Defence / Military Kids

As a mum of three, my children change every day. Children from all walks of life have challenges, morals and lifestyles that are different. My focus today is on Military Kids and I certainly appreciate that their challenges are far from challenges other children around the world.

Military kids are known for their Resilience. The lifestyle that they are born into is one of constant change. For this reason they are usually very adaptable. Adaptable to change, surroundings, people and situations. Their resilience is to be commended, embraced and nurtured.

Military kids are generally kind, thoughtful and very aware of their surroundings and of others. They have said goodbye to more people by the time they are 18 than most people do in a lifetime. This helps make them understanding and open.

Military kids are strong. They are strong at times that matter however, this does not make them immune to emotion. These kids are aware of the difficulties faced by others and their own families. They generally are happy to jump right in to help others and stand up for what they believe is right.

Military kids can be fiercely independent. They come from homes that are regularly in upheaval, with the serving member away or in a high tempo area. They are taught from a very early age the importance of independence, they still need help but are very capable of handling situations that other children may not.

Military kids are proud! Not all show this openenly, often they are unsure what the response will be for others – don’t dampen their spirit. Let them and encourage them to be proud of their Military family.

Military kids have a great sense of humour – let them laugh.

Military kids are supportive to other military kids. They give each other strength and an amazing support system. Sometimes without words they bring comfort to others.

Military kids generally have a more worldly view on life. They are open and aware of different cultures and diversity – this is a great thing.

Military kids are unique, brave and incredible souls.

Phases of Separation for Defence / Military Kids (by Mrs Mully)

Defence / Military children go through many emotions during each phase of this separation. The lead up phase, initial phase, the long haul and the end phase.

The Lead Up Phase

During this phase the defence child may seem lost and the heightened emotions may begin.  The defence family home during this time becomes unsettled as the member prepares for deployment. The lounge room floor or garage becomes a logistics nightmare and a constant reminder of what is happening. There will be webbing, packs, boots, uniforms, helmets, safety equipment, socks, hootchie, sleeping gear, gloves and a mountain of other required gear spread from one end to the other – this to be honest feels like a punch in the stomach every time you look at it. You are reminded of the length of the deployment and the unknown of what can happen during this time. It is a natural emotion to feel concerned and unfortunately, the ‘what if’s’ take over.

Initial Phase

During this phase the defence child may have heightened emotions leading to outbursts with anger, frustration or complete sadness as they begin to settle in to everyday activities without the member at home. From a change of who drops them off at school, who packs their lunches, who picks them up at the end of the day, who takes them to what activities during the weekend and the night time routine. This can be very hard for all the family to manage and with older children, expectations can be hard to handle to.

The Long Haul

Some days are much easier than others. A routine at home has settled and the ‘norm’ for the family is running as smooth as it can and a countdown to the end as begun. At times you will find the defence child’s emotions can change quiet quickly – in fact it is sometime similar to dealing with grief. The child may be experience a great day, laughed really hard at something and then remembered that they can’t share it with dad that afternoon at pick up – this may lead from laughter to tears or anger.

During the long haul, it is important to talk to the child about what they are feeling, giving them the opportunity to speak about it or the chance to sit down and record what they are feeling or what has happened during their day. The chance to draw or write a quick letter or jot it down in their journal is so important. 

The End Phase

The last four weeks of a deployment are another time for heightened emotion. The countdown has begun and more concerns become apparent. The excitement builds, the frustration of time builds, the concern of changes occurring again at home. As with all things Military, the planned date for the homecoming can change regularly. It is important that the child is prepared for this change and I would encourage you to mindful of this as homecoming becomes close – dates can change several times. Once the parent is home, reintegration begins. For some families this is simple and things return to how it was, for others, reintegration can be more difficult. A change in routine, a change in parenting styles can all lead to further emotional outbursts.

It is important that their emotions, feeling, concerns are all validated – it is no excuse for bad behaviour, but please remember these children are under an enormous amount of emotional pressure that at times will come to a head at school.

These are my own words from my own experience and from working with Defence / Military Kids who have been through the phases mentioned above.