It’s probably pretty obvious that I love kids. Besides having children and grandchildren of my own, my entire professional life has been centered on children, from my years as a pediatric nurse to my current work as the creator of The Moodsters, helping children develop their emotional intelligence skills. I care about all children—but I have to admit that there’s a special place in my heart for the children of military families. That’s why I’m so glad to be able to honor these kids during April, the Month of the Military Child.
The men and women of the military deserve our utmost respect for their sacrifice and their dedication. . But it’s not just the service member who makes this commitment—the honor, the challenges, and the sacrifices of this life are felt by the entire family. We often see powerfully emotional videos of children saying goodbye to a parent who is being deployed—or having a surprise reunion when that parent comes home. (I’m not ashamed to say that I cry at every single one!) But the life of a military child is so much more than those moments, and that’s why I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the strength these kids exhibit in their lives.
Responsibility. The sense of duty typically extends even to the smallest members of a military family. When mom or dad—or both—are serving their country, the children often shoulder extra responsibilities at home: taking care of younger siblings, helping around the house, tackling chores. Everyone pitches in, because that’s how things are done; life in the military means looking out not just for yourself, but for those around you.
Resilience. Anyone who’s had a parent who has moved often for work understands what this means for a military child. Making new friends every few years. Starting new schools. Finding your way around a new town, and looking for the place you belong. It’s not easy, but when these children are grown they often look back to this time as having been key to forming their character. Some who might otherwise have been shy find out that they can make friends easily—because they had to! Moving can also be an experience that brings the family closer together, because family is the one constant in a military life.
Self-reliance. Maybe you grow up a little faster when you have a parent in the military—you also learn to figure a lot of things out for yourself that will serve you well in the future! Discovering that you’re a capable individual who can get yourself ready for school or make dinner for the family is one of those accidental benefits of moving around a lot.
Perspective. When military families are posted abroad, the children grow up with an amazing worldview that few children in the U.S. can claim. Some military kids learn multiple languages; they are often more comfortable adapting to new cultures, new foods, new customs. They may be more accepting of others with different beliefs, simply because they’ve been exposed to so many.
Resourcefulness. Military families often live on limited incomes, and kids quickly learn to do more with less. They may be more appreciative and less wasteful than those growing up in a sea of plenty—another quality that will serve them very well as they move into adulthood and start their own families.
There are organizations that do great work supporting our military families. The National Military Family Association does wonderful work speaking up and speaking out for military families, and providing opportunities such as Operation Purple Camps, where military kids can enjoy free weeklong camps and a whole host of outdoor activities. Why purple? Because purple “happens to be the perfect mix of Army green, Coast Guard blue, Air Force Blue, Marine Corps Red, and Navy blue”!
The Red Cross also performs a variety of services for military families. And if you live near a military base or a veterans’ hospital, you can also support those organizations as a volunteer or donor.
Let’s all take a moment in April – and throughout the year – to support our country’s military kids.