Unlike previous posts, this post is written not from a teacher’s perspective but rather a parent’s. As a military spouse I have witnessed the firsthand effects of “military life” on children. Thus, I thought it may prove helpful to provide insight into a military child’s life. This insight, hopefully, may prove beneficial to those teachers who are offered the opportunity to educate a military child in their classroom.
Previously, I used to worry about my children moving (even before I had them) and was told repeatedly, “Don’t worry, military kids are resilient!” Although there may be truth in that statement, what they don’t tell you is that they’re not born that way – babies are not built with a resiliency button. In fact, when we filled out the baby order form, there was no box to check that included resiliency (although there were boxes that included copious amounts of spit-up and profuse amounts of crying). Not surprisingly, in many ways, resiliency is gained through life experiences.
Unfortunately, those experiences typically are of the negative persuasion. Here is a list of some experiences that our 5-year-old, Emma, is currently dealing with:
- Emma, fortunately, gets to spend weeks at a time with Grandma (Yaya and Babsie) but those weeks are far apart.
- Emma knows that a move is always in the near future (3 moves in the past 3 years) and she confusingly understands that her best friends are not making the move with her. In fact, she still talks about her Jacksonville best friend, her Norfolk best friend, and her Leavenworth best friend. She asked today who her new best friend could be.
- Mrs. Wiley is not known as her “preschool teacher” but rather as her “Kansas teacher.”
- “New house” means nothing to Emma because this is her 3rd new house. One house has a beach and one has a field and one has a park.
- Every bedroom she has slept in has proven drastically different than the others. Luckily, when the moving company arrives, her daddy always insists on setting up the same Cracker Barrel map on her wall so she has a familiar anchor to her space (bonus reason – daddy also hopes that this map will undoubtedly provide Emma a better knowledge of geography than me – which is not really saying much) .
So, as a teacher, here is your challenge. Take that new military child who just arrived in your classroom and put an arm around him or her. Provide him or her the love and the stability that they desperately yearn. Yes, resiliency may come to these children. However, let’s not forget that they are fragile and tender and the resiliency is an aftermath of the difficult experiences. As a parent, I fear that people may look to my children and overvalue their strength. I hear all the time, “ahhh, they’re all good – they’re military kids – they know how to adapt – they’re better off because of the moves.” That thought process scares me. Perhaps, one day they will be better off. However, right now, they are in the midst of the tough experiences. Watch over these kids, hug them, care for them, and include them. And, only through that care, in my opinion, resiliency can be realized.