April is designated the Month of the Military child. This time of the year is set aside to highlight the nearly 2 million children who are sons and daughters to our Armed Forces. Military children and teens often face a unique set of challenges that are difficult to cope with. Some of these may include, parental deployment, moving frequently, and not having a place to truly call “home”.
Although we do not completely understand the impact of military life (and specifically deployment) on military children, research indicates that military children are at an increased risk for social, emotional and behavioral struggles. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children adapt to the stresses of military life quite well, but it is not uncommon to see children that are depressed, having trouble sleeping, and exhibiting signs of anxiety, social withdrawal, and emotional reactivity.
The Right Tools
Being equipped with the right tools and proper preparation can help cushion a difficult transition period. Many families find it helpful to keep a consistent routine in order to maintain a sense of stability. It is also helpful to help children stay connected to his/her parent(s) while deployed. Letters, emails, and free video chatting services make this easier than ever.
In addition to mental health, maintaining good physical health is optimal for all children to thrive. As national childhood obesity rates continue to rise, more resources are becoming available to help families make better nutrition choices, increase physical activity, and get adequate sleep.
It Takes A Village
Many military families live outside of the military installation where they are stationed. This means that parents may need to inform some of the people in their child’s life, such as teachers or doctors, that their child has a parent who is deployed (or coming home) or that the child recently experienced a stressful circumstance (such as a relocation) due to military life. Whatever the situation may be, staying connected with the community and the people in it, will provide the best possible level of understanding and support.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
Their Story, Our Mission: A spotlight on Military and Veteran Kids.
Helping a young child cope with a parent’s deployment.
Helping Children Cope with Deployments and Reunions.
The National Sleep Foundation: Children and Sleep.