10 ways to help kids conquer challenges of military life

Man and boy looking at military planes
Capt. Adam Luber, a 334th Fighter Squadron pilot, and Jeremiah Seaberry, the 334th FS pilot for a day, watch F-15E Strike Eagles on the flightline during a 4th Fighter Wing Pilot for a Day event, April 3, 2015, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley J. Thum)

By Sarah Heynen, DCoE Public Affairs

We often say that military kids face “unique challenges,” but what does that really mean? Military children grow up fast. They know firsthand what big change feels like, from saying goodbye to friends to learning new languages and customs. They learn terms like “PCS,” “period of adjustment,” and “deployment,” sometimes before they can even spell their last names.Currently, about 1.88 million military children experience a different set of obstacles than their non-military peers. They don’t have to face the challenges of military life alone. Many great resources, created specifically for military children of all ages, are designed to help teach, inspire, encourage and comfort through the good and the more difficult times.

These 10 tips, adapted from afterdeployment.org, may help you and your child adjust and thrive during military life changes:

  1. Encourage connections. It’s easy to feel isolated when you move around a lot. Connecting with others is very important. Military Kids Connect provides a safe, online space for military kids to connect with one another and share experiences. Military families can also get tips on how to stay connected to parents throughout deployment.
  2. Help others. Show children how giving your time to others can be both empowering and rewarding. From volunteering at a school event to finding opportunities in your local community, there are many ways your family can get involved.
  3. Establish routines. Sticking to a routine can offer children a sense of safety and stability.
  4. Take a break, have some fun. Life can be hard. Sometimes we just need a break. Teach your children to make time for fun. If you need help finding something uplifting to do in your area, try using the Positive Activity Jackpot mobile application.
  5. Teach your child self-care. It’s important for the family to eat right, exercise and get enough sleep. The Army Medicine Performance Triad has great information for the whole family!
  6. Set goals. Teach your children to set reasonable goals and then to move toward them one step at a time. This can help build the resilience to move forward in the face of challenges.
  7. Encourage your children to see themselves positively. In addition to celebrating the successes of a good grade in school or other accomplishment, it can be helpful to look back with your child to a time when he or she overcame something difficult. This can develop their sense of strength and self-esteem for the next challenge.
  8. Keep things in perspective and stay hopeful. It’s not always easy to stay positive when things are tough, but you can be a great example to your kids. Real Warriors offers six ways to think positively – try implementing them in your own life as an example to your kids.
  9. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. FOCUS on the Go mobile application helps kids learn coping skills, identify feelings, share their stories and play games. Military Families Near and Far teaches children of all ages to understand their feelings and how to express them.
  10. Accept that change is part of living. Change can be scary at all ages, but it is a constant in life. Talking about change can help military kids learn to accept and understand what is going on.

Want more useful parenting skills and tips? Parenting for Service Members and Veterans is a free online course available to all service members and veterans.

The DCoE Outreach Center is also always on standby to answer your questions and direct you to resources: email resources@DCoEoutreach.org or live chat at realwarriors.net/livechat.

Local Stuttgart Resources:

In the Stuttgart military community, there are counselors available to discusses child and separation issues during deployments. Military & Family Life Consultants (MFLCs) are licensed clinicians who work with existing Military Family Support Programs to complement those services. They provide non-medical, free and anonymous counseling services. MFLCs are available by telephone Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. at 01609-574-8279 or 0170-708-0715 or 0171-965-9611.
To contact the AFRICOM MFLC, call 0152-2248-3789.
To contact the Special Operations Forces MFLC, call 01522-649-2979.