Month of the Military Child: How YOU Can Honor Families!

military child

Did you know that the U.S. Air Force introduced Bob Ross to painting? While stationed in Alaska, he enrolled in a painting class at the U.S.O. Club. This is one of those facts that you wouldn’t know unless someone told you. Well, unless you’re a Bob Ross fan.

Another military fact you may not know: April is dedicated as Month of the Military Child. 

In 1986, to honor the sacrifices that are made by military children and their families, April was dedicated as Month of the Military Child. The color purple was chosen since it is a combination of all colors represented in the military: Air Force blue, Army green, Navy blue, Marine red, and Coast Guard blue. The specific day is known as “Purple Up” day, which is April 15th. 

The average military family moves every two to three years, with deployments lasting up to one year. The average military child will change school six to nine times. Some military children will be clearly affected by this, both emotionally and behaviorally.

Military children and families also go through 5 cycles of deployment:

  1. Pre-Deployment: A family is notified several weeks to a year in advance. 
  2. Deployment Phase: The first month the service member is gone there are mixed emotions, including feeling abandoned, sad, angry and even relieved.
  3. Sustainment: The first month of deployment prior to last month of deployment, during which families have reached a “new normal” and resume life with renewed resilience and hope.
  4. Pre-Reunion: The month before the solider is scheduled to return home is met with mixed emotions of excitement, anticipation and unrealistically high or low expectations.
  5. Reunion: This typically lasts 3-6 months, beginning when a soldier returns home, and includes euphoria and joy. Family roles need to be restructured and a child’s anxiety may be present for up to a year.

It isn’t uncommon for military children not to announce they are a military family. Ever since they were born, they have seen their parent wearing a uniform to work. It is their normal.

What isn’t always understood is the raw emotions kids feel when saying goodbye to their parents multiple times. And in cases when the family has to relocate, these goodbyes are also to their friends.

In a conversation with my high school friend, veteran, and military spouse, she advised parents of non-military children to encourage their son or daughter to be open and inclusive to new students from military families. She states, “It’s so hard and stressful, especially as they get older, to make friends and feel part of community”. 

Those military children and families whom reside on military installations have an abundant support system, along with activities and events for children of deployed parents. To those whom live in our surrounding area, the support system becomes much more secluded.

How do we as a community and school system open up those communication lines and celebrate the resilience of our military youth?

Ideas for How to Celebrate Military Children and Families 

  1. Create a Wall of Honor by adding pictures of those that did serve or currently serve, whether it’s parents, grandparents, a sibling, etc.
  2. Create a military youth support group if you have enough military-connected students, where they can meet and discuss any challenges.
  3. Become pen pals by writing letters to the deployed service member parent.
  4. Visit with a service member about their job/role within the military and their travels.
  5. Provide lessons on the geography, food, animals and culture of the country where the deployed service parent is stationed.
  6. Read military-friendly or patriotic children’s books and materials.
  7. Celebrate April as the Month of the Military Child by contacting your local Child & Youth Program Coordinator in your state to receive Certificates of Appreciation. 

For more information on how to support military kids and their families, contact Trudy Hjelseth at [email protected] or by phone at 701.451.6109. 

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Trudy lives with her husband, Derek, and their three children; Oakley (2006), Jayla (2008) and Tenlee (2012), along with their golden retriever, Jax. She was born and raised in North Dakota, where small-town fun involved kick the can and playing sports. Whether watching her kids and nephews playing sports or watching on it on TV, she accredits her love of sports to her childhood. Her professional career has been providing occupational therapy services to children in the school setting, psychiatric inpatient setting and in an outpatient clinic setting. She loved building relationships with the children and families, celebrating goals and milestones. Recently Trudy had a career change where she is now the Child & Youth Program Coordinator for the North Dakota National Guard soldiers. Being a military family, this career change was close to home. If you are looking for Trudy, you will find her at a sporting event, social get together, playing league volleyball, or at the lake with her family. You will not find her ice skating, rollerblading, spending hours in the kitchen or swimming in the ocean!

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