April is the Month of the Military child ★
Separations can be difficult for families and children. Military families know this all too well. During their lives children of service members can go through many different experiences of separations such as schools, temporary duty stations (TDY) (usually less than 6 months), and deployments (longer than 6 months). Research is divided on which age group experiences this separation the worst. Some research says that younger children and children who are female tend to experience this military separation worse than their male peers. However, there is conflicting research that says that children who are school- aged, around the ages of 7 years to 11 years, are more affected due to their emerging understanding of logic and reality of war.
When families live on base there are many supports in place to help them through a deployment. The USO has opportunities for get-togethers and other events. The ACS provides free counseling and financial resources. Most units and schools have an MFLAC (Military and Family Life Counselor) that can help your child cope with military experiences. There are clubs for children through the schools on base, DODEA or local public districts. The Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) has bowling leagues, boy/girl scouts, and sports leagues to help keep kids connected in their community and with other kids.
Child Life Specialists can help support your family during these difficult times. By providing developmentally appropriate education and therapeutic activities, they can help your child reach an accurate understanding of these changes.
The most important coping strategy that we can’t emphasize enough is staying connected. This can mean Face-Time/video calls, letters (hand written, or emailed), texts, and even recorded videos of the deployed parent reading a book or telling a joke.
Some creative and fun Pinterest finds are:
Creating a visual “countdown”. This can also be done with Hershey Hugs and Kisses.
Creating a visual calendar and map.
And of course, creating supportive messages from the deployed service member reminding the child/children of how much they are loved and missed.
(PS. Whoever created this had my mom-tears flowing!)
Here are a few children’s books that we love that are written to help support children navigating a separation due to military orders.
Mommy, You’re My Hero by Michelle, Ferguson-Cohen
Daddy’s Boots by Sandra Miller Linhart - All branches all ages
Love, Lizzie: Letters to a Military Mom by Lisa Tucker McElroy
Night Catch by Brenda Ehrmantraut
Need extra support? Contact Kids Can Cope and schedule your free consultation today at www.kidscancope.com