April is the Month of the Military Child

Did you know there’s an official flower of the military child? It’s the dandelion. Why?

Because…

The plant puts roots down almost anywhere, and it’s almost impossible to destroy.

The cover image for this post (above) features artwork by Elizabeth, Grade 3, of Hoffman Elementary School in San Antonio, TX. The Military Child Education Coalition has more information explaining the significance of the dandelion for military kids here.

Military kids are a resilient bunch. They have to be. At a young age, they must learn life skills, like how to cope with a parent’s prolonged absence, often before they’re even equipped to understand why mom or dad puts on that uniform.

That’s not to say it’s easy. For children in Guard and Reserve families who live and go to school in non-military communities, a parent’s deployment can make them feel isolated from other children. If there’s a lack of consistent and visible support for military families in the school and community, this “suddenly military” experience can make them feel unsure of where they fit in with their peers.

That’s why making connections with peers is so important. Since geographical isolation is a fact of life for Guard and Reserve kids, virtual spaces can be a great way to bridge that gap. But there are also opportunities for military kids to meet face to face with their peers, such as camps, sporting events, and other organized activities.

Molly-Frey

Molly Frey received the Military Child of the Year award at a gala in Washington, DC April 6. She was joined by six other awardees, representing each branch of the military and the National Guard.

And sometimes, a little initiative and determination opens the door for everyone. Such a self-starter mentality is a common thread among this year’s winners of the Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year awards. Take Molly Frey, for example, the National Guard’s 2017 winner. She created an inaugural figure skating show, “A Tribute to the Troops,” to honor the military and to collect donated items to send to deployed Service members.

Military kids like Molly must juggle a sense of uncertainty and occasional upheavals along with the typical excitements and tribulations of just being a kid. That makes their accomplishments all the more impressive. Military kids may be a resilient bunch, but that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from a little guidance along the way.

As a starting point, we’ve collected the following resources to help your kids connect to a community who “gets” them.

OurMilitaryKids

With a special program devoted solely to children of Guard and Reserve members, Our Military Kids offers grants to ensure that kids can pursue their passions, including sports, fine arts, tutoring, and enrichment programs that help to nurture and sustain the children while a parent is deployed overseas.

Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program

Holding hundreds of events for Guard and Reserve members across the country every year, YRRP brings families together for courses that include topics like coping with deployment for both young children and teens.

Operation Purple Camps and Camp Corral

What better way for your milkid to connect with other milkids than summer camp? Operation Purple Camps and Camp Corral both offer opportunities for military children. And both are free! Check the eligibility requirements and nearby locations to see which program is right for you.

operation-purple-camp

1st Sgt. Richard R Bernard gives a thumbs up to a military child donning a gas mask as part of “Military Experience Day” during Operation Purple Camp at Elk Neck State Park in North East, MD Aug. 16, 2016. Photo by Mr. Angel David Martinez Navedo (20thCBRNE)

MilitaryKidsConnect

Military Kids Connect (MKC) is an online community for military children (ages 6-17 years old) that provides access to age-appropriate resources to support children dealing with the unique psychological challenges of military life. Through videos, activities, and participation in MKC’s monitored online forums, children can share their own ideas, experiences, and suggestions with other military children, helping them to know they are not alone in dealing with the stresses of military life.

Sesame Street for Military Families

Addressing topics such as deployment, homecomings, injuries, and grief, Sesame Street for Military Families speaks to military children like only Sesame Street can: through familiar and much-loved characters explaining difficult topics in ways that young children can understand. With videos, interactive storybooks, helpful downloads, and information for parents, Sesame Street for Military Families might help your child open up.