Military Families: How to Best Support Your Student
When a parent serves in the US military, the sacrifices they make extend to their partners and children as well. As they serve our nation through honorable dedication, families sometimes face challenges unique to military life. One of the most profound is foregoing the comfort of a true home base due to frequent relocation or relocation overseas.
K-12 military kids press the reset button on their lives for each reassignment. Referred to as a permanent change of station, or PCS, a typical stay in one location lasts between two and four years. Military parents are gravely aware of the potential academic and social challenges for their children, often seeking information from or about schools for children of service members.
Whether your family is navigating another reassignment or is now stationed overseas, we invite you to explore and use the following tips and resources to ease your child’s transition.
Utilize resources for military families
The federal government funds multiple programs meant to support families just like yours, but they can’t work without active participation. From wellness to child care, help with teenagers, and beyond, there’s a program for just about any obstacle your family may face. Here are a few examples of available resources:
- The Department of Defense Education Activity is a vast index of online educational programs and activities meant to support parents and schools for children of service members. It includes an online library, games, and science labs. The Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Digital Library is similar.
- The Exceptional Family Member Program is dedicated to helping military families with disabilities. Resources here include individualized service plans (ISPs), advocacy, early intervention programs, and any type of referrals you need.
- Sometimes the best person to understand what you’re going through is someone who’s walking in your shoes. Military Kids Connect is an online community of military children from ages six through 17 where kids can access the age-appropriate tools they need to navigate the challenges of military life and frequent relocation.
Don’t see what you’re looking for here? There are still plenty of resources out there. Military One Source is the one-stop shop for official military support programs. You may also find additional community support through local groups and social media.
Help them keep in touch
Leaving your best friend, your soccer team, or your favorite teacher behind is hard. While some connections may fizzle out as your child finds new ones, you can’t expect them to quickly move on. It’s important to remember that your children probably aren’t trying to guilt you for relocating—they’ve just been put into an unfamiliar environment and are yearning for what they know.
Your kids will take comfort in knowing that you are empathetic to the life that they are mourning and, while it’s tough to remind them that hopping on a plane to go back for a visit isn’t an option right now, there are ways to help them stay in touch with what is familiar.
You can try suggesting something like: “It’s okay to miss your soccer teammate. How about we find the coolest postcard around from our new station and send it to them?” or “I bet Connor is missing your Friday night hangouts, too. Should we see if he’s available for a Zoom game night this weekend?”.
Encourage new friendships
While you help your child transition smoothly from one location to another, you should encourage them to engage in new friendships. According to Champ Uniformed Services University, the best way to do this is to model those behaviors yourself—greeting new people, engaging in new activities, encouraging conversations—while letting your school-aged children choose their own new friendships in a “passively supervised” way.
The older a student is, the more important friendships are as safe havens and stress relievers in the school environment. Unfortunately, older students are also the ones that may have a harder time approaching new people, so keep monitoring your child’s progress even if they’re older. They might be struggling with the change more than your effervescent seven-year-old, just not on the surface.
Make mental and behavioral health a priority
Social and psychological challenges caused to a child by frequent relocation or living overseas can’t be taboo in the military household. Anytime your child wants to speak up about a difficulty or insecurity in a new living and school environment, listen to and validate them.
According to the American Association of School Administrators, a third of all military children will develop anxiety and depression as the moves accumulate, which may manifest as increased crying, insomnia, stomach aches, or verbal expressions of worry or sadness. It’s crucial that evidence of these struggles be addressed right away. Your child may prefer to navigate this with you, a trusted family member or friend, or a counselor or therapist.
Reestablish a permanent school community with K-12 for military kids
What if your children could have the same peers, year after year, no matter where you go—from the east coast, west coast, and even overseas? Schools for children of service members must be of an equivalent (if not better) academic caliber as public schools while maintaining a strong peer-driven network of students for those that need their education to reach beyond four walls.
Laurel Springs School is a US-based, accredited homeschool alternative offering a self-paced, mastery-based education to support students who travel or move frequently, as well as a rigorous college-prep curriculum.
Students at Laurel Springs School hail from all 50 states and more than 100 countries worldwide. Our fully-online program ensures military-connected children feel like they’re part of a school community through clubs, events, and activities your student can participate in no matter where the military takes your family.
Contact us to learn more about Laurel Springs today.
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