Life in the Military, Through Kids’ Eyes

Children with parents in the military navigate unique challenges and frequent changes. Kids' Turn San Diego is here to support families through transitions and separations.

In honor of April, the Month of the Military Child, Kids’ Turn San Diego interviewed 12-year-old Taylor, the daughter of a dual-military couple, to get a glimpse into the life of a military child.

Q: What are some issues that you think military children specifically go through?

A: Some of the issues that military children specifically go through are moving to different schools, meeting new friends, leaving old friends, and getting rid of a lot of stuff that you’ve gotten attached to in order to fit in your new house.

Q: How do you think being a child in the military helped you?

I’m able to overcome difficulties and adjust to my surroundings. I’ve moved to so many places and I’m used to the different climates and situations. It’s easier for me to make friends and leave things behind.

Q: What would you like the public to know about military children?

It’s really hard on kids. They have the hardest lives because they move a lot, leave their friends and pets behind, and sometimes they have to sell things that meant something to them (to fit into base housing). There’s a lot of change.

Q: How did you handle being part of a dual-military family?

Mom and Dad were stationed in different places or deployed for a large part of my life. My mom went on 2 deployments and my dad went on 6 deployments. I mostly lived with my mom, but I would occasionally live with my dad for a few years. I’d bounce back and forth. I’m happy that we’re all together now!

Q: How did you handle deployments?

We would count down the days. Saying goodbye was hard because we didn’t know how long they would be deployed for. It could be longer or shorter.

Q: What would you tell children now?

Look around and enjoy what you see. Don’t pay attention to what you’ve lost. Pay attention to the future. You can do anything even if it seems like it’s hard because being a military kid will make you stronger!

Kids’ Turn San Diego applauds Taylor and other military children for their resilience, dedication to their parents, and the sacrifices they have made. We know how difficult it is for a child to move and change schools, leave friends, and experience a parent on deployment. At Kids’ Turn San Diego, our goal is to change family relationships in positive ways so children experiencing family separations and military transitions are happier. In our programs, both children and their parents participate. Children learn new ways to express their feelings and parents learn communication tools, so they are able to put their children first.

During this time of uncertainty with the coronavirus (COVID-19), take time to talk to your children or grandchildren and check in with them. The shift of having both parents’ home, being out of school, not being able to see friends, and the information spread throughout media can weigh heavily on a child. While we’re all socially isolating, take the opportunity to connect with your children. Here are our best tips for military parents to support your children:

  1. Spending time. Deployments, pre-deployment work-ups, long hours at work, and Temporary Duty Assignments (TAD/TDY) are common military situations that keep parents away from their children. As we are homebound during this period, take a breather from your laptop and use this time to spend quality time with your military child or grandchild! Do fun physical training (PT) exercises together such as the “See 10, Do 10” push up challenge on social media or create an obstacle course or training regimen that you can all enjoy! Play hide and seek, board or video games with your child or simply spend time coloring and enjoying the time spent together. This is the time to strengthen your bond and be together as a family.

  2. Talk to them. With COVID-19, Permanent Changes of Station (PCS) are on hold until mid-May. With all the stress of PCS moves, this may be the first year where you can talk to your military child about how they feel during PCS seasons. Ask your child how they feel when it’s PCS time. For younger children, you can have them draw a picture of the family during PCS season or provide pre-written words for them to choose from (ie: Happy, Excited, Anxious, Sad). Discuss these words with your military child and ask your child what could support them during this transitional period. Open up lines of communication between you and your military child so that they can feel more comfortable expressing their needs in the future. Listen to your children without giving advice or trying to solve their problems. Work WITH your children to come up with a plan that would help them through future transitions.

    • For those families that are due for PCS in 2020 and are currently on hold, it is imperative that children understand and are a part of conversations regarding the move. As suddenly as the PCS hold was placed, there is a possibility that the release of that hold will be just as abrupt. Continue the conversation with your children and allow them to be informed of the situation so that when a sudden move is required, they are more prepared.

  3. Close quarters. Having the entire family in the home for an extended period of time can put stressors on any family, whether military or civilian. This may cause tension between parents or with children. Communication skills are vital in this situation. Practice utilizing the “I Statement” communication technique with your family members (both adults and children) and encourage their use of the practice as well. “I Statements” include: “I feel _____ when ____, please _____”. Talking with “I Statements” doesn’t come naturally. They are a skill. The important thing to remember with this skill is that this is a way to help your children express their feelings. It will also help you too.

    • As we are all living together without any breaks, regular check-ins (daily or every other day) can help alleviate some tension of being constantly in the home. They also provide the opportunity  for family members to share their feelings or thoughts when they otherwise would not know how to do so.

Remember Taylor’s words: “Look around and enjoy what you see. Don’t pay attention to what you’ve lost. Pay attention to the future. You can do anything even if it seems like it’s hard because being a military kid will make you stronger!”

Kids’ Turn San Diego’s mission of “promoting, supporting and securing the well-being of children who are experiencing family separation” drives our desire to empower military-connected families to remain connected, to talk about their feelings and to honor each and every family member. Thank you all for your service!

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