If you’ve ever seen the joy on a child’s face when a mom or dad returns from deployment, you’ve seen a glimpse of how some military kids see their parents—they are heroes!
But, in communities where there aren’t many other military families, children may feel alone or may be hesitant to say their mom or dad is in the military because it singles them out as different. Reinforce a child’s pride in their parent and strengthen the bond between the child and parent with these strategies:
- Host a “hero day” highlighting service members, police, firefighters, nurses, and other people whose job is to help others.
- Create a board in your classroom, locker room, or house of worship recognizing service members.
- Invite the military parent to your organization for Veterans Day or Memorial Day to talk about the Armed Forces.
- Encourage the students you work with to participate in a community service event in your neighborhood.
- Display the member’s Service symbol on the child’s classroom door to show classes with students having a parent in the military.
For most children, turning 10 means more than just entry into double digits in a military family. It’s also the age when a military child typically gets a personal ID card. Yes, their very own computer distorted photo, just like dad or mom. Even though they aren’t “in” the military, kids serve in many ways. They send care packages to their military parent when they are deployed. They take on new responsibilities when situations change in their families. They grow up with a sense of community and service to country.
Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have given military kids a greater understanding of their parent’s job. Children at Ramstein Intermediate and Middle Schools in Germany asked to be in a club for children in 3rd through 8th grade called Kids4Kids. These children of deployed parents got to see what it was like to go through processing for deployment, from eating Meals Ready to Eat (MRE), to sleeping in a tent.
Many kids at Operation Purple camp said their favorite activity at camp was Military Day, which included watching Blackhawks whirl in for a landing and a Q&A with a military guest speaker. Operation Purple campers said the experience of a week at camp with other military kids going through a deployment reminded them that they, too, were part of the efforts supporting troops overseas.
Use these strategies as an opportunity to reinforce the positive efforts that military kids make by supporting their parents—and by just being kids:
- Celebrate the Month of the Military Child in April.
- Nominate kids for awards when they have made contributions to their community.
- Thank them! Sometimes they just need to hear their family is appreciated.