Did you know that 1.6 million military children often experience frequent moves, long periods of separation from their parent(s), as well as the stress of having a parent deployed?
But despite these challenges, they show remarkable strength and resilience.
In the UK, April recognises Military Child Month, a time to honour and appreciate the unseen sacrifices and contributions of military children.
In this blog post, I’ll recognise what military children go through, how this affects my children and what we do to try to help them along the way.
Understanding the challenges and sacrifices military children face
Military children did not ask to be a part of this lifestyle. As a spouse, I chose this life, knowing what I was getting in for – well, kind of knowing what I was getting myself into!
Children, however, are mostly born into it, without a choice. I think it’s important to recognise this and to acknowledge it.
Military families move frequently, potentially every 2 years, which disrupts the children’s social connections and can make it difficult to adjust to new schools and communities. They have to leave friends and familiarity behind and make new friends in a new school & community.
There can be long periods of separation from a parent which can cause feelings of loneliness, uncertainty and anxiety. In addition, the stress of having a parent deployed is not easy to deal with.
As a parent, it’s difficult to explain some things to our children. Take for instance our toddler, he doesn’t understand why Daddy is sometimes here all the time but sometimes is at work for a long long time. For our teenager, who has questions about not only the work Daddy does but the whole world, I don’t have the answers to her questions.
These unique set of challenges can impact their mental health and well-being. It’s important to be as honest and open with children as possible. Explaining things to them in a way they will understand.
Military children make many sacrifices that often go unnoticed. It’s important to acknowledge and appreciate the strength and resilience of military children and to provide them with the support they need to thrive.
Celebrating the strength and resilience of military children
Although military children face many challenges and sacrifices, they also possess incredible strength and resilience.
They learn to adapt to new situations quickly, develop strong bonds with their families and communities, and often become leaders among their peers.
For our teenager, she was not born into this lifestyle – my husband and I married when she was 10. We made the decision early on to stay in one place with her, so as to not disrupt her education, friends and familiarity with life. However, we also decided (and she was a part of this decision-making), that if we had the opportunity to move abroad, we would all go.
Now, currently living in the Czech Republic; yes we have disrupted her education; no we don’t know where she will sit her GCSEs; no we don’t know what school she will go back to; or even if she will have to resit a year.
But the benefits, for us, in watching her explore and experience a new culture; travel to other countries; and listening to her talking about what University she wants to go to (at the moment it’s a toss-up between Madrid or Copenhagen) has far outweighed the negatives.
Wear confidence. It is the height of fashion.haemin sunim
The confidence she has to talk to strangers, to figure out how public transport works, and the desire to continue to travel when she is older, astonishes me. I’m in awe of her. The big wide world doesn’t scare her.
Honouring military children during Military Child Month
April 15th is known as Purple Up Day – a day to honour and support all military children across all forces.
The official emblem of Military Child Month is a dandelion – just as dandelions’ seeds are blown far and wide, plant roots and blossom everywhere – so too do military children!
The purple background signifies the mix of colours from Army green, Air Force blue, Navy blue, Coast Guard blue and Marine red.
There are many military charities and organisations that help support military children. Take for example Huggable Heros – we got one made for of son of Daddy in his uniform.
We’ve found that he doesn’t bother with the huggie when Daddy is home, but when Daddy goes away for a long period of time, that’s when the huggie goes everywhere with him – he goes to school, sleeps with him, they watch TV together. It’s really cute.
But also sad, it reminds me how much he misses his Daddy. However, the Huggable Hero helps tremendously in providing him comfort; allowing him to express his emotion of missing Daddy; and providing the opportunity to discuss why Daddy is away.
During this month, and in continuing months, please take the time to recognise the challenges that military children go through and the sacrifices they make. Maybe you know a military child, you could tell them what a good job they are doing, how strong they are and you’re proud of them – as am I of my kids.