Deployment is a difficult time for everyone involved. The danger and distance of a loved one being deployed overseas can put a strain on family relationships. With younger children one of the biggest struggles is explaining where and why their parent is leaving at an age when processing anything outside of daily life is difficult.
Dealing with a teenager who more fully understand the dangers and reality of a deployment presents a whole new set of obstacles and reactions that you should be prepared for. Here are some things to expect:
Expect your teenagers to be just as inquisitive about deployments, possible moves and their role in the family as they were when they were younger. The main difference is teenagers will be looking for logical explanations for their questions and problems that you must be prepared to give.
Don’t be afraid to tell your military teenager the truth about the dangers associated with a deployment or the anxiety associated with transferring schools. Explain that you are worried about the same things but know no matter what happens your family will remain strong.
Unfortunately, it is hard for kids of any age to separate their parents from a job. Teenagers may take a military parent missing important events like birthdays, holidays, graduations and milestones personally and resent them upon return.
The best way to help is to explain that if it were up to you or the deployed parent they would be there for every important event, but work responsibilities are important too. Expect some level of resentment regardless.
A lot of people will tell you that all military teenagers are spiteful about their parent’s job and moving a lot. This isn’t always the whole story, many teenagers come to respect military sacrifices and have tremendous pride in their service member parent. Be sure to foster volunteer work, camps and events that they want to attend to share in the pride of a military family and recognize that they are sacrificing too. Helping kids stay involved in military activities or take an active role in supporting the military helps them take part in that pride.
Chances are that your military teen has lived in a few more places than most students in their class. When they are feeling down about the number of places they have left behind, remind them that they can offer valuable first hand experience from locations around the country or even the world. Help them think of the positive results of these moves and all the wonderful people they are able to meet each time they move.
If you think they are too shy to speak up about these experiences, talking to teacher about bringing it up in a non-aggressive way can help them feel like their experiences are important as well.
Because military families move often, military teenagers often exhibit a number of common characteristics.
When your military teenager is exhibiting a detached personality at new schools, understand that this is most likely a result of the constant moving and cycle of friends. They may fear striking up a new friendship only to have it end when orders come around again. Also be prepared for the opposite reaction, where teenagers become incredibly adaptable and seem to completely reinvent themselves at each new school. Don’t be surprised if they are anxious to pick up a new hobby or activity to better fit.
New friends can be a challenge for parents as well. Even if you believe a new group is a negative influence, continue to emphasize the importance of academic achievement and family responsibilities rather than attempting to control who they hang out with and garner a negative reaction.
Military teenagers are a very unique group with questions and concerns that should be taken seriously by parents, teachers, friends and other family members. Be sure to communicate with them openly and honestly to keep relationships strong even when times are rough like during deployment.
Photo thanks to zizzybaloobah via Flickr Creative Commons