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Affects of Military Life on Children

April is the Month of the Military Child.  So, in honor of the occasion, we will focus on the affects military life on children.

Most military children have the following experiences in common: frequent relocations, disruptions of education, separations from friends, feeling like an outsider in new schools and communities, missing a sense of permanency and connection, being separated from the military parent while that parent is abroad or away from home, dealing with the emotions of the non-military parent who is left behind, and feeling alone or unknown by others.

How these experiences affect children depends on the personalities and perspectives of the children.  A brief topical overview follows.

Outgoing children are more likely to see frequent school and community changes as a fun opportunity to keep meeting new people, whereas shy children may see frequent school and community changes as intimidating and scary.

Children who are highly adaptable may not be bothered by disruptions of education, whereas children who prefer routine may find such disruptions more distressing.  Also, children in more advanced grades may find it increasingly disruptive to their educational goals to change schools in the middle of a school year.

Never having a home town may inspire a sense of being a citizen of the world (a valuable trait in this increasingly globalized world) or a sense of loss for lacking a personal grounding or history.  For military children who have been stationed abroad, being exposed to foreign cultures and languages can be a wonderful experience in learning, becoming well-rounded, and adapting to our globalized world.

Tangible goods (homes, furniture, etc.) may take on more or less significance among military children than among non-military children, depending on how the military children felt about growing up without a home of their own, etc.

Being repeatedly separated from the military parent can create the perception that time together is to be valued when it happens but not seen as essential on a day-to-day basis . . . or it can create a sense of longing for consistent togetherness.

Dealing with the emotions of the non-military parent can be seen as stressful and unpleasant or a fascinating or heart-warming opportunity to help and/or nurture.

Feeling alone can be positive (i.e., the benefits of private, introspective time) or negative (i.e., loneliness).

While the experiences that are common among most military children may affect the children differently based on the personalities and perspectives held by those children, there are some affects that are statistically more common.  Military children tend to be more resilient, adaptable, independent, and world savvy than non-military children.  More military than non-military children struggle to maintain deep, lasting relationships as adults.  Also, military children, when grown, tend to prefer a mobile lifestyle, relocating communities for jobs and opportunities more frequently than non-military children when grown.

In sum, there are advantages and disadvantages in the affects of military life on children.  For all the military children, young and grown, we salute you.  For the sacrifices you and your families have made for our freedom, we are grateful.

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