10 Tips for Kids in a Military Family
I’ve never been a military kid myself, although I come from a military family, including my paternal grandfather who served in the Philippines during World War II. But as a teacher, I’ve taught a variety of military kids because I’ve lived in military-dominated areas, and I’ve learned a lot from them about military life. I have so much respect for our military members and the unsung heroes of the spouses and kids who support their moms and dads currently serving in the Armed Forces. Based on my experience teaching, I’ve learned ways that military kids can make the most of their lives that are quite different from your average child.
1. Be Grateful
The thing that I have noticed the most about military kids who are making the most of their time traveling around is that they are grateful. They seem especially involved in getting to know their peers and teachers and trying to see the positive side of every circumstance. I’ve noticed that military kids try to avoid complaining and make do the best they can even if it’s not the best circumstance. Gratitude is essential for any individual, but especially for someone who is continually undergoing change and stress.
2. Enjoy the Unique Opportunities You Have
As a military kid, you will get to do things civilian kids only dream of! I’ve had several students who have lived abroad—many in Germany or South Korea. You will get to travel to incredible places, get to know a variety of parts of the United States, get to meet so many different people, and get to try so many different foods. By the time you are an adult, you will have way more life experience than any civilian kid.
3. Acknowledge the Special Challenges
At the same time, military life comes with unique challenges, and it is important to acknowledge them. I had one student who was incredibly close with his dad, and his father was on a longer deployment of about a year. Some days, it was really hard for him because all he wanted to do was throw a football with his dad. But my student really tried hard to realize that this was just something that came from being a military kid and trying to remember that it wasn’t going to last forever. I remember him getting very excited as the time frame for his dad to get back got closer.
4. Try to Make at Least One Good Friend Where You Live
Having someone who has your back is important for any kid, but especially a military kid. You probably are only going to be in a location for two to three years at a time, and making one good friend while you’re in each location can make a huge difference. Maybe it’s someone you meet at school or church. No matter who it is, knowing that someone else understands where you’re coming from is immensely important.
5. Travel as Much as You Can
Something that you will discover as an adult is that it is expensive to travel! But it is a lot easier and cheaper when your parent is stationed overseas for the military. One of my students lived in Korea for a time, and she traveled all the time with her mom and sometimes her dad if he was available. They went to China, Japan, and all over Korea because they knew it was going to be a lot cheaper to get flights to Asian countries when they were in Korea versus trying to fly from the United States later.
6. Know Who You Are
Because you’ve moved a lot and meet a lot of different people, you might not know exactly what things you like and dislike. You’ve just always gone with the flow. I’ve know some very strong military kids, and the ones who seem the happiest and the strongest have definitive things that don’t change, no matter where they live. One of my students loved Disney and for her three years in Virginia, she would talk to me about Disney and Star Wars, which is my personal favorite. I saw her about six months later after she moved to North Carolina, and she was still the same girl who loved Disney and Star Wars even though she had to develop a whole new community. Having something consistent can make a world of difference.
7. Be Ready for Lots of Change
Change is hard! But that’s what the military is going to bring. The good news is that some change may originally seem awful, but then you’ll discover it was the best thing ever. But it’s also true that some change you just won’t like. The more you can go with the flow, the better. As one of my pastors used to say, you can only count on two things in life: Jesus and change. Even if you’re not religious, the second thing is definitely true!
8. Remember that You Have a Support System
You may feel like you’re all alone as a military kid, especially when you move to a new area. But remember that there are so many people who want you to succeed: your parents, your family, your friends, and your teachers. While I’ve always wanted to meet each student where he or she is at, I had a special heart for military kids because there is just so much they have to deal with. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people if you need help because they are there.
9. Teach Civilian Kids About Your Life
Civilian kids don’t know what military life is like at all. But you have a great opportunity to educate them! One of my civilian students who had lived in the same house her entire life decided to write a thesis about life as a military kid, including interviewing some military kids she knew. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience for her. Civilian kids want to learn to military life, and you can tell them about the good parts, the bad parts, and everything in between. It’s good to step outside of ourselves sometimes.
10. Make the Most of Your Time as a Military Kid
Finally, your time as a military kid will end. Whether your parent gets out of the service or you go off to college, you won’t be a military kid at some point. It’s important to capitalize on the time you do have as a military kid so that you can look back on your childhood fondly. By finding the silver linings even in the worst of circumstances, you can make the most of your time as a military kid.
In the end, being a military kid certainly isn’t the easiest childhood, but it can be extremely rewarding. Our trials and struggles make us into stronger people, and you will come out significantly stronger than most civilian kids when you graduate from high school because of your experiences. Don’t lose heart, be grateful, and know that you’ve inspired so many people like me.