Though we recognize their strength, resilience and contribution every day, each April our Armed Forces and the entire nation honors military kids with the Month of the Military Child.
It’s often said that military children serve right alongside their parents. They endure many of the same transitions: navigating separation during deployment (or geo-bachelor tours), adapting to life when that parent leaves and returns home, frequent moves, making new friends, adjusting to new surroundings, and more. Though they tend to keep a smile on our faces and often help positively shape others’ perspectives, sometimes it’s difficult to determine how children are processing the latest changes in their lives—even the familiar ones (like moving!). The presence of protective factors can help lessen the negative effects of stress on children and families alike, building family resilience. Help your kids and family apply the 5 Principles of Resilience (Predictability, Controllability, Relationships, Trust and Meaning) to thrive through transition periods with these quick tips:
- Connect with the community (Relationships). Helping your kids get involved in social and extracurricular activities will lessen the stress of making new friends and getting acclimated with a new place, while providing a positive environment for expression. Social activities and peer connections can also be confidence-builders; military kids are often admired by their peers for their adaptability, sacrifice, and the “cool places” they’ve lived. A sense of belongingness is important!
- Explore their feelings (Predictability, Controllability, Trust). There are a lot of unknowns with deployments and PCS moves alike. Sit down with your children and explore their apprehensions. Making a plan for communication when a parent will be in a different location, teaching them about their new community and having open discussions can help kids regain a sense of control and promote trust. Get them excited about their upcoming changes while letting them know what to expect. They’re more likely to adjust better to their new phase of life, and you’ll have more peace of mind.
- Set an example (Meaning). Kids look up to their parents in challenging times, but that doesn’t mean you have to be superhuman! It’s important to show children that life’s changes bring new opportunities and that setbacks are only temporary. Help them see the positives, while trying to remain level-headed. Lean on the support of friends and family, faith or laughter as medicine for stress relief. This will help your children learn positive ways to navigate stress and find greater meaning in life’s twists and turns.
Most importantly, remind your kids that you admire their strength. Thank them and tell them you love them. Whether facing a change or navigating daily life, nurturing and affection are important protective factors at all times. Salute your Military Child!