When you think of military children, you probably think about how tough their lives must be. And sure, things such as deployments and frequent relocations are difficult. However, would you be surprised to learn that recent research showed that 95% of children with a deployed parent were able to maintain a stable household routine? Would you also be surprised to learn that more than 60% of these children stayed well-connected with their deployed Service-member parent and that they had an easy reconnection once their parent returned from deployment?
A key takeaway from these findings is that being a military child requires strength, courage, and sacrifice. So, this month we honor military children for the important role they play in the armed forces community and their resiliency. To do this, we connected with six children who grew up in military families to learn about what military life was like for them. Some common themes emerged like the joy of meeting and making new friends, the pain of leaving close friends, and all military families do not share the same experiences and challenges. Once you read this piece, our hope is you are inspired to have thoughtful conversations with military-connected children and families that help them feel welcome and supported in your communities.
What are some of the pros and cons of growing up in a military family?
"I grew up as part of a National Guard/Reserve family. One pro was that I got to tag along with my parents to work when I was younger just to see what they did. My parents always had time off around major holidays and could usually take the day off for my birthday. The main con of military life was dealing with parental separations such as when my parent was deployed. Another disadvantage, particularly related to being part of a National Guard/Reserve family, was that I didn’t have a lot of other military kids to interact with or relate to." – Killian, Army Guard & Reserve
"The pros were getting to move and live different places! It forced me to step out of my comfort zone and learn how to interact with people I’d never met before. The cons were also moving because of the constant changing schools where the kids had already grown up together and had their set friend groups." – Natalia, Air Force
"Pros of being a military child were making new friends all the time and the unique life experiences. The cons were that sometimes life is not certain; there can be a lot of worrying about the state of political affairs, wars, etc." – Moira, Navy
"The pros were being able to travel the world, having good health insurance, and the sense of pride that your father/mother serves their country. The primary con was that because we were a military family, my parents worked odd hours." – Hannah, Air Force
"A pro would be the people you meet, and a con would be having a parent that is absent at times. I was around 6 years old when my dad first deployed to Iraq, and around 9 years old when he went again." – Kinsey, Marines
How many times did you move growing up? What were some of the highs and lows of moving around?
"I moved four times. I was born at Tyndall AFB, FL then moved to Colorado, Wisconsin, Oregon, and back to Florida. The highs were living in a new house in a new neighborhood and hoping the neighborhood had a lot of kids! The low was every time I finally felt like I had made friends, I had to move and start over." – Natalia, Air Force
"I only moved four times across the country. The highs of moving were always getting to make new friends and getting to redecorate a room. However, the lows were the inevitable loss of long-established friends, teachers, Girl Scout troop leaders, etc. Also, your stuff gets lost in the move!" – Moira, Navy
"I moved 7 times. The highs were seeing new places and getting to meet new friends, whereas the lows were being either behind or ahead in school because things are taught in different orders in different states/areas. For instance, I never learned capital letters in cursive because in Virginia we learned lower case first, then we moved, my new school did upper case first. So, I learned lower case twice...This is part of the reason why I decided to homeschool my children who are being raised in the military." – Heather, Marines