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April is the Month of the Military Child. I know that there are lots of people out there who want to support soldiers and their families but don't know how to show their support. Here are ten practical ways to help military kids deal with deployments and the aftermath of deployments.

Supporting soldiers means sending care packages and phone cards, but it also means supporting their families back home so that soldiers don't need to worry about the welfare of their spouses and children while they are fighting overseas. Worrying about their family's welfare is a distraction that could cost lives in the field, but knowing that their family is taken care of can turn a good soldier into a great soldier.

Deployments are hard on spouses, but they are even harder on children who may not understand why their parent is gone or why their parent has to leave over and over and over. I know in the month before my husband left for his second deployment his daughter was devastated. She had nightmares often, and would come into our bedroom at night crying for her daddy not to leave again. Kids worry about the safety of their deployed parent and worry about the stress placed on the parent still at home, and still have to deal with the trials and tribulations of being a kid. It's a big sacrifice for them, and there are more than half a million children affected by deployments. But you can help.

April is the Month of the Military Child, and it's a great time to step up and step in for a soldier who is fighting overseas and help out a military family.  There are counseling programs, daycare programs, and other programs implemented by the military to help out families but here are 10 things that you can do this month that will directly impact the children of deployed soldiers:

1. "Adopt" a military child.  Are you taking your kids to the park this weekend? Or going to a movie? How about going out to dinner this week? Invite a military child to go with you.  You will be providing a little much needed respite care for a spouse who could use a little time to clean the house or run errands, and you will be giving that child the chance to get their mind off their deployed parent and onto having fun for a little while.  Small gestures can be huge to a military family.  Something as simple as inviting a military child to a picnic with your family or on a bike ride on a weekend afternoon can be a big help to a child that is struggling.  If there is a father /son event at school, or a mom/daughter event or other event where a parent is required offer to attend with the child. Go to school plays and concerts and videoape them. This is especially important for the children of Reservists, who may be far from a military facility and the community of other deployed families.

2. Include their deployed parent.  "Out of sight, out of mind" doesn't apply to the families of the deployed. We are always thinking of our beloved soldiers, and so are their kids.  Don't act like their parents don't exist. Talk about them. Talk about times you all spent together, talk about happy memories you have of the deployed parent. Talk about the things you can all do together when the deployed parent comes home.  Sidestepping around the deployed parent's absence makes children feel that emptiness more keenly, so always talk as if you are 100% certain that parent is coming home safe, and soon.

3. Be willing to listen.  The children of deployed soldiers are often very afraid for their deployed parent. Seeing news stories about the war and hearing about soldiers being killed are very hard for kids. When the child's non deployed parent is scared or stressed out the child may be hesitant to go to that parent for comforting because they don't want to bother that parent or increase their stress or fear.  Let military children that are friends with your children, or belong to friends or relatives know that they can come to you if they need reassurance or want to talk about their deployed parent.

4. Recognize any signs of emotional trouble. If you notice that a military child is starting to act out, be irritable or angry all the time, or acting depresses speak up. Speak to the child's parent, a school counselor, or a teacher and express your concerns.  The child's parent may not have seen the signs of trouble but the earlier that a military child can get help for their emotions during a deployment the sooner they can get help that can head off  more serious problems later on.  Don't be hesitant to speak up.

5. Support organizations that provide free counseling for the kids of deployed soldiers . When we wanted to get counseling for my stepdaughter to help her deal with her dad's first deployment the wait time was six months to get an initial appointment. Not a single provider I called within a 60 mile radius was taking new patients, the demand was that high.  There are groups that provide free counseling to the children of deployed soldiers or soldiers who have deployed and the kids need them. Donate your time or donate money but help out these organizations because they are very needed.  Some of the groups to help include:

The Soldier's Project
Not Alone
Operation Military Kids
Blue Star Families

6.  Support Operation Purple. Operation Purple is sponsored by the National Military Family Association.  It gives thousands of kids of deployed soldiers the chance to go to summer camps, on family retreats, and to other events where they can meet the kids of other deployed soldiers, spend time having fun with kids who are going through the same things they are, and get counseling and learn skills to help them deal with their emotions  while their parent is gone and after that parent comes home.  More than 45,000 military kids have attended Operation Purple camps, which are always 100% free for military families.  They are accepting donations now for the 2012 camp season.

Operation Purple also offers special camps for the kids of soldiers who come home permanently injured to help the families learn to cope with the soldier's injuries and learn how to move forward as a family. With more wounded soldiers coming home from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq than any other conflict in US history these camps are in high demand and are desperately needed. Find out more about Operation Purple here.

7.  Show you care during the month of April. Since April is the Month of the Military Child get your kids and their friends together, get your church youth group to participate, organize a class project, or just get all the kids in the neighborhood together to make a special effort to reach out to military children. Some great projects to contribute to are Operation Appreciation and Lift Link Love.

Operation Appreciation is a program run by Blue Star Families.  You can write letters, make cards, draw pictures or create other expressions of support for military families and kids. Send them to BSF and they will distribute them to military families and kids. It's just that easy. All the information how to participate can be found here.
Lift Link Love  is a wonderful new project run by LIFT, a group set up to help support military families.  Lift Link Love is a project to create a giant paper chain of messages of support for military families and kids.  Military family members can make links with their soldier's name on it, or other personalized items and military supporters can write positive, hopeful and supportive messages on paper chain links that will all be joined together and then displayed this summer as a visible symbol of how the people of the US support their military families.  Get more information on  Lift Link Love here.

8. Fight for legislation that will affect military families.  Even though Congress was able to reach a last minute deal on the budget so that soldiers will still receive their April pay the issue of soldier's pay will come up again as the fights in Congress over the budget continue. Call  your representatives and make it clear that you do not want them to use the issue of soldiers getting paid as a bargaining chip to get the budget cuts they want. Refuse to accept their petty squabbling and demand that a firm stance be taken to protect military families. Support Joining Forces, the White House initiative to help military families.

9. Don't abandon military kids when their deployed parent comes home.  Often the period of time after a soldier comes home is one of the roughest parts of the deployment process. Kids have to adjust to changes in the parent who was deployed, who may be injured mentally or physically. They also have to deal with changes in the family dynamic as the two parents learn to be a couple and co-parents again. Continue to support the family and be a sounding board and a safe space for the kids to vent their emotions, ask questions, and deal with all the emotions that come up after their parent returns.

10. Work for peace. More than a decade of war is enough. Military families and kids are bearing the brunt of 2, 3, 4 and sometimes more deployments. Enough is enough. No matter what your political beliefs are work to end the military conflicts we're in so that our soldiers and their families have the space, time and resources they need to heal. They've given all they have for more than a decade, and now it's time for the rest of the country to honor their sacrifices by taking care of them.

Originally posted to Community Spotlight on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 07:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Military Community Members of Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I love this diary! (6+ / 0-)

    I'm going to post it to my facebook and share with my family because they don't know how to use #2. My kids dreaded the question, "How is your dad?" and my kids didn't always know how to answer. But if my family had shared more memories of their dad or talked about plans with their dad after he came back, it would have made things easier, I think.

    I'm also posting it because of item #1. That is the most helpful thing people could have done for me when my husband was deployed. People would ask, "If you need anything, let me know." Well, I don't need you to take my kids. We're managing fine. But, if you want to invite my kids along and you want their company, that's a different story. Asking me to ask you for help is putting one more level of responsibility on my shoulders. Also, I now have teenagers - they don't need watching like little kids but they would still like to hang out with other people sometimes.

  •  I've been looking for a project for my church (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean, DaNang65, boofdah, Amber6541

    I thank you for these links!!!

    •  Operation Appreciation (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaNang65, angelajean

      we already had a letter writing event planned (for adults to their legislators), we are going to add this as an activity for the kids (and others) at the same time.  That way parents don't have to find sitting to come to the one event, and we'll cross-draw participants.

      I had contacted the Guard chaplain for my state, and he had referred me to the Family Support Director, who never replied to my email.  We are publishing our list of projects this week, so this came in just under the wire.

      Thank you!  Thank you! for the links.

  •  Fixed your tags. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaNang65, nzanne, Amber6541

    Congrats on the rescue - this diary really deserved it!

  •  This is wonderful! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean, DaNang65, grover, Amber6541

    So, we don't have kids and we don't belong to a church. But my husband in particular would make a great big brother.

    Suggestions? We can certainly donate some money, but I'd like to get involved....

  •  Here's a program: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaNang65, Amber6541

    Defending The Blue Line

    Our mission at

    Defending The Blue Line (DTBL)

    is ensuring that children of military members are afforded every opportunity to participate in the game of hockey. We accomplish this by providing free equipment for military kids, hockey camps, special events,

    and financial assistance for registration fees and other costs associated with hockey

    was featured on NBC News. It has received direct support from NHL players and the NHL Players Association ( their union).  DTBL is a 501c3, so deductions are tax deductible.

    How great to simply give military kids something to do, adults that are around to support them whether their parents are home or deployed, and the funds to pursue it (because hockey is not inexpensive).  I'd love to see this program expanded to all 50 states.

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... - C Dickens.

    by grover on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 03:13:43 PM PDT

  •  All good ideas. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaNang65, grover, txlosthorn, Amber6541

    I was a military kid.  When we lived in Italy, I remember being told that I had to bascially 'buck up and deal'.  This was interpreted to mean don't complain, don't rock the boat, etc.  I'm not sure all families had the same 'rule'.  But, I think it stunted some of my ability to express myself constructively.

    So, when with a kid, don't just let, "I'm alright" go without question.  (Unless, of course, you really know the kid and have for a bit.)  They may not really feel that way, but feel that they have to be 'responsible'.

  •  I find this issue very difficult... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    obviously I want to support the troops and their families, but I can't ignore the fact that our ultra militaristic culture that INEVITABLY leads to military conflict is fueled by reverence for "The Troops".

    Why is a military career treated as the be all and end all of humanitarian and noble service?

    It's not - this country would be better served by starving this awful MIC beast by telling people to AVOID military service altogether.

    •  Not the thread for this (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      begone, grover, Keori, Amber6541

      You may disagree with US foreign or military policy, but this is about the kids and how they deal with deployments. Their parents don't have say if/when they are ordered to deploy.

      People respect those who serve because they make sacrifices that all too many in this country don't. It's a shame that people like you can't see that.

      •  Agreed! This is not the place (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nchristine, Amber6541

        I was a military kid.  

        Whether you agree with the politics around military conflict is completely beside the point.

        Military kids don't have a choice in being born into a military family.  Those are the lumps they got, and you cannot underestimate how difficult it can be.

        A child is not as equipped to deal with the realities of military life as an adult spouse, especially as a younger child. You can end up being separated from a parent for months or even years at a time.

        You don't know anything about the politics behind it.  You're 4 years old (or 7, or 9, or ....)  All you know is that you deeply, deeply miss your daddy or mommy.

        If you are lucky, you've got another parent at home with you who is coping well with missing their spouse.

        I too got the "suck it up, make your daddy proud" stuff.  I was very lucky, I had a mom at home who threw herself into raising me, and who went out of her way to make the separations easier.

        That didn't change that my dad was gone completely for 18 months when I was 3 to 4 1/2.  

        Or that when I was 5, after being home for six months my dad left home again.  I wouldn't see him for another 4 months, and that was because I was uprooted from my home and moved to another country, leaving behind the grandmother, aunts and uncles who had been a part of my daily life until then.  I wouldn't see them for another 4 years.  Some of them died before I'd see them again, and I still miss them in a unique way.

        Or that every year of my elementary school years, my dad was home 6 to 8 months of the year, and gone for a solid 3 months of the year.

        Or that every night that my dad was actually there, I'd sit on the steps waiting for him to come home, missing him and slightly afraid he wouldn't be coming home that night. Often he'd come home so wiped out that he'd walk by me, pat me on the head, eat dinner in silence, and say goodnight because he was heading to bed.

        He was out the door at 4 am every morning.  Every morning that he was home, I wouldn't see him for breakfast.

        Oh -- and on top of it I changed elementary schools eleven times between Kindergarten and 6th grade.

        That's the life of a military child.

  •  I'm working to get our troops home - for good (0+ / 0-)

    once and for all.  But this country thinks that it can solve all of our problems with war.

    80% of SUCCESS
    is JUST
    showing up

    by Churchill on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 10:13:14 PM PDT

  •  Constructive Critique: Too Many Items (0+ / 0-)

    Lists of 10 are about the number 10. If you really want it to be remembered and acted on, you are so much better off with a list of three things. In this case, #1, #3, and #9 strike me as things that individuals can do right here and right now.

    #4 is also worthwhile, but it doesn't specifically apply to military kids, and besides, it's an article of faith among organizational psychologists that lists of three work best. It's not that there's anything wrong with the other items, it's that the list is way too long to be of practical utility.

  •  Disparity (0+ / 0-)

    My son served three tours in Kuwait and Iraq, so I do understand how dificult it can be to be home alone.  Many of those who served with him had families with real needs and not much hope.

    On the other hand, most of the $500k plus homes in my area are occupied by military.  Many of whom are retired and are on the DoD chuckwagon.  I do not have a problem with that.  What I do have a problem with are the vast majority of them that want to do away with Social Security, Medicare, Disability and fly the Tea Party flags just below their American flags.  I am not talking about officers only (although many are) I am talking about enlisted men and women as well.

    Yesterday a retired Marine called me a bum and a leach on society because I parked in a handicapped spot.  As his license said, he had 22 years in, I paid into Social Security for 45 years.

    •  I would love to know their follow on jobs... (0+ / 0-)

      It's becoming common for military to retire into contract positions for the military and receive large paychecks from private company to do the very same job they used to do while living on public service.

      It's their right to do so. I have a problem with a system that allows for this. We've watched military positions be phased out and converted to civilian positions in an attempt to save government dollars. We save money because we don't have to pay for the health care or for the retirement of those individuals. But it has also hindered the military system because, IMHO, we are stagnating. Civilians can keep jobs for years and get stuck in the "we've always done it this way" mentality. Our military is suffering for it.

      I'm sorry you have such asses living near you. Please know that not all military families chose to go that route... nor do all mlitary families even have that option. Those jobs tend to go to senior enlisted and to officers with more than 20 years service. It's an 'easy' way to retire.

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