The Month of the Military Child - Cohen Veterans Network
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The Month of the Military Child

This month, DoD celebrates the 31st year in which April was designated the Month of the Military Child. For those of us at the Cohen Veteran Network, we celebrate April as the Month of the Military and Veteran Child. There is nothing more precious or miraculous in this world than the birth of a child. And, despite all the trials and tribulations that go along with child rearing, from dirty diapers to adolescent mood swings and teenage defiance, there is also a certain magic associated with parenting that ensures all those middle-of-the-night stomach flu adventures fade from our memory.

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Winnefeld (middle) with members of our San Antonio clinic team.

But let’s be honest, raising a child is hard. Being a child is hard. We often take the evolution from childhood to adulthood for granted while not truly appreciating the supersonic rate at which the young brain grows and its capacity for absorbing the world around it. This is a critical period in development for a child to learn coping skills and develop tools for resiliency. This is especially true for military kids. Our families live a very unnatural lifestyle consisting of multiple moves (with all the attendant stress of entering a new group of kids), numerous deployments by one or both parents, and numerous other sacrifices associated with our nomadic lifestyle. Add in a parent changed by the battlefield, either mentally and/or physically, and the level of complexity multiplies greatly. These factors test a young brain’s resiliency.

Like many military kids, my kids moved a lot. At one point, between grade school and high school, they were in five different schools in six years. My stomach was in knots with every move, wondering how they would handle the first day of school, navigating the middle school lunchroom, or once again, trying to break in to an established school sports team (with me reassuring the coach that my son was going to be in the area for more than a year. . .). And, most importantly, wondering how my sons would cope with trying to build meaningful friendships in environments where they were usually one of the few newcomers. Transition is hard at any stage of life but particularly hard on the developing brain.

While military children and their families are not the only ones who move frequently, they often experience additional stresses, and must be incredibly resilient – some would say superhuman in the way we tackle our very unnatural lifestyle. That’s why we sometimes need a little extra help or support. Never hesitate to reach out to a friend, family member, or medical professional when life becomes overwhelming for you or a member of your family. You will be surprised how many other people have been through what you are experiencing and are more than willing to help, even if only through words of encouragement.

The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics are committed to providing support to not only our veterans but to our families — right down to the youngest member. You only get one chance to get it right in nurturing the precious gift of life — use every advantage available to you and your family.

 

By Mary Winnefeld, CVN Board of Directors. Through her personal experience as a military spouse and mother, Mary has a keen awareness of the hardships that affect military families—especially the stress involved with casualty, illness, multiple deployments, and numerous household moves. Before dedicating her life to volunteerism, Winnefeld was employed by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) for more than 17 years, serving as a program manager for NATO as well as a member of SAIC’s Ethics Board.