Campers said they like making new friends, but they feel as if they’re always the “new kid.” Military children get new schools, new friends, and new homes about every three years, while the average American family moves once every five years. Most military children will attend six to nine different schools from grades K-12. They move around the United States and abroad. That’s a lot of goodbyes! Operation Purple® kids said that, next to deployments, moving was the toughest thing about being a kid in a military family.
“I have to make a bunch of new friends every time I move.”
Moving and parental absences have been shown to have a negative impact on military children’s test scores, particularly in single parent families and for younger children. The familiar routine of school is often an anchor for a child who moves a lot, and because military families don’t usually live near extended relatives, they rely on each other and community resources. Creating a safe welcoming environment helps military kids make this transition a little bit easier and really make a difference:
Keep on hand a “welcome wagon” packet of information that you would normally give to new students at the beginning of the year. Contacts for local resources like the post office, library, or popular parks help new families get acclimated to the area quickly.
Reserve slots in classes, athletics, and clubs for military students who arrive later in the year. Give these students the chance to thrive in the areas that are most appropriate for them, not just the ones vailable in the middle of the term.
Create a parent-buddy system for newly relocated families. Encourage members to hold PTA offices. Having a parent get involved in school serves as a good example for a child to do the same.
Form a traveler’s club. Kids of all ages can learn about other states and countries while sharing their travel adventures.
As a gift to a child who is moving, create a photo album of their friends, teachers, coaches, school building, and other popular community locations for them to take with them on their move. Send them off with a party so they can say goodbye to their friends.
Check to see if the state is a member of the Interstate Compact, if not petition legislators.
Military K-12 Partnership—School Liaison Officers network, educate, and work in partnership with local schools to provide caring adults to enhance the education experience. Visit http://militaryk12partners.dodea.edu for more information.
National Network of Partnership Schools—NNPS provides research-based guidance on engaging parents, schools, and community leaders to create student success in schools. Visit www.partnershipschools.org for more information.