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How We Work with Military Families (and All Families) to Get Through Big Changes

Military dad hug daughter
Change can be difficult for all of us — but especially for kids. Little humans thrive when they have lots of stability in their lives. 

For kids who grow up in military families, including over 1 million children in the United States, change and transition can be an everyday experience. Families move and children start new schools. Parents are deployed or called for training and they’re gone, sometimes quickly and for long periods of time.

Change is also a big part of life, and it can offer invaluable opportunities to practice resilience and flexibility — two things that help us thrive. Here are five ways KinderCare and military families work together to help our kids weather big change:

1. Talk about big feelings

At KinderCare, we don’t shy away from talking about the tough stuff with kids, especially when it comes to talking about our feelings. Getting kids to name big feelings and talk about them can help children with whatever they’re going through. 

Sometimes kids let us know they’re having a rough day by acting upset, moody, or aggressive. To help a child share what they’re going through, it’s important to acknowledge how they’re feeling and help them find the words to express themselves. 

For children who might be feeling worried about a family member, we often ask questions like, What do you and your mom or dad like to do together? and let them answer in their own words. Simply letting a child talk about the person they’re thinking about can help them feel closer to them in that moment. 

2. Take one day at time

In the last few years, the Army has been teaching mindfulness to soliders. Mindfulness is the practice of slowing down, paying attention to your breathing, and staying present in the moment. It has been shown to help decrease stress and also help those who need to cope during stressful situations.

We’ve heard from military families that practicing mindfulness has helped them slow down and be present with their families as well. Instead of letting stress consume them, they slow down and breathe. They’ve noticed (and so have their kids!) that they’re more aware and attentive at home. This is especially important to them when they know they could be leaving them for trainings at any time.  

3. Be kind to each other 

Simple acts of kindness and compassion can go a long way. 

When military families go through transitions, every simple act of kindness counts. A warm-hearted welcome in the morning can help give a child an extra dose of reassurance that everything is going to be okay. Our teachers might say something like, It’s so nice to see you!  I’m so happy to be spending time together today. They’ll ask how a child is doing and talk to them about a parent who may be working far away.

Sometimes a simple gesture is the best way to support someone going through tough times. Helping a family keep a routine can offer a lot of support. You can help drive their kids to school or soccer practice. Acts of kindness like these remind military families, or any family in your community going through a transition, that they are not alone. 

4. Stay in touch

Our teachers are always looking for ways to help kids stay in touch with a parent who is gone for a long period of time. They write letters or send text messages and pictures. For many military families, video-conferencing apps are family QT lifesavers.

Some children also like to create journals with a page for each day until deployment ends. They fill the pages with photos, drawings, and letters, and they share the journal with their loved one when they come back.

If you know someone going through big changes or challenges, words of gratitude on a Post-It note or a quick text message to let them know you’re thinking of them can sometimes be enough.

5. Give them a real sense of belonging 

Giving every child a sense of belonging to a community, family, or neighborhood can help them recover from a difficult experience more easily.

When a family member of a child in KinderCare is deployed, we often hear from them how relieved they are to know that their child has friends, teachers who care about them, and fun experiences while they’re away. 

Having a community you can trust is a powerful antidote to getting through changes or difficult times. That’s why it’s so important to create strong communities everywhere — you never know who around you is experiencing big changes in their lives.

You can read more about resiliency and embracing family challenges on Military OneSource.

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