Category Archives: Military kids

Miss Northern Idaho Brings Attention to Military Kids

Lucy Maud Montgomery had the right perception when she wrote about military families in her novel, Rilla of Ingleside: “Our sacrifice is greater than his…our boys give only themselves. We give them.”

America has done a significant job in promoting our servicemen and women, with national holidays like Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. However, how many people would know what month is the Month of the Military Child (it’s this month!)? How many people take the time to consider the accomplishments and struggles of military children?

Unfortunately, many Americans do not realize the sacrifices of military “brats” are insurmountable compared to the daily lives of their peers.

My purpose in my platform within the Miss Northern Idaho, Miss Idaho, and the Miss America organizations is to raise awareness of the challenges and blessings that come from being a military child.

Because of my platform, military children will know that they are valued, not only for their sacrifice, but also for who they are as a person. Growing up a military brat myself, I am aware of what it feels like to have a parent deployed, to move a number of times, and to feel alone and abnormal because no one understands what it’s like to have the experience of being a military child. I am also aware of the advantage of knowing people in every corner of the globe, to be diverse, to be adaptable, and to be independent.

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I have had much involvement with Operation Homefront, which assists military families financially, because of their Military Child of the Year award. I also have involvement with the National Military Family Association because my family was the Coast Guard Family of the Year in 2010. Both of these organizations salute military children, and using my involvement with these programs, Miss North Idaho will be able to educate the public about the many sacrifices and accomplishments of local military children.

Military children are by no means ‘normal;’ oftentimes they are more mature than their peers – stronger emotionally, and better at acclimating.

I think the main issue in not appreciating military children is simply ignorance. People just don’t think about the homefront as much as they do about those on the front lines. My purpose is not to take away from our amazing soldiers, but to show the civilians what goes on behind the scenes in the military lifestyle. Everyone has seen videos of emotional reunions of soldiers and their families, but it is much less common to see a video of a family packing up their home to move for the fifth time in 3 years, or to see a child kissing a picture good night because their parent is overseas.

With the title of Miss Northern Idaho, I’d like to highlight our military brats for their sacrifices, but much more so for their accomplishments. Even though I changed schools so many times, I was always able to keep excellent grades and I know many others who were able to do the same. That’s not an easy feat, especially when different schools and states have differing curriculum.

“Experts say that military children are well-rounded, culturally aware, tolerant, and extremely resilient. Military children have learned from an early age that home is where their hearts are, that a good friend can be found in every corner of the world, and that education doesn’t only come from school. They live history. They learn that to survive means to adapt, that the door that closes one chapter of their life opens up to a new and exciting adventure full of new friends and new experiences.”

These are just a few examples of how special military children are. Many military brats are also exceptional volunteers, outstanding citizens, and are passionate for their country. They make their families and nation proud, and deserve to be recognized!

Do you know and awesome military kid? Tell us about them by leaving a comment!

Posted by Olivia Kennedy, military child and Miss Northern Idaho

Military Brat: A True Term of Endearment!

Merriam Webster defines the word ‘brat’ as:

brat
noun | \’brat;\
1 a: CHILD; specifically: an ill-mannered annoying child <a spoiled brat>

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The word brat, alone, is not considered a compliment in general speech, but put the word military in front of it, and you get the most loving term of endearment that I, myself, would ever want to be called.

I grew up an Army brat. My dad served 30 years from 1972-2002. I spent 22 of those years experiencing military life and watching him serve his country.  Through his service, I grew into a world traveler with a love for adventure. I developed a proud admiration for my country and anyone in a military uniform, and I developed a sense of adaptability and a go-with-the-flow nature that has kept me sane throughout my adult years.

As proud as I am of my experiences, I know a military childhood is not without its downsides. Moving every couple of years is hard work for a kid. I blame my ever-present restlessness as an adult on the military moves from my childhood. Yet, some of my fondest memories take place among a house full of brown moving boxes, with moving men and their moving trucks as background scenery. I remember very clearly the year my brother made me pee my pants from laughing so hard at the escapades he created with my super hero cabbage patch doll and the towering box buildings she couldn’t quite leap with a single bound.  Not really Comedy Central material, but, man, it was the everything to a seven year old who was about to have her world turned upside down, again. I imagine, though, that the memory remains so vivid to this day because of the ruckus that followed once my mom realized what happened. Now a parent myself, I can understand how unexpected soiled clothing from a seven year old during a move could damper the mood.

I have four Army brats of my own, and I can see through their little eyes, now more than ever, how much our military kids serve our country, too. Mine are still young, and the few moves we’ve experienced probably won’t affect them much in the long run. The stability we’ve been able to experience, however, has been offset by their dad’s military travel. Our oldest–who will be nine this year–has been through two deployments and countless TDYs. When he was younger, it didn’t occur to me how much he was processing from military life. But when he was five, I began to notice his anxiety around airports. He was always with me when we dropped dad off, or picked him up, and one day as we headed to the San Antonio airport for a drop off, I could see him start to tear up in the back seat before we even turned in for departures. He never did cry, just got a little watery-eyed as he sat very somberly in the back seat. We didn’t make a big production of dad’s comings and goings, as to not let on that he would be away for a while, but it was obvious how unsuccessful we were in our attempts to shield him from his dad’s absence. He was very capable of putting two-and-two together, and at five, he could already recognize an airport from a distance.  Later that year, as we traveled to the airport to pick someone up, he very eagerly asked who was coming. I don’t remember now who exactly it was, but I will always remember the disappointment on his face when the answer wasn’t dad.

Despite the absences and missed moments that pepper our memories, I don’t see my kids’ lives as scarred or sad. I don’t pity them or wish for different circumstances. Instead, I admire them for their strength and unconditional love for their soldier and own personal hero: their dad.

I love that they know when dad is gone it means he is working hard to take care of them and others around them. It also means when he comes home, they will spend days riding bikes, playing together in the front yard, watching movies, and taking rides in his truck just for the fun of it. That’s what they look forward to and what keeps them going. But in the meantime, while he’s away and the kids have questions and want to know what dad is doing, I love to sit down with them and put on the movie The Avengers, and say “That’s what daddy’s doing!”

I know his job isn’t nearly that glamorous or heroic, but to our kids, he is nothing less than a super hero, so that’s the best way I can imagine explaining it to them.  I’ll make sure they will forever be our proud military brats.

If you asked me, I’d define brat this way:

military brat
Noun | \ ‘military brat’
1 a: CHILD; specifically: a child serving our country with strength, dignity an love as his or her parent(s) fight for our nation’s security domestically and abroad.

What do you love about your military brat?

Posted by Jenni Miller, Army spouse, photographer and blogger at Jenn Elisabeth Photography

PURPLE UP and High Five an Awesome Military Kid!

It’s the Month of the Military Child and we’ve been celebrating and honoring these special kids and the sacrifices they make while their parent serves in the military. Over on our Facebook page, we’re telling the real story about #BratLife, and what military life is really like for kids.

Here are some startling realities:

One in four military kids struggle with depression.

63% of military child abuse cases are neglect cases.

Health insurance for military kids is modeled after the needs of elderly patients. (What?!)

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Not only that, military kids have a tough time being seen at Military Treatment Facilities because their doctors are often too busy, and appointments are few and far between.

At NMFA, we rally around these amazing kids and love to celebrate the awesome things about them. Especially today. It’s PURPLE UP Day! Around the world, people are joining together to sport their best purple outfits in celebration of our nation’s resilient, remarkable, and rad military kids.

What’s so cool about military kids?

On average, most will move every 3 years…good thing they make friends easily!

They’ve mastered the art of flexibility and adapt to change better than most.

They know happiness doesn’t have one address.

Military kids will say goodbye to more significant people in their lives by age 18 than most people do in a lifetime.

Military kids really do serve, too.

But somehow, these little heroes turn out to be some of the most incredible people, some even growing up to appreciate their experience as a military kid, others go on to follow their parent’s footsteps and join the military.

Today, we ask you to join us and wear purple – the color that represents of all the military branches – and honor the awesome military kids we love! If you’re wearing purple today, snap a selfie and tag NMFA in it!

What’s your favorite thing about military kids? Tell us in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Month of the Military Kid FREE Printable Activities!

It’s officially the Month of the Military Child, and while we hope your community has some fun activities planned, we wanted to provide some additional resources for you to make this a special month for the military kids in your life.

These printables were designed for kids at our Operation Purple® camps. What’s Operation Purple Camp, you ask? It’s a completely free camp for military kids designed to help them connect with other children who understand the unique challenges military children face. We want them to feel comfortable connecting with their peers and taking about their experience, and these tools help them open up with each other and our camp staff.

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You can use these printables at home with your children, with your church group, scouts, youth center, or school groups. Anywhere where you can find military children!

Military Kid Comic Strips

Some kids may not want to talk about their experience, and most probably don’t want to write an essay about them, either. These worksheets take the pressure off and allow kids to draw and express their experience in pictures instead of words. When they are finished, you can display their work (with their permission) or use it as a jumping off point to discuss their experience.

Military Kid Mad Libs

This light-hearted activity is a good way to help kids open up about their moving experiences. Come up with the word list as a group, and then read the story aloud. Ask the children to tell their own moving stories. Did they have an easy time making friends? Are they homesick, or did they get settled right in?

Military Kid Feelings Search

Sometimes military kids don’t really want to sit down to talk about their feelings. No big deal! This word search is a quiet activity and includes many different feelings, positive and negative. After the kids complete this activity, you can ask them, what feelings were not on the list? Which words would they use to describe military life, or their parents deployment, or the idea of moving? Are they happy or excited? Are they nervous, sad, or mad?

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Military Kid Ice Breaker Bingo

If you have a large group of military kids to work with, this activity is a wonderful ice breaker. Simply print off one game board per child, find a cool prize for them, and set them free to chat with each other. If they can find a kid who matches the description in the game box, they have their new friends autograph the square. The first child to get a BINGO can get a prize! You could have a second prize for the first child to get a “Blackout” on their game board, too! Ideally, when you are done playing, all the children will have had a chance to talk to each other and learn something new.

Download these awesome FREE printable activities for the military kid in your life! Be sure to take pictures and tag us on social media if you try them out!

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

17 Ways to Celebrate the Month of the Military Child!

When we think of colors that might represent military kids, we usually think of the colors like red, white and blue…maybe throw in a little green camo for contrast, right?

However, the color that best represents the life of the military child is PURPLE!  Why the color purple? It’s the color that’s an intricate part of celebrating the month of April – the Month of the Military Child.

In 1986, April was designated Month of the Military Child by Casper Weinberger to recognize and thank children from military families for the sacrifices they make living the military lifestyle. Purple Up is the campaign that propels activities throughout the Month of the Military Child to honor, acknowledge, and support military connected kids in our schools and communities.

A military connected kid is a child or adolescent with a close family member serving in any branch of the United States Armed Forces, and any status, Active Duty, Reserve, or National Guard. Military connected youth face unique circumstances living the military lifestyle, which can be challenging, or opportunities for growth.

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Celebrating our little warriors doesn’t just happen in our schools. As parents and educators, we need to put a little ingenuity and elbow grease behind a few strategies and activities. As parents, we need to solicit support from principals, teachers and PTO/PTA groups to help bring awareness to our little warriors and their struggles. It’s an easy sell, and the positive attitude you’ll bring to school will last long after you’ve moved, hopefully keeping the tradition going.

The Month of Military Child is celebrated in hundreds of schools across the country and overseas. Bring your child’s school into the know and create a visual sea of purple! Help bring awareness to the unique life we live to teachers, principals, and their peers.

Below are 17 fantastic ways to show support in your school for the military families in your elementary school community. They’re low cost, practical, and creative ways to celebrate in the classroom, hallways and in lunchroom at your school.

  1. Kick off the Month of the Military Child with a breakfast, or lunch for Military Connected Youth in the school. Include their parents or other family members associated with the military. Don’t forget to invite staff who were once military kids, too, or who may have a close family member serving our country.
  2. Dress-up throughout the month of April. April 15th is the official PURPLE UP day! It’s always fun to see a school full of smiling faces wearing purple. Another idea is to identify one day each week in April to highlight military families. Ideas include: favorite service logo day, patriotic day, Purple day, etc.
  3. Highlight April as Month of the Military Child on the school’s marquee, and in staff and parent newsletters.
  4. Have a daily or weekly announcement with military-connected student facts. Start with the national facts and move into school facts. For great facts on military connect kids, visit Families on the Home front.
  5. Throughout the month, ask military connected kids or family members to do the announcements, or share an interesting fact about their life as a military child on the morning news show.
  6. Decorate display cases and bulletin boards throughout April with military focused memorabilia, or items brought by military kids reflecting their experiences (where they have live or traveled, family members’ service memorabilia, parts of a uniform, patches, coins, models of planes etc.)
  7. Create a world map and pinpoint where students and staff have lived because of their military lifestyle. This is a fantastic way to connect military kids with their peers. It’s total conversation starter when their peers say to them, “Wow! You lived in Japan?”
  8. Decorate the school in flags, purple, and posters! Have a group of kids design posters thanking their families for their service. Have military kids make posters reflecting their experiences. Decorate with purple balloons. Have staff and students wear purple ribbons or carnations on the designated Purple UP day!4-4 MilKid PINTEREST Rd&Bl
  9. Adopt a deployed service member or unit. Create care packages for deployed troops. As a service project collect items from a class, grade, school group, or whole school. Packages can be sent to a student’s family member or another unit identified through the school or community. Collect items from April 4-22, then take the week of April 25 the to pack up and ship. Don’t forget notes, card, and pictures. For ideas of what to send, contact a family member, local installation, or Red Cross. Most school counselors should know if there are families in your school whose service members is deployed. Ask them to help celebrate their family.
  10. Attempt a LIVE SKYPE session with a deployed service family member in the classroom or at an assembly. With a little technical help and decent time zone, this would be a great experience to for military kids to show how they talk to their parent – when they can.
  11. Start a Buddy Program at your school for ALL new kids that transfer in. It’s great way to take the sting out of being the new kid and create support within the school for military connected kids and other new students. This is a great program to be started by Student Council or PTA/PTO. It takes little effort, just a small welcome packet, a meeting once a month and friendly face.
  12. Ask a military member (a parent or sibling of someone in the class) to be a guest speaker and share their perspective on life in the military, as well as their profession.
  13. Create a Hero Wall to honor those in public service, with a bulletin board or posters pinned up about heroes in a child’s life. It could be a family member or family friend currently serving, or a veteran who served (living or dead). It could also be someone who does good in a community – firefighters, policemen, first responders, or religious figures. Keep the idea that kids can connect and share about who they think a hero is – a hero is defined in many different ways. Keep the conversation going about sacrifice and public service!
  14. Create a Time Zone Wall with a series of clocks on a wall identifying different time zones from around the world, with a focus on where a deployed family may be, where a military child has lived in the past, or where a child might be moving to.
  15. Story time using books about military kids’ experience, the military lifestyle, being the new kid in school, or appreciating differences in one another.
  16. Show-n-Tell! Have students bring in something military-related. Examples might be memorabilia from an installation or service branch, favorite airplane, book, military character, items or pictures from prior living locations, pictures or anything related to being a milkid!
  17. Write letters or draw pictures and send to deployed family members!

What ways are you planning to celebrate the military kids in your life? Leave a comment and share it with us!

Posted by Stacy Huisman, National Military Family Association Volunteer and Managing Director for Families on the Home Front

3 Tips for Monitoring Your MilKid on Social Media

News feeds. Snaps. DM’s. Post notifications. Hashtags. Tweets.

It’s like a foreign language to most parents, but with so many acronyms, apps, and other accoutrements, how do parents keep tabs on their children’s activity on countless social media platforms? I know many parents are catching up with social media lingo, thanks to educational lessons and eyerolls from their Gen X kids. (Mooooom, a DM means ‘direct message!’ GOSH!)

And what about military kids? With Operational Security (OPSEC) and Personal Security (PERSEC) a well-known acronym in military households, what’s the best way to talk about social media with them? How do parents of military kids keep OPSEC a main focus when sending another Snapchat, or uploading another Instagram picture?

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Here are three tips that might be helpful when it comes to children and social media:

Consider what your child understands about each social media platform.
Have conversations with your child about what they know about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms and find out what and who they want to engage with. Do they just want to take pictures and share them? Are they chatting with friends from school? Use age-appropriate conversations to educate your child about the vastness of each platform, and what they might encounter by creating a profile. And likewise, decide for your child what the best age is for them to start creating profiles on these platforms.

Sharon, a Navy wife and mother of 3 shared how she decided whether her kids were ready to join social media accounts. “Social media is a privilege not a right just because we give you a phone or a laptop. We wanted to know, ‘Can you follow the rules? Do you understand about predators that look for kids on social media? Are you responsible?’”

Create security boundaries for usage.
Most social media platforms give you security and privacy settings to adjust, so once you discuss activity with your child, think about some basic boundaries that will work for both of you. One simple security boundary to set is to make any profile private. Explain to your child that they should only accept requests from people they actually know in real life, and create consequences for rules not followed.

“We had to know their log in and passwords,” Sharon explained. “We helped them create secure passwords that they can take through life with them, and if they violated the rules we set, they lost their account.”

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Make sure your child understands OPSEC and PERSEC.
Though OPSEC has many layers, it’s important that your child understand what is, and isn’t, okay to share on social media. Just like many spouses, kids can also get excited for a service member’s return from deployment and want to share it with their friends. Explain to your child why it’s not okay to share specific locations, their school name, or even their last name, on the internet. It seems like a crazy idea that a terrorist would find their way to a military kid’s Facebook page, but that’s the thing: terrorists are crazy, and we shouldn’t expect any less from them.

Social media is a constant in the life of most people, and in a lifestyle where change comes with every PCS move, it can be a good way for your military kid to keep up with friends from other duty stations. Be sure to consider what works best for your family, and for your child, and monitor their activity frequently.

How do you monitor your kids on social media? Share your thoughts with us!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

My Military Kid is Still Struggling in School: Now What?

You moved last year, last month, last week. As directed, you handed over those official and/or unofficial school transcripts, letters from past teachers, and test results. You met the teacher, the principal, and a few other parents. You’ve tried to enroll your child in enough sports and extracurricular clubs to help build new friendships.

But something is still not right.

So much can go wrong when transferring schools, even if you check all the right boxes. But what can you do, as a parent, to help remedy some of these situations? A whole lot as it turns out!

First, get familiar with the laws…and there are a few.

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The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission, applies to all students of active-duty or activated Reserve/Guard families. It also applies for one year only to children of medically retired service members, and children of service members who were killed in action, or are deceased as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty.

This is most helpful in terms of placement in the correct education categories and classes. For states that have adopted this compact, public schools are required to accept official AND unofficial records, test scores, and placements when the student arrives. Schools should operate under “trust but verify.” Students arriving in public schools in member states (which is all 50 states), even with unofficial records, should be placed in courses and programs equivalent to their previous placement. In short, if your child was in the gifted program at Camp Lejeune, she should still be enrolled in the gifted program in Camp Pendleton. Your child might be retested by the new school, and placed differently based on those results, but initially she should be kept at the same level as her last school.

If they try to fight you on this, be sure to direct them to this interactive map that shows all 50 US states as members of the Interstate Compact. Then direct them to the guiding documents that outline how schools should operate upon receiving new military dependent children.

For students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or other special education needs, receiving schools (public schools including DoDEA) must comply with the current, legal IEP until such time as testing can be conducted to create a new IEP. The important thing to note is that this helps to provide comparable, not identical, services. So if your child has PT services provided, they will still be provided, but maybe not at the same frequency or duration as they previously were. The new district will conduct updated assessments, and convene a new IEP committee to create your child’s new plan.

Another important tool for families with children who have special education needs is the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). This program is designed to identify and assist families and individuals with medical, emotional and educational needs. Enrollment is compulsory, but there are definitely more than a few families who skirt around this. Honestly, it is in YOUR best interest. Not only will EFMP do the legwork for you on determining which schools are best for your child, but they help with the transfer process. If your child has an IEP, 504 Plan, or any other educational plan, enroll in EFMP yesterday (a.k.a., NOW!) Each base has a local office and representative to walk you through enrollment and assist you with the paperwork.

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To go along with this, look into the School Liaison program at your new base. Every branch of service, as well as reserve components, maintain an active School Liaison program. These education professionals are employed to help build connections between the military and schools. They are there to help you transition into and out of schools, as well as to help handle any sticky situations that might pop up.

With the legal stuff taken care of, what do you do when everything else happens? Regression. Failure to adjust. Emotional concerns. These, and many more, can seriously impact a child’s academic and social life. Even one “off” aspect of life can severely affect others. A depressed child might exhibit academic regression or fail to make friends. A child who is struggling academically might lash out with anger or retreat into sadness.

There is help out there.

For families with academically focused concerns, Military OneSource has special education consultants. These are fully licensed, master’s level education professionals ready to help walk your family through the special education system. This service is free and unlimited.

Actually, Military OneSource is a one stop shop for so many things to help military families and children. Through this service, you can arrange for non-medical counseling. This can be an awesome and powerful resource for children who are struggling emotionally with school, moving, anxiety, depression, or just need someone other than a parent to talk to. The help is confidential and free.

Sometimes, even though a child is doing well in school and seems to be adjusting to their new home, they struggle to form connections. Let’s face it, Military Kid Life is like no other life out there. Sometimes our kids just need to connect with other military children. Now, they can. Military Kid Connect is another free web service that allows kids from ages 6 to high school to connect with each other through videos, games, and online (parent-approved) message boards. There are even resources for parents and teachers!

Moving with children, especially school aged children, can be challenging and difficult. Armed with the law and with an arsenal of free resources to help support your family, it can help to ease your burden a little and work to guide your child toward success academically and socially.

The help is out there. Now, go use it.

Have you ever had a child who struggled after a PCS? How did you tackle the problems?

meg-flanaganPosted by Marguerite Flanagan, M.Ed, founder of MilKids Education Consulting, a blog focusing on military and special needs children offering practical tips, fun ideas, and advice on decoding the very dense special education laws