Like all of us, military kids benefit from feeling appreciated for the unique role they play in the military family. If you have spent any time around a military installation, chances are you have noticed a large number of playgrounds in the area. It seems there is a playground on every block in military housing.
That’s because military children make up an important element of the military family.
According to a special report published by the Department of Defense in 2017, 1.7 million children around the world are connected to the U.S. military, with over one million dependents of active-duty service members. April offers a chance to celebrate these smallest heroes through the Month of the Military Child.
Worldwide, organizations take this opportunity to show support for military kids and also highlight resources to help them thrive.
Who are military kids? Military children come in all shapes, sizes, and service affiliations. The Army has the most military kids, with nearly a million “force-dependent children worldwide.” This is followed by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.
The majority of military children are quite young. Forty-two percent of all active-duty military kids are under the age of six. Young children respond to military life in their own way. They are often just starting to understand that one of their parents has to leave them for work. Sometimes, it’s both parents. Their ability to fully grasp these complex emotions is often still developing, making it difficult for them to communicate their needs.
Young children are often facing a first deployment or separation from their military parent. They can experience feelings of fear or anxiety when facing this new living situation. Developmentally, young children are learning how to engage in relationships with others. They benefit from routine and still need assistance from an adult when handling frustration. A military lifestyle comes with a lot of change. One of the greatest challenges facing young military kids and those who care for them is adjusting to the changes that frequently arise.
Over 623,000 military children are school-age or older, with 37 percent of that group in middle or high school. These military kids are able to articulate their wants and needs, although they do not always line up with the needs of the military. Older children are also looking for more opportunities to exercise their autonomy. It can be difficult for them to reconcile their desire for independence with the requirements that are placed on a military family during deployments, moves and training.
Older children often have more experience with the military lifestyle. But they face the additional challenges of making the reality of being a military kid fit with school requirements and increased social needs. As they get more involved with friends, social activities, sports, or clubs, it can be hard for them to move when faced with a change of station.
Military children of today are able to face challenges head-on and adapt to new situations. They don’t sit on the sidelines — they dive right into a community.
How to say thank you. Like all of us, military kids benefit from feeling appreciated for the unique role they fill in the military family. Here are four great ways to show them how much you value them.
1.) Get to know your military community. With fewer than 1 percent of the United States population serving in the armed forces, the military lifestyle is becoming less and less familiar to the population as a whole. One of the best ways to show your support is to become a part of your military community. No need to run down to your local recruiting station. Just reach out to military members and their families whom you know. Ask them about their experiences, interests and passions.
2.) Wear purple on April 13 to show your support. When you combine Army green, Marine Corps red, and Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard blue, you get purple. Month of the Military Child encourages everyone to “Purple Up! for military kids” each year. This serves as a visual reminder of the strength of the military child and the support of the community behind them.
3.) Nothing beats a good, old-fashioned certificate of appreciation. The Military Child Education Coalition has templates to download and customize. This is an especially useful tool for teachers and other school officials serving military communities.
4.) Like it, tweet it, share it. Show your support on your favorite social media platform with #HomeIsWhereWeAre. Military kids have the uncanny ability to “bloom where they are planted,” making a home wherever the military takes them.
The benefits of being a military kid. Military kids face unique challenges but rise to meet them, time and time again. Frequent moves, acclimating to a new community, and prolonged periods with a deployed parent (or two) allow them to experience and learn from change. In today’s world, this skill will serve them well.
According to University of Pennsylvania professor and MacArthur fellow Angela Duckworth, “grit is a better predictor for long-term success than our traditional understanding of genius as traits or talents that we are born with.” Webster’s defines grit as “firmness of mind or spirit; unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.” Military kids have grit in spades.
Military children of today are able to face challenges head-on and adapt to new situations. They don’t sit on the sidelines but rather dive right into a community. They persevere through any obstacle. For these reasons and many more, military kids deserve to be honored during this Month of the Military Child.
Katie Begley is an OpsLens contributor, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, and a former surface warfare officer. In addition to being a military spouse, she is a freelance writer specializing in travel, education, and parenting subjects. This piece originally appeared in OpsLens.
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