traveling, meeting new faces, and organizational support.  Military children often exhibit the strong characteristics of resiliency, intellect, discipline, and adaptability.  The military lifestyle is never boring due to a host of various circumstances, such as deployments, Permanent Change of Station (PCS), and various family dynamics. As a result, the children often face hardships of their own.

One of the most immediate and tangible effects of frequent moves is the disruption to a child's education.  They often change schools many times throughout their academic careers, which leads to inconsistencies in curriculum.  “Not every school teaches the same classes in the same school year.” -Noah.  This causes them to have retake classes or catch up.

Building and maintaining friendships can be difficult for military children.  They often have to say goodbye to friends and then make new friends somewhere else.  This can be very challenging, especially in a mid-year move.  This can cause them to isolate from fear of getting attached. “I was just happy that I had my brother, I feel bad for the ones who don’t have siblings.” -Aiden.  Aiden and Noah both play sports now, but they didn’t always get super involved in after school activities.  They told me that one of the most notable struggles they faced with sports was that they felt like the coaches already had their favorites.  It seemed that because they were new, they weren’t given as much time to prove themselves. Thankfully they have been steady for most of their high school years.  This presents another challenge of its own.

Separation from parents is a big challenge for many military children.  Noah and Aiden get to live at home with their mom while their Dad still travels to other duty stations.  They both told me that the holidays are always difficult, but they feel like they get to talk to him and see him on a mostly consistent basis.  One time both parents were out on missions and the brothers had an aunt come stay with them in Hawaii.  They told me that they knew who the aunt was but not very well, so it almost felt like staying with a stranger.

One of the most significant challenges military children face is coping with the absence of one or both parents during deployments.  This causes emotional and behavioral challenges such as fear, anxiety, sadness, and much more.  Children may struggle to understand why their parent has to leave or worry about their safety while they are gone. This emotional burden can manifest in various ways, including changes in behavior, academic performance, and overall well-being.

So how can we help?  We can offer stability wherever possible by creating routines.  Encourage connection by providing opportunities for children to connect with other peers and support groups.  Be attentive to the emotional needs and offer a safe place for them to express their feelings and concerns. Advocate for access to resources and support services that cater to the specific needs of military families, including counseling and educational assistance programs. 

Military children are resilient, courageous, and deserving of our support and admiration.  By acknowledging their struggles and offering them the support they need, we can empower these silent heroes to navigate the challenges of military life with strength and resilience.

 

list of organizations that support military children:

1. Operation Teammate: Inspires military children through mentorship with athletes, providing them with positive role models and support. https://www.operationteammate.org

2. Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC): Provides resources, training, and support to ensure quality educational opportunities for military children. https://www.militarychild.org

3. Operation Military Kids (OMK): Offers programs and resources to support military children and youth facing the challenges of deployment and relocation. https://www.operationmilitarykids.org

4. National Military Family Association (NMFA): Advocates for military families and provides support, resources, and programs for children and youth. https://www.militaryfamily.org

5. Our Military Kids: Provides grants for sports, arts, and tutoring activities to children of deployed National Guard and Reserve service members, as well as to children of wounded warriors from all service branches. https://ourmilitarykids.org

6. Military Kids Connect (MKC): An online community for military children providing support, resources, and activities to help them cope with the challenges of military life. https://militarykidsconnect.health.mil

7. Sesame Street for Military Families: Offers resources, tools, and multimedia content to help military children and families cope with deployment, relocation, and other challenges. https://sesamestreetformilitaryfamilies.org

8. Blue Star Families: Provides support, resources, and programs for military families, including children and youth, to enhance their well-being and strengthen their communities. https://bluestarfam.org

9. United Through Reading: Offers a program that allows deployed military parents to record themselves reading children's books, which are then sent home to their children, helping to maintain bonds during separation. https://unitedthroughreading.org

10. Military Kids Clubhouse: Provides support and resources for military children and families through events, workshops, and online resources. https://www.militarykidsclubhouse.com

These organizations offer valuable support, resources, and programs tailored to the unique needs of military children, helping them thrive despite the challenges they face.

 

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