Understanding the Experiences of Military Children

In their short lives, both of my children have experienced separation from their father for longer than 6 months.  Though he’s not always in a war zone, it still affects them.  They also have no clue where he is other than that he is at work.

Every time he’s gone, whether it be 10 miles away training “in the field” or 1,000+ miles away, he sends messages to them through our cloud pet they call their “Daddy Dog.”  They know they have a message from him because the dog’s heart flashes; for them it’s magical.

The Williams family at home.

This life is not easy but at such a young age they are already resilient.  They have strength, flexibility, intense love, and positivity.  They learn to feel such huge feelings of anger, sadness, and love all at the same time.

Every day they wake up happy.  They know they will have a message from Daddy.  Every day they will get to tell “him” about their day – share something that happened – the littlest can share a new word he may be saying or new dance move – the oldest can share a new story she has read or a new move she learned in soccer.

My kids have endured more in their short lives than most do in a long lifetime but they are strong and resilient.  And while it does not necessarily come easily, they are flexible.  They are used to plans shifting and they go with it.

They love with their WHOLE HEARTS.  They have so much love to give and it shows. Their love, the love they share with their whole family – uncles, aunts, grandparents and daddy – spans distance and time.

We don’t focus on the absent; we look forward to Daddy being home and plan for fun adventures for when he is back.  We visit family while he is gone and plan other adventures with family and friends.  We allow all emotions but focus on the positive.

Before I was a parent I may have judged a parent harshly if I watched their child have a meltdown.  Now, I recognize that child may be mad and frustrated at the consistent inconsistency, a situation I as an adult have a hard time understanding.  Sometimes they’re just dealing with such big emotions they have a hard time fitting within themselves and it leaks out.  Please don’t judge.  Give them a moment to work through it.

My children’s experience is not atypical from the nearly two million military children that are connected to service members across the globe.  April is the Month of the Military Child. Let’s take the time to understand the experiences of military children, recognize their sacrifices and celebrate their contributions.

 

This is part two of a two-part series written by Amy Williams, the Communications Specialist for the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Cape Fear Valley in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Part one appeared on April 5.