Back to School: Welcoming New Military Kids to Your Community
Outside of their family, educators and other youth serving professionals spend the most time with military kids, so it’s all the more critical that these people create positive and exciting environments for them to thrive in. To get started, find out who the military children are in your community. It won’t only help you to plan activities that celebrate and include military kids, but with possible increases in stress due to deployments, you will also be able to understand changes in behavior or acknowledge their situation so that they never feel isolated or alone. Look back at some of your most special moments from when you were school aged: winning a student council race, making Eagle Scout, graduating at the top of your class, etc. Chances are an educator, pastor, youth group leader, civic leader, or scout leader were there with you as you made those milestones. As an integral part of student life, community leaders have the opportunity to impact the lives of military kids in a lasting way. Your presence and attentiveness in their lives certainly makes an impact, but here are a few ways you can make the military kids you encounter feel all the more welcome.
Teachers: do you have military children in your classroom this year/semester? If you teach at a school far outside of a military community, it might be difficult for you to know who’s who. At the beginning of each school year or term, consider adding a question about military affiliation to an ice breaker game. It’s an easy way to put military kids on your radar, along with allowing you to anticipate needs if a parent is currently deployed or will deploy soon.
Many military families transition to new locations on short notice or awkward intervals, often making it difficult for them to fit into predetermined schedules. A military student that transfers into your class in the middle of the school year might need some time to transition into your course schedule and lesson plans, just as an athlete that missed the first week of tryouts shouldn’t necessarily be ineligible to try and make the team. The great thing is that military families are used to transitioning, so they will be willing to do the extra work asked of them to fit in and hit the ground running. You just need to meet them halfway.
There are a number of ways that you can engage the military kids in your life, without worry of embarrassing them by singling them out from their peers. If you live outside of a military installation, your actions can help them build a different kind of military community. Have your Scout troop start a pen pal project with deployed service members, have a church social at the start of each term to help new kids meet people their age, or stay after practice for a few extra minutes to help someone new to your basketball team learn all of the new plays. If one or more of your students has a parent that’s deployed, at the beginning of the deployment, you could create a tear- off wall calendar to count down each day until their scheduled return, when you could throw a pizza party.
Military families will become part of numerous communities over a short period of time—why not make the time they spend in your community full of growth and lasting memories?
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Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.
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