LET’S HERE IT FOR THE BOYS AND GIRLS IN BLUE! The honor, the bravery, the service, the dedication: just a few of the things that I am thankful for! As the proud daughter, granddaughter, cousin, sister-in-law, niece, and more of boys who proudly serve(d) our country, I have a soft spot for military families and military children.
However, as I had children and watched my friends have children, I wondered how those military families did it. How do they cope, adjust, serve, and keep a good attitude about it all? We already celebrate Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and more for our service members, but what about the service family? What about the kids and spouses? How do we celebrate them?
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THE MONTH OF THE MILITARY CHILD
Did you know that April is the Month of the Military Child? Did you even know that there was a Month of the Military Child?
According to the Department of Defense there are more than 1.6 MILLION military children. These children serve alongside their parents’ and face the challenges of moves and deployments.
On average, military members and their families move every 2-3 years. This means they not only face moving homes but changing schools, extracurricular activities, and support networks. For these young children, and their parents alike, it also means the loss of important friendships.
Yes, the Department of Defense partners with many different organizations across the country to celebrate the sacrifices and challenges these children face, but what about you.
In this Month of the Military Child celebration, how can you become a better advocate and supporter of not only our military but of our military children and families?
WHAT MILITARY MOMS WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT MILITARY CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES
Well, I had the pleasure of recruiting one of my wonderful friends/family members here to share her experience. As a proud red-white-and-blue wife and mommy, she has been serving this country behind the scenes for more than a decade.
She is the wonderfully poised mother of 3 BOYS who somehow managed to transfer her household through 5 different military moves and a prolonged deployment.
Her military life looks so different than most people’s daily life. Every day is full of uncertainty, service, and of course lots and lots of red tape.
However, as a seasoned military wife and mom, she has learned a thing or two about moves, relationships, and transition. She has also learned that other people do not quite know how to treat or love on their military family.
So, here are the 10 things that she would like you to know about military children and families.
1. THEY MIGHT LACK COMMUNITY CONNECTION, BUT THEY WANT IT.
Military families’ desire community and a support system. Each family goes about finding that community in different ways.
“Thankfully, my brother in law also serves in the Army Reserves. He and his family have spent time on Active Duty. This allows me to have some family that has been in the trenches and understands the military life.”
However, we are still looking for local connection.
“Our family finds families who have similar beliefs and interests as us through church. We usually try to find a church as soon as possible. We check out churches’ online presence and sermons and we try to follow word of mouth.”
Because of their known time constraints and the reality of their transplants, military families tend to make friends quickly and desire to go deep within those relationships.
“We know we don’t have a lifetime to develop these relationships.”
2. THEY AREN’T ASKING FOR THANKS, BUT THEY APPRECIATE IT.
“I am honored to be asked to talk about the topic of military families but also challenged because, like my active duty husband, I do not like to bring attention to the career and lifestyle we have chosen for our family. “
Humbly, these men, women, families, and children all serve without daily thanks. They have, however, earned our thanks, support, and gratitude.
Even though they don’t ask for thanks, they surely appreciate it. Appreciation could come in the form of a simple “thank you,” but it could also come in the form of wanting to understand them a little bit more. Maybe even by reading articles such as this!
3. THEY MIGHT SEEM AGGRESSIVE BECAUSE MILITARY CHILDREN ARE EASILY OVERLOOKED.
If you think that a military family or a military mom is more aggressive than the average mother don’t just chalk it up to military life. Instead consider that they move regularly, but their daughter still wants to play baseball and their son still wants to join that club. But, the government moved their resettlement date without any input from mom or the coach.
Military mothers fear that their military children are easily overlooked, shoved to the side, here today, gone tomorrow. Therefore, they have learned not only to get plugged in but to ask for things like waivers from deadlines, required practices, and even class enrollments.
4. THEY PROBABLY WANT YOU TO ASK ABOUT THEIR MILITARY LIFE.
For military families, military service is incredibly important. And, they might want to tell you about it.
Did you know that each branch of the U.S. military has it’s own catch phrase? Maybe. But, did you know that each branch might also have its own unique vocabulary?
Learning a little bit about the vocabulary of military life might make you more able to converse with military moms and children alike. Want a little primer? Glad you asked!!!
Further, you might hear these terms and acronyms from military/Air Force families:
- PCS: Permanent Change of Station (this is when the service member moves locations)
- PCA: Permanent Change of Assignment (when the service member moves jobs but stays at the same location)
- TDY: Temporary Duty (meaning travel of varying lengths away from their assigned base/post)
- Orders: Legal Documentation assigning the service member to a specific job at a specific base/post
- Commissary: grocery store on the military base/post
- Active Duty: the service member serving is working a full-time job
- Reserves: usually serves on average one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer but also holds another job
- Civilian: a non-military person
- TLF: Temporary Lodging Facility (think a hotel suite with full kitchen) but on military base
“Ask that military member or family questions. And, if they are talking ‘military-ese’ ask them to explain. Then, knowing that they are likely new to the area, invite them to church or share local favorites with them.”
They will be glad that you took the time and cared about a significant part of their life.
5. THEY MIGHT NOT BE RELIABLE, BUT THEY WANT YOU TO TREAT THEM LIKE OTHER CHILDREN AND FAMILIES. (Their move date was assigned by the government, not them.)
Once you can get past the “military part” you will find that military families and children are just like yours. You might meet them at the park, church, or supermarket. Honestly, anywhere.
Sure, they might not be able to talk about what they do or who they met that day, but they also aren’t covert super spies looking to blend into the background.
Notice them; talk to them; introduce yourself, and let them know you appreciate them for their service and the fact that they are just a family trying to figure things out just like you!
But, when they can’t show up, serve, or volunteer, don’t believe them to be flaky. Instead, remember that they answer to the government for when and where they need to be. Take it up with Uncle Sam, not military moms.
This means that, while military families have chosen a job that requires them to move based on the government’s needs and time schedule, they have to adapt. To adapt, they involve themselves in the same things that you do, and they hope that you will show them grace as they do it.
6. THEY ARE REALLY GOOD AT PLUGGING IN.
Military children and families need support, connection, and involvement. And, after a few moves, military families know how to get connected, fast.
“Military families have gotten really good at getting plugged in and quickly. They have learned to search for the best local Facebook groups to find recreational activities for their families or other local recommendations.
Although they know that they won’t be there forever, they know that they won’t be anywhere for long, so they make the most of their time. They don’t have time to wait for the season to come around again, to wait until the time is right, or to put things off. If they want to be a part of your club, group, team, or study, then they know that they have to jump right in.
7. THEY WANT TO KNOW THE BEST PIZZA PLACE IN TOWN.
And, if they are going to get plugged in, they might need a little guidance. While Facebook and Yelp might be great for some general recommendations, they really want to know more about their new home.
If you meet a new military family, let them in on the secret of the best pizza place, the hours of the local ice cream shop, and maybe even which day is double coupon day at the local grocery store!
Although they are the perpetual new kids in town, they don’t want to always feel that way. Instead, let them in on the local gems, secrets, and hot spots. Be that inside resource for them!
8. THEY PROBABLY DON’T HAVE FAMILY NEARBY.
While you might have a nearby network of close friends and, perhaps, even family, military families and children often come to town with a blank slate. This means no one to cover a midweek babysitting emergency, no one to list as an emergency contact, and no one to invite them to the annual festival.
“Don’t be alarmed or put off if we invite you over for dinner or try and develop a friendship quicker than you are used to. Military families can often find themselves alone during a holiday because we don’t have family nearby.”
Your simple invitation to share life, a holiday, a family barbecue, or just a simple family meal is an enormous encouragement and act of love to military families.
9.THEY NEED EXTRA SUPPORT DURING DEPLOYMENTS.
We want our military families to feel loved and appreciated wherever they are. However, in those times of deployment, uncertainty, fear, and even lack of communication, military families and children need extra support.
“Start by making a meal, having a playdate, or asking if there are any handy-work jobs that need to be completed.”
“The biggest encouragement to our family has been somebody just asking if I needed help or just adult conversation. I have even had friends watch my children so I could go to a doctor’s appointment by myself or offer if there was anything they could pick up from the grocery store for me.”
Deployment is different from a simple weekend work trip away. Deployment can mean months or even years of separation and instability for children. Military moms want you to know that those days, weeks, months, and years are hard, and that they need and appreciate extra help from you.
10. THEY ALREADY KNOW THAT THEY WILL MISS YOU.
However, they still need friends, confidantes, mentors, and support. Military children still need the Village, and military moms still need iced coffee and mom groups.
They know that it might not last. They know that their roots don’t run quite as deep, but that doesn’t mean that you haven’t left indelible marks on their hearts and their lives.
They mourn the loss of your comraderie and friendship even before you know each other. They grieve the familiarity and might even dread having to do this whole introduction, aggressive mom bit all over again.
But, perhaps most importantly, they remember you. They remember how you supported them, loved them, and let them in even though you also knew that they were likely only there for a short time.
YOU MATTER TO MILITARY CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
“A fellow Air Force wife/mentor once told me to remember that you had to move to meet each of these friends and when you move there will be friends there that you were supposed to meet. God has richly provided for close friends who have become a part of our family in each duty station he has placed us in.”
CELEBRATE THE MILITARY CHILD AND THEIR FAMILY
Three cheers for the military and three more for their children and families! What a blessing to have such wonderful people serve our country.
April is the Month of the Military Child, but what does that mean for you? How can you make a real impact on the military and their children? Well, start with some of the things here. Take these words from a seasoned military mom and apply it to your students, your friends, or that new neighbor.
Take the steps to support them with these little bits of insider information from a mom with the inside scoop!