It’s August, and children everywhere are eagerly awaiting — or quietly dreading — the start of the school year. For thousands of military children, it may be a little of both, because for them, it’s another year, another school. Have you considered what we expect of children of those who serve — and who get a new duty station every couple of years? Children in military families are expected to adapt quickly every time they are uprooted from their friends and schools and plunked in a new environment, an experience they have three times more than children in non-military families. The Department of Defense Education Activity office says the average child in a military family will move six to nine times during a school career!
We at Special Forces Charitable Trust support one set of these Children — those whose Parents are in the elite Army Special Forces. We offer resiliency, communication and skills training to help Families, including Children, cope with stresses they frequently experience, such as adapting to relocation. We also sponsor large Family Resiliency Retreats designed for each Special Forces Group, and the welfare of Special Forces Children is often a topic at these retreats.
So how can those who know and care about a Special Forces Family — or are Special Forces parents — help a child make a smooth transition? Here are some suggestions:
- Make it an adventure. A child will pick up on the vibe the parents set. If the pending move is cast as an opportunity to experience life in a new setting, it will be more attractive. Be sure to discuss where the family is moving and why — and clear up any confusion the child might have over the difference between a move and a deployment.
- Give it time. A child needs time to get used to the idea, and to say goodbye to any family or friends before moving. Encourage the the child to gather email and mailing addresses so they can keep in touch.
- Let the child in on the work. Allow the child to sort through his or her possessions and to help with the packing. He or she should be there on moving day, too.
- Investigate the new neighborhood. Spend time walking around the new neighborhood, and, hopefully, meeting other families with children. Learn about and enroll the child in extracurricular activities as soon as possible after moving.
- Do you homework. Before the family even arrives at the new duty station, it’s a good idea for the parents to look into the academic standards of the new school district or state. Meet with a school principal or counselor so they’re aware of the child’s weaknesses, strengths or challenges as a child in a military family.
If you want to be involved in helping to support Special Forces Families, we’d love to have you on our team. By donating to the Be a Hero for a Hero campaign, you can get a banner for your social media so all your friends can know your commitment, too! You can learn more here.