Nearly 85 percent of military teens attend public schools instead of Department of Defense schools. Only about 35% of active duty military families even live in military housing. So although children of service members are part of the unique military culture, they spend most of their time in the local community. And the more than 700,000 National Guard and Reserve kids might never live on a military installation.
“Our parents are serving our country.”
These families look within their community for friendship and support. But to reach our military youth, we have to know who they are and understand them. Here are a few ways to get started:
Poll the teens in your group to see how many of them have a military connection. Even if they don't have a parent serving, many teens have brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins or grandparents serving.
Familiarize yourself with military life. Learn the differences between active duty and reserve component service. Look at the uniqueness of each service branch — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, as well as the commissioned corps of the US Public Health Service and NOAA.
Read blogs and books with firsthand accounts about military life. Note the diversity of experiences along with the common challenges and rewards of military life.
Download a copy of National Military Family Association’s Military Child Bill of Rights at www.MilitaryFamily.org/BillofRights and use it as guide to support military teens you know.
Schools can assign literature that examines military life and features teenage characters. Talk about the book with a class or group. Ask military youth to share what is the same or different in their lives from what they read.
Educate your group about reaching out to the "new kid." Military teens are often told to make new friends, but the community must reciprocate to make the connection happen.
Resource list of National Guard Family Assistance Programs in all states — the support provided by the family assistance centers is available for families of all military Services in the communities served. www.jointservicessupport.org.
“Military Brats and Other Global Nomads: Growing Up in Organization Families” by Morten Ender, sociology professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.