Most military children will say goodbye to more significant people by age 18 than the average person will in their entire lifetime. Most military kids don’t know how to answer the question: Where are you from? They’ll answer with any combination of the following: Do you mean where was I born? Where do I live? Where do my parents own a house? Where do my grandparents live? There’s no simple answer because military families relocate so frequently. It’s not uncommon for kids to attend two or more high schools. Military families serve our country too, and kids’ contributions and commitment are often overlooked.
Most military children will say goodbye to more significant people by age 18 than the average person will in their entire lifetime.
Our second born Homefront Kid will graduate from high school next month. He attended two high schools, two middle schools, two elementary schools and three preschools. As luck would have it, he is graduating from the international school at which he started Kindergarten because The Navy sent us back to China after we’d been away for seven years. While it can be difficult for military kids to make connections with classmates, Dwight was able to use the social skills he learned from starting fresh so many times to become a good friend and leader among his peers. He was even chosen as the graduation speaker for the class of 2019, and as Most Likely to Change the World.
Some military kids struggle to form lasting, meaningful relationships throughout their whole lives. They build proverbial walls around themselves to prevent the emotional pain that comes when they have to leave yet another home and group of peers. Military kids who have lived on bases and immersed in military culture most of their lives can struggle to feel anchored to civilian life. The transition to college life can be especially tough. I recommend that parents read the book, The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition. I read it when Homefront Kid #1 was preparing to leave our overseas home for college and I’m rereading it now that #2 is leaving the nest. It’s helpful if the kids read it too, but since that’s unlikely to happen, parents can read it and impart the knowledge on their children.
The military’s migratory lifestyle can impede potential for building concrete relationships with people and developing emotional attachments to specific places. It’s important to also consider the stresses of having a parent deployed for long periods to undisclosed locations, and possibly to a war zone, and also the psychological aftermath of war in dealing with returning veteran parents. In some cases there is also the loss of a parent in combat, or a drastic change in a parent due to a combat related disability. Many military kids personally know another child whose parent was killed or wounded (physically or psychologically) in action. All of these factors shape our military children.
As parents, and a community, we can make every attempt to help military kids handle all of the adverse side effects of military life, but when the side effects are significant enough that they are above our paygrade, so to speak, we might have to seek counseling for the child or whole family. Military One Source is a good place to start, as many of their approved counselors are experienced in dealing with military issues. Also, psychiatric services are covered by Tricare. If someone in your family needs help, get it for them, it’s easy to find.
Despite all of the stumbling blocks that military kids encounter, they often end up as the most resilient among their peers. Adversity can lead to dynamism and adaptability. The skills military kids are forced to develop serve them well in the future, where they proceed to do great things. Military kids are not brats. They are brave, sensitive, adaptable, and above all, solid citizens. Take a minute to recognize one in your life.