How many times has your military child heard how hard military life is?
The truth is, most parents talk more about the hardships than the positives that come with life as a military family. As parents, we need to be the source of hope for our kids.
Pointing out the moments of happiness and positive aspects of our lives can foster an outlook of possibility for a child versus one where all they see is how things might go wrong.
Here are five simple ways you can help your child develop a sense of optimism about their military life:
1. Look for the lesson. When something “bad” happens, find something that you can learn from the problem or a positive in the moment. For instance, when you learn that a parent’s return has been delayed, talk about how this will give you more time to prepare for the parent’s return. This is a great chance to talk about how unexpected things can happen in life but how great things are worth the wait.
2. Ask before speaking. Before sharing your view of a situation, find out your child’s view. While their new school may be bigger, smaller, have more or less programming, your child may be more interested to tell you about the cool playground, or new friend they made in lunch. Give your child the chance to see the bright side by giving him space to do it.
3. Volunteer in your military community. The more your child sees you positively interacting with the groups, organizations, and individuals in your military community, the more they will come to understand the people who assist in making military life function. While we are all busy, even attending one event as a volunteer can make a difference. Be sure to include your child in your volunteering when you can!
4. Explore your military life. Even if you live on post or pretty far away from any other military members, take the time to “explore” your military life. Go to the installation museum and learn the history of where you live and the units your service member serves in. Build pride in your community by attending ceremonies and being a part of the excitement of a unit celebration. Instead of dreading “mandatory fun,” consider the opportunities to meet new people and for your child to meet the people you or your spouse works with in the military. If you live far from a post, go online and read about your spouse’s unit and talk about the branch you belong to as a family. Your optimism is contagious.
5. Spend time focused and talking. Find moments to talk with your child when they aren’t bringing you a problem or life isn’t as hectic. Children often open up to a parent at bedtime or in the car on the way home from school or sports. Make sure you aren’t distracted by a phone or other device. Give them your full attention.
If your child has concerns about what’s going on (a deployment, an upcoming move), be the person that reassures them rather than adding to their concerns. Some things are adult problems and should not be shouldered by children. However, validate the feelings they may be having (good and bad ones), and take time to mourn (together!) the loss you feel.
While it may seem like this is a simple tip, we often aren’t purposeful as parents with focusing on our child’s feelings outside of the heat of the moment. Consider slowing down, talking, and sharing; give your child the hope they desire from you, to see the bright side of what’s ahead.
Chameleon Kids is the publisher of MILITARY KIDS’ LIFE magazine, the only print magazine for kids of service members. We encourage kids to find the bright side of their military life. Find us at www.chameleonkids.com/magazine.