The MFLN Family Development Early Intervention team recently interviewed Christian, the 15 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?
Some of my favorite memories are the places I visited when we moved and the people we met. I have been to more countries than most kids will see in their lives. I also have friends living all over the world.
What, if anything, has been challenging?
One thing that has been challenging is the fact that you have to move frequently. Whenever you move, you have to start all over and make new friends. Another challenging thing is that sometimes I don’t get to see my dad for long periods of time. Sometimes he has been gone for as little as 4 months and sometimes as much as 15 months at a time.
Has your parent deployed while you were a child? How frequently?
My dad has been deployed seven times. He was sometimes home for just a few months between deployments and sometimes home for a least a year.
- What did your parent(s) tell you about their deployment?
They told me that my dad was going to go away for a long time because of the Army. As I got older I began to understand that he would be far away with limited contact and that he was going to be away for a long time.
- How far in advance were you informed?
I was informed around the same time that my dad found out he was deploying. My parents would tell my sisters and me well before he left.
- What would you suggest to other parents that need to prepare their children for an impending deployment?
I would tell other parents that they should tell their kids about the deployment as soon as they know, and that they should tell them as much about it as their child can handle.
- How can parents support their children through all phases of a deployment (pre, during, and post)?
Before my dad’s deployments he would spend a whole day with us. For example, he and I spent a whole day going to a hockey game. I would also say to parents that they should have a plan to incorporate little things during the deployment. When I was younger my mom and dad made Build-A-Bears for us with a message from my dad that he recorded before the deployment. We always go on family vacations after he gets home. We went to Hilton Head after a deployment and to the North Carolina mountains after another deployment. We are able to relax and enjoy time with just the five of us.
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 total of seven times. To help me get used to a new home I always try to meet new neighbors and play outside with them as soon as possible. I also get involved with sports and try to start team practices and camps soon after we move. This helps because then I have people I know when I start at a new school. One recommendation that I have is be open to meeting new people. Another is that sports can help you adjust to a new location. One of my favorite things to do is to play sports so I meet a lot of friends through the sports I play.
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 teachers have made sure to introduce me to the military family life counselor (MFLC) at our school. They made sure that I knew there was someone I could always talk to if I had concerns about my dad.
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.