The Military Child's Experience

Photo by Herald Post CC BY-NC 2.0
Photo by Herald Post CC BY-NC 2.0

The MFLN Family Development Early Intervention team recently interviewed Isaiah, the 14 year old son of an Army soldier, for his thoughts on being a military child.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What are some of your favorite memories as a military child?

I would first like to say that I feel like a normal child. Being a military child has only truly affected me when my father is deployed. When he is home, we are like any other normal family.  One of my favorite memories is picking my father up after a long deployment.

What, if anything, has been challenging?

One area that has been challenging is having my father be deployed for extended periods of time. During these times I have concern for his safety and this has been the most challenging aspect of being a military child.

Has your parent deployed while you were a child? How frequently?

Yes, my father deploys often. He usually is gone at least once per year. I once went four straight years without him home for my birthday.

If so…

  • What did your parent(s) tell you about their deployment?

My parents explained to me that my father deploys in order to protect the freedom we enjoy in the United States.

  • How far in advance were you informed?

There is no standard length of time, however, I have never felt surprised by his deployments. My parents are open with me about when he is leaving and we try to prepare together as a family.

  • What would you suggest to other parents that need to prepare their children for an impending deployment?

I suggest parents inform their children with enough time to mentally prepare for the deployment. This allows the children time to process what fears they may have about the deployment. After some time has been allowed to process the upcoming deployment, I suggest asking the children about their concerns so they have a chance to share their fears and the parents have a chance to ease those concerns.

  • What were some of your concerns while your parent was deployed and what strategies did you use to manage these concerns?

My main concern while my father is deployed is for his safety. I address this concern through prayer. While my dad is deployed I pray for his safety individually and we as a family pray for him together.

  • How can parents support their children through all phases of a deployment (pre, during, and post)?

Before deployment parents need to inform their children with enough time to process it. During deployment, parents should update the children about the deployed parent’s living conditions and personal safety. For example, during my father’s recent deployment my mom told me he was working in an office the majority of time. This helped ease my concern for his safety. He also took time to video chat and this helped us remain close. After deployment our family typically transitions very fast and we have not experienced any challenges since he has been home.

Have you moved frequently? If so, what strategies do you use to get used to your new “home” and make new friends? What recommendations do you have for adults to help military children through these transitions?

I have moved a few times, however, I have been in our current location for five years. Getting involved in church and sports has helped me meet new friends and feel a part of my new community.

If you could talk to a younger version of yourself, what would you tell him or her about concerns or anxieties you might have had as a young child with military parents?

I would tell younger children who feel anxious to trust in God. God has a plan for your life. God always has a plan.

What are some of the things your teachers have done for you at school that has helped you adjust/cope with military family life?

My school provided a military life counselor to help military children deal with deployments. I have not used this option however my younger siblings were highly involved with programs at their elementary school with their military life counselor.

From your own experience growing up in a military family, what one piece of advice would you give to:

  • Military parents who currently have young children?

From my own experience growing up in a military family, one piece of advice I would give military parents who have young children is to get your children involved in activities they are interested in. Keeping them active will help keep their minds off of the deployment.

  • Other children military or civilian?

From my own experience growing up in a military family, one piece of advice I would give other military children is to help out your mom. She is forced to do many things on her own while Dad is away and she always appreciates extra help around the house.

This post was edited by Robyn DiPietro-Wells & Michaelene Ostrosky, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and YouTube.

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