Being a Military Kid.

By: Rebecca Haylett

Being a Military kid can be hard; having to move about every two to three years. Children in military families are more self-sufficient and responsible than their peers. They always meet challenges that lie ahead of them and support each other. Sometimes calling it "Joining Forces." They are far more patriotic and responsible than their non-military peers and they adapt faster to new situations and cultures. "As a group they tend to be less materialistic and more adventurous." They selflessly serve their community, and military children possess a strong sense of service. Perhaps it is modeled after their military parents who serve and sacrifice everyday.

One thing is for certain; military kid or "brats" stick together and they make friends quickly. Military families lean heavily upon one another for strength and support because they never know when they'll have to pick up and move to another base. Military kids self-sufficiency learn how to take care of themselves early in life. Kids whose parents are in the military may learn how to handle small tasks instead of being coddled. They are all too familiar with being dropped off at a new school and going in with the confidence that they will make new friends quickly. As a result, the early maturity shown by these kids is almost stunning when compared with their non-military peers. Maybe it's just the knowledge that one or both of their parents is out there fighting for their country and may not come home, and the reality is that they may need to look out for their younger siblings. That can help them become more appreciative and respectful. They also develop a form of patriotism and deference to authority that cannot be taught in school.

Their strength, they've dealt with multiple deployments, with worry and fear; but these challenges also have equipped them with a resilience that will prepare them for life's setbacks and hardships. First Lady Michelle Obama told a group of high school girls in April in the year of 2012, "Ultimately, you understand that your parents are part of something far bigger than themselves, by working so hard ..., you give your parents the peace of mind they need to focus on their mission. With your service, you make their service possible. And for that, we can't thank you enough." Nicole Marie Daly, the Army's 2013 Child of the Year, has moved nine times and has attended three high schools so far. Growing up in a military family "created resiliency because every time we move, I have to constantly prove myself as an individual and my capabilities," Nicole said. Military kids serve too; their military parent signed on the dotted line; their children did not. Yet, they must deal with deployments, frequent moves and school transitions, and they do so with courage and grace.

Some have referred to military children as a hidden minority or labeled them as trans-culture or third-culture kids. Military children are represented in nearly every school district in the country, but according to research on the subject led by Monica Christina Esqueda, many schools are unaware of who these children are. With more than 70 percent of the estimated 1.2 million military children attending local public schools, principals should be aware of the challenges of educating this hidden population and be sensitive to and supportive of their needs. Furthermore, ties to teachers are one of the most important factors for student academic success, according to research by Bridget K. Hamre and Robert C. Pianta. A supportive and close relationship with a teacher has a significant positive effect on academic engagement, and this relationship is amplified for children when a parent is deployed. Teachers and principals, as well as other school staff, must be aware of their military students and also become involved with them. Keep these points in mind when considering how to best serve military students:

  • Know who your military children are.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.
  • Review school policies and programs to address challenges highly-mobile students may face (for instance, does your school policy help new students who want to join extracurricular clubs and sports when they transfer during the school year?).
  • Consider implementing a shadow program for new military students.
  • Ensure teachers understand the challenges of—and students’ emotional reactions to—parental deployment.
  • Reach out to students separated from parents, offering opportunities for open communication.
  • Consider organizing an after-school club for children whose parents are deployed so they can openly discuss concerns and connect with others facing the same situation.
  • Watch for signs of stress—involve the school counselor, parents, and other resources your community or school district may offer.

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