One of the most difficult aspects of parenting a military child is dealing with the potentially negative stereotypes children will be saddled with as a “military brat.” With the Month of the Military Child just behind us, wanted to take a minute to discuss ways to help children better understand and accept the military as a part of their lives.
Even though children are vulnerable targets for military stereotyping, families can work together to raise the youngest members of the community’s self esteem to take criticism in stride and be proud of their hard work.
Volunteering is a great way to get the entire family together to give back to the community. Volunteering with a military charity gives the family a chance to bond and the potential to meet the military community. Take advantage of any opportunities to visit a base if you don’t already live on one so kids of any age can see the military lifestyle in action.
Media coverage surrounding the military is mixed to say the least. For adults it is easy to separate political ideas about the military and their operations from you and your service member’s self-worth. But children can often take these statements as a personal attack against their parents or themselves.
With younger children, solving this issue is as easy as turning off the TV during certain news reports. But in the digital age the older your child gets the less control you will have. As they begin seeking out media on their own, simply discussing how they feel about these issues may be easier and more effective than trying to hide it. Talking about the facts as well as the logistics of a career in the military can help everyone sleep more soundly.
If you have family friends in the military, try to schedule times where you can get together, especially during difficult times like big moves or during a deployment. Children can learn a lot from and feel validated by other families going through the same difficulties. Increased interaction with military friends and children can help yours feel less isolated or uncertain.
Sometimes the best thing to do is give them the opportunity to be a regular kid. Joining a sports team or an organization through school is a great way for to meet new friends and take their minds off negative things. The routine of practices or meetings combined with activities and new friends can add stability, especially when a parent is deployed.
Military families are incredibly resilient and military children are no exception. Many wear the “brat” title with pride. There’s a lot to be proud of when it comes to what military families do to keep the nation safe. It’s important for military children to understand that you and the community appreciate their sacrifices, too.