Every April, the United States Department of Defense (DOD) celebrates the Month of the Military Child. The DOD recognizes the importance and resilience of 1.6 million children of active and reserve duty members in the United States military.
Though support is acknowledged all year round – on and off installments – children of military families are faced with circumstances that can make their childhood experience different than that of their peers. The average military child will relocate between six to nine times – or every two to three years – before they graduate high school. While the moves are not as frequent as students in the McKinney–Vento (MKV) program (which can be up to three times a year), they can suffer some of the same consequences from the transient nature of their parents’ occupation.
The Military Interstate Compact works to ensure that children of service members are able to stay on track with their education – providing a glimmer of stability. “The Compact will ensure that the children of military families are afforded the same opportunities for educational success as other children and are not penalized or delayed in achieving their educational goals by inflexible administrative and bureaucratic practices,” states the Department of Defense Education Activity.
Relocation isn’t the only factor contributing to issues within these children’s lives. The National Center for Children in Poverty emphasizes that children of deployed parents experience higher rates of serious mental health struggles. It further reveals that depression is reported in 25% of children, while 20% struggle with academics. It can be challenging for a young child to process why a parent has to miss out on major life events like birthdays, holidays, or graduations. Even military family units, as a whole, can feel the stress of deployment.
There is Hope and Help
Luckily, there’s a bright side. American military children have unique opportunities that most might not experience growing up. Learning to be flexible, harnessing maturity early on, finding resilience within themselves, and enjoying an abundance of cultural diversity are just a few of the life lessons and skills these children can keep and carry forever.
There are also programs designed to help service members and their families cope both with deployments and military life in general. Military OneSource helps actively advocate and support military families 24/7. The organization provides, “individualized consultations, coaching and non-medical counseling for many aspects of military life,” further strengthening the comradery between fellow military families.
For more information regarding resources or how to help a family in transition or experiencing a deployment, check out www.militaryonesource.mil.