When military parents transition to civilian life, so do their kids

The Department of Defense has resources that can help.

By Dr. Kelly Blasko

When military parents are on active duty and experience deployments, frequent moves and family stress, their children face the same challenges. The same is true when a parent transitions to civilian life. Kids experience lots of changes, and though the constant churn of moves and deployments is over, the adjustment to civilian life isn’t always easy.

For many kids, just like their parents, transitioning outside the military means adopting a new lifestyle — these families may no longer have the built-in support system they had when they lived on or near a military installation. Kids may also experience uncertainty if a parent is looking for new employment or adjusting to their own life changes. The Department of Defense (DoD) has resources for transitioning families, and with April highlighting the Month of the Military Child, it’s a good time to identify resources to help children who are a part of a transitioning military family.

One source is Military Kids Connect. This award-winning website, aimed at children ages 6 to 17 who share challenges unique to military families, gives kids the tools to cope and connect with others like them. The site’s resources include:

  • A new Message Board that provides a safe environment where kids can share their stories.
  • An extensive video library that features videos of military tweens and teens who faced familiar challenges, and animated stories depicting kids coping with conflict:
    • Family Perspectives videos show how families can work together to manage the stress children may face in the military or during the transition to civilian life.
    • What Would You Do? videos show kids how to approach certain situations — such as coping with a bossy brother or not doing well in school — so they can think about what they would do, and share their ideas with family and friends, or with other military kids on the website using the message board.
  • The Stress Management Plan helps kids create simple strategies for calming down. By identifying reasons they feel anxious, they can choose ways to cope.
  • A variety of fun projects — including arts and crafts, cooking, sports, puzzles and games — provide distraction and help kids work through their stress.

Another source of support for preschool children is Sesame Street for Military Families, funded by the DoD and developed by Sesame Workshop, the creators of Sesame Street. This website offers multimedia educational tools to help parents and their children cope with difficult changes. The Military to Civilian Life page features videos for children and adults, activity books, and other resources for parents to engage their kids and navigate the transition to civilian life together. Another DoD and Sesame Workshop collaboration is The Big Moving Adventure mobile app, which helps young children adjust to a move.

Maintaining a positive attitude and open communication are keys to a military family’s successful adjustment to civilian life. Parents can also point out the benefits of transitioning out of the military, like settling into a new community and no longer having to be gone from home on deployment. Giving military kids the tools to manage their fears will help smooth transitions for them now and in the future.

Visit militarykidsconnect.dcoe.mil to learn more, and follow Military Kids Connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

The IVMF is proud to be partnered with the DoD to provide support for military children. Follow IVMF on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for stories on military children from IVMF employees. Use #PurpleUpIVMF to share your story.

Additional Resources:

Click here to visit the Parenting for Service Members website.

Click here to visit the AfterDeployment website.

Click here to visit the Real Warriors Campaign website.

Click here to visit the inTransition website.

Click here to visit the TRICARE website.

Click here to visit the veterans and alcohol user disorder website.

Kelly Blasko, Ph.D., a counseling psychologist, leads the mobile web program for Defense Health Agency Connected Health. She is an internationally recognized expert in using technology to improve the well-being of military children and their parents, including the development of the award-winning Military Kids Connect and Sesame Street for Military Families programs. She manages projects to increase the adoption of behavioral health apps for primary care in the Military Health System.