Military connected children face many challenges. They deserve our support.
Put yourself in the shoes of these children….
Trainings – When a military connected child’s parent is in training the child is too! Trainings most often include traveling to another location which can result in a 2- 6 week separation. They also entail heightened pressures because passing training exams impacts future assignments and career advancement. Trainings generate a tremendous amount of stress for the entire family; everyone involved is challenged to balance the demands of a military career and everyday life.
Trainings for deployment are even more intense. The military parent faces physical and mental training. These trainings impact the child with increasing intensity as deployment draws near and the military parent begins to disconnect from the family. Withdrawing as a form of coping is common and disabling for all. This can be a very difficult time for a military child who is likely to become anxious, angry, withdrawn, and confused by misplaced fears that their parent has stopped loving or caring about them.
Deployment – Once deployment happens the military connected child has to adjust to different family dynamics. They have to take on more responsibilities, possibly filling the shoes of that parent with their siblings. In some cases, the burden grows to include a move away from their home, school friends, church, and community to live with a guardian during deployment. This is the ultimate sacrifice for these young people.
Multiple deployments are common and even more painful. The kids relive the entire process – fear, separation anxiety, and concerns for their parent’s safety dominate their world.
Why is it so difficult for a child to deal emotionally with deployment? Deployment is like a death. That significant person in their life is gone. Studies have shown these children are at higher risk. They also experience cultural changes which can change their lives forever.
When a Parent Returns Home – This is the most challenging time for a child and the family. The returning service member has the tremendous responsibility to effectively transition back into everyday life of their family. Since many of these returnees are struggling themselves, the task of reintegration is even more difficult. The trauma and impact of the deployment is expressed and felt intensely by all.
Coming home/reunion time is especially stressful for the children. Having grown accustomed to not having their parent, they struggle to include them. It is common for these kids to question if their parent still loves them. Many times a joyful reunion with the parent they have missed so dearly is inhibited, delayed, or prevented.
Separation from the Military – This transition is very difficult for children because a key aspect of their identity has been eliminated. Everyone in the family must prepare to welcome (without resistance) the unique challenges of adapting and transitioning to civilian life.