A Parent's Guide To Raising Children In A Military Family

Children raised in a military family face special fears and circumstances. Here's some advice to help military parents.

A child who is raised in a military family is part of a special club. It's not always the easiest club to belong to. In fact there are many times that the child would rather not have anything thing to do with it. However, when a parent is in the service, it isn't just Mom or Dad's job; it's the whole family's lifestyle. There are ways to help a child understand much of what is going on around them. As a military spouse, I will try to offer some suggestions that have made our military family life easier.

First of all, let your children be a part of the military experience. Take them to see what Mom or Dad does at work. Most commanders don't have a problem with letting families visit on an occasional basis. Of course, just like in the civilian world, it's imperative to receive permission before you arrive with the whole family in tow. Once that permission is received, let the kids take a look around your office, company, squadron, etc. Have them meet those with whom you work, that way the child can put faces to the names they hear about at the dinner table. Let them look at Mom's or Dad's professional gear such as their ruck sack, sleeping bag, helmet, etc. It can help them visualize their parent at work in "real world" conditions.

Listen to your children. It is hard to move often and it's unsettling for children to have to make a completely new place for themselves every few years. This is one of the toughest parts of military life. In light of that, it may be hard to deal with but let your children complain. It helps them deal with everything that he or she is going through. Try to point out the positive things about your new duty station such as friends from previous bases being there, sites to see and so forth. Try to give him or her something to look forward to. This way the idea of pulling up stakes again isn't completely unbearable.

Be involved in family groups. Not all service members and spouses are joiners but it really does help the children. This not only strengthens their bond to their own family but it also gives children the opportunity to meet other kids that have some of the same experiences such as frequent moves and school changes. Also, once again, it makes the children feel included in what goes on with Mom or Dad on a daily basis.

Prior to a deployment, start preparing the children as soon as possible. Start making plans for things to do while Mommy or Daddy is away. Planning things such as trips to see Grandma can give the kids something to look forward to as well as filling the time that the military parent is away. Treat every event as a mile marker to that parent's return. Such as, "Wow! When we come back from seeing Aunt Helen, it'll only be a couple months until Daddy comes home!" This will help time go by a little faster in the child's mind.

Understand a military child's fear. If a child has been living a military life long enough, he or she will have heard stories of parents that haven't made it home for one reason or another. It's really important to take this seriously and be as reassuring as possible. Listen to what the child has to say and try very hard to see things through their eyes. Help them realize that Mom or Dad is going to do everything he or she can to get the job done and return home as fast as they can. The child also needs to know that no matter where their parent is, Mommy or Daddy loves them and is thinking about them.

Explain to your children what an important job Mom or Dad has. Let them share in your pride in serving this wonderful country. Volunteering to protect our country is not a choice that can be taken lightly and is something that children can feel proud of. No matter what, do everything you can to involve them in the process of being in the military and it will go far in helping them deal with a life that is a little different from that of their civilian family friends.

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