Children of Military Families Face Challenges Not Always Evident in School

Children of Military Families

As you know, the United States is currently engaged in conflicts on several fronts. While the fighting overseas has little impact on the majority of Americans, it has a great impact on those who serve in the military. While deployed parents are not around to help raise their kids, it is not uncommon for children of military families to face situations that are not always evident in school.

Children of military families face challenges not always evident in school. From moving around often, to having to adapt to the rules of multiple schools, to growing up in a family that faces the stress of having a parent in harm’s way every day, these kids have a unique set of challenges. To help them succeed, teachers and school administrators must be aware of the challenges unique to military kids and be prepared to help them compensate for the problems these students can encounter.

As an educator, I work at Purple Heart School, which receives a large number of students from military families, most of whom have at least one parent associated with Little Rock Air Force Base. I have taught these unique students from kindergarten through fourth grade, being a military wife myself and raising two robust military children with my husband who is in the Air Force. My children were born in Germany, and while they bring a variety of cultural experiences to their classrooms, moving and attending a new school brings challenges I didn’t have to deal with as a child.

Each April, we celebrate Military Kids Month to highlight the important role military children play in the military community. Military Child Awareness Month is not only an opportunity to congratulate military families and their children for the daily sacrifices and challenges they endure, but also to emphasize the importance of providing quality services and support to children to help them succeed in fast-paced military life.

Most military children will move six to nine times before they graduate from high school, and not all schools they attend are prepared for the challenges these students will face. Many military children have traveled the world with their parents and built relationships in different states, countries and continents. They have learned many hard lessons that give them the strength to handle almost anything that comes their way. Military children have to deal not only with the constant daily travel, but also with the travel and, for some, the injuries of their parents that are part of the life they were born into.

As educators of military families, we must make a concerted effort to support an education system that progressively increases these students’ aptitude for college and professional life. As educators working with these resilient students, we must strive to challenge them, maximize their potential, and help them excel not only academically, but also socially, emotionally, and physically.  Our job as teachers is to find ways to help these students succeed.

At every level, priority should be given to developing meaningful relationships between these students and school personnel, including teachers and support staff, as well as guidance counselors and building administrators. We must also have reasonable expectations and an understanding of their behaviour and attitudes towards education.

These students may arrive at any time of the year and need clear expectations and guidance on school and class routines, as each school they attended was likely to be managed and organized differently. Military students can be really unsure of what to expect, even as seniors, if they received most of their education in another state or even another country.

Educators should also actively look for gaps and areas in which the student excels, as the previous school likely used a different curriculum or guidelines for pacing and planning. Tutoring, in any situation, can provide these students with an opportunity to connect with their peers and develop new friendships and important relationships.

April should be an opportunity for schools to plan special events to honor the children of military personnel. I encourage teachers and administrators to integrate this month’s themes into their daily school routines, duties, and responsibilities. This year, many military children have had to deal with new learning more than ever, on top of their parents’ long separations and long moves to new homes. The strength and resilience of military children is truly inspiring. Even though their experiences and stories are not always reflected in a book, it is important to honor and tell them.

Photos reproduced with kind permission of the author.

This source has been very much helpful in doing our research. Read more about describe the top 3 quality of life challenges faced by military members and families and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

What challenges do military children face?

According to the Department for Youth, Families and Communities, military-connected students are at least twice as likely to switch schools during their educational careers, compared to other students. This is because active-duty military personnel are required to relocate an average of every two years. This frequent moving causes students to adjust to new school environments, teachers, policies, and peers on a regular basis, which can be challenging. The challenges faced by military children are complex.

These children have lived through multiple deployments of their parents, with very long periods of time in between during which they have to adjust to new schools and unfamiliar communities. They will often miss important milestones such as birthdays and other family events. During times of war or conflict, they may live in fear of hearing that a parent has been injured or killed. These children may also have to cope with parents who suffered injuries during their service (whether physical or psychological), as well as those who are coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other war-related mental health issues.

What are some of the challenges military families face today?

Military families face many challenges today, including frequent moves, which can be stressful for children and adults alike. In addition, when a parent is sent on a deployment, the other parent is left to balance the children’s emotional needs with their own. Being a military family is not easy. When a soldier is deployed, his or her family faces the challenge of dealing with long-term separation with a loved one. An army wife may worry about how her children’s grades are faring while her husband is away; she may fear that her husband will not come back alive.

Families and soldiers must also face the challenge of dealing with financial hardship. For military families, the high cost of living may force them to rent a house instead of purchasing a home; and, since military servicemen and women are often transferred to a new base every few years, they may also face the challenge of making new friends and adapting to new schools.

How often do military families move?

Military families often move, whether they are active duty or veterans, and this new life may be a culture shock. When you’re a military family, you’ve probably gone through more moves than you can count. Each time you move, your children have to adjust to new schools, new teachers, and new classmates – and that can be tough on them. It can be tough on you, too. Military families are unique in their ability to move for any number of reasons.

Some of those reasons may include the need for better job opportunities, to avoid being deployed, or to make the most of the military pay and benefits. Whatever the reasons, military families make a lot of sacrifices, especially relocating. Military families may move as frequently as every two years, but more commonly, they move at least once every three to four years.

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