April is the month of the Military Child. The children of military families are some of the strongest most resilient individuals in the world. When you consider the many life changes that happen various times during a service member career, children of these individuals must also go through these changes. Unlike the military members themselves, they often do not understand change, at times repel change, but ultimately champion change. As resilient as military children can be, sometimes life can change in ways that make it hard for even these little patriots.
Divorce rates in military marriages are high. Ask a spouse or service member and they would say likely half of the military families they know are divorced. Divorce for two adults is said to be the most excruciating time, where emotions are raw, and tensions are high. If this is the case for adults, imagine the inner turmoil it causes children. So how do we help our military children who are going through such a situation? With one of the most uncomfortable and painful situations, how do we make sure children are getting cared for emotionally.
There are many ways we can look out for children during a divorce. The first is of course that the parents should never bring the child in the middle of the divorce. Even if blame is to be placed, let it be between the spouses and not the child/ren. Children are tiny life sponges and with each word and action they absorb the things around them. The emotions of a child are already often scattered and changing, but emotional wounds can dig deeper and cause future life issues. Just as an individual in a traumatic situation may suffer from PTSD, children can also suffer from situations that ultimately change their way of thinking and feeling about themselves, others, and the world.
There are so many outlets now a day for children who need help handling life changes and emotions attached to those changes. When I was young, it was taboo to take your child for therapy. The thought was other people assumed your child had issues and often this could feel as a shaming for parents. That is not the case now. Therapy is wonderful for helping children learn how to separate their emotions as well as establish ways to efficiently and effectively sort emotions. There is therapy offered both for families as well as the individual child. Your child’s PCM can assist with setting up therapy and counseling.
Children are like all people; they desire love and attention. When it is hard to understand emotions, it is not uncommon for children to act out. This acting out could be a variety of things from being aggressive and mean, to being quiet and meek. One way to help a child is to sit down and listen. Yes, counselors listen but as a parent or family member, you listening means the world to them. Look for signs of change in behavior and often you can work alongside the child to work through it.
The month of the military child is a great way to honor our military children. Military children are so strong and go through so many life events. If you know of a family going through a divorce and they have children, please let them know that there are resources out there to help their children through this time of transition. Many bases also offer additional support during these types of situations.
Sometimes parents and family members are unsure of how to help a child going through emotional struggles. Thankfully there are many great resources online to help give tips and ideas to help support children through divorce. Below I have listed resources from group activities to therapy.
Here are some resources that can help our smallest patriots when going through life changes such as divorce:
photo credit: DVIDSHUB / Flickr / Creative Commons