The children in military families can identify aircraft and explain rank. The military culture is unique and being part of it makes teens feel special. It’s easy to see why teens say they are proud of the job their parents do for the country.
“My dad didn’t just go on a trip, he served his country.”
It can also be emotionally complicated. Teens may resent parents for missing important events, and yet they are still proud of them. Regardless of how they feel, military teens overwhelmingly name their military parent as a positive role model.
Ensuring teens have a support structure when they may not have extended or immediate family members around is critical in these tumultuous years. You can help strengthen the bond with their military parents using these strategies:
Invite the military parent to speak to your school or organization. This can be especially helpful when the parent returns from a deployment. It gives teens a chance to express their pride without saying a word.
Distinguish between the parent’s service and politics of war. Teenagers can separate the two and be proud of their military parent without necessarily agreeing with the country’s decision makers. Still, political statements can be taken negatively if they are perceived to be “against” the Service. Use complimentary statements such as, “While our service members have done incredible work,” before talking about the bigger issues of politics and American involvement in global conflict to show you are sensitive to the division between duty and debate.
Military kids understand the value of service to others. Develop that understanding by letting them lead a community service event.
Highlight local heroes like firemen and police officers, along with military service members, to show military youth they are part of a large supportive community of public servants who live with some uncertainty about safety and absence from the family. Invite those teens, along with military teens, for a roundtable discussion about public service.
Create a column in your organization’s newsletter, blog, or magazine that discusses military life. Let military teens contribute personal essays.
My Hero: Military Kids Write About Their Moms and Dads by Allen Appel and Mark Rothmiller – Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) youth tell heartwarming and candid stories about their military parents. For more information about the ASYMCA’s annual art and essay contests go to www.asymca.org.