Like most parents, I worry…specifically about how this life will affect them not just in the short term, but in the long term as they become adults with educational and career goals of their own. So, I turned to some older and wiser “kids”—Madison, an Army Dependent and student at Old Dominion University (Go Monarchs!), and Katrina, an Army Dependent and sophomore at the University of Georgia (Go Bulldogs!)—recently to talk about how being a military kid has impacted their lives and long-term goals.
They have a culture of their own. While it would be short-sighted to say that all military kids are the same, they do share a culture and qualities that are uniquely their own, and the results of that culture matter long term. Katrina explained, “I can come across as outgoing and confident. I feel that this skill of pushing past my fear was acquired early on in life as I needed to find friends over and over. I didn't have the same safety net others did.” Moving regularly, dealing with mature concerns that we often shield kids from, and living a life where words like “the mission” are commonplace all make for resilient kids.
And let’s face it…employers like resiliency. Bending so as not to break, learned flexibility, these characteristics are the soft skills we hope our coworkers have.
Katrina’s experiences reflect the same mix: “I feel that I don't share a common culture with the people around me. I'm too much of a mix of cultures and experiences to relate with people on the same level. However, the variety of experiences allows me to connect on SOME level with more people than I feel people who haven't moved as much could. I have greater experience with meeting new people and starting off fresh, meaning not only do I feel better able to explore who I really am without my past personas following me into the future, but I feel I can better adapt to new situations.”
Both of these young women have perspective about their experiences. Yes, they recognize it’s been hard, but they also can identify the positive effects of their experiences on themselves.
They see your service as a model. Day in and day out, military kids bear witness to service, but not just from the parent in uniform. Madison recounted the impact of her mother’s volunteerism on her: “I am still trying to decide what I want to do with the rest of my life, but all of the things I am drawn to really do connect in with my life as a military kid. I have a strong pull to give back to the community, something I learned from watching my mother and other military spouses give so much of their time volunteering to support their military communities.” Katrina added, “Being a military kid definitely influenced my interest in exploring a specialty focused on people with traumatic brain injuries. Having a father deployed twice and knowing so many other men and women who serve, I have a higher desire to make sure they receive care should they experience emotional or physical harm overseas.”
Being a military kid means having a sense of a purpose-driven life and career.
They know the value of a network. Savvy with social media, today’s military kids don’t just pack up their bags and wave goodbye from the back of the minivan. They are networking and staying connected.
Madison encouraged others, “Get out and get involved in your communities! Make the best of meeting people everywhere you live and then stay connected with those friends! I am lucky to have friends across the country and world now that are a part of my network!”
They need us to hear and advocate for what they need. While both Madison and Katrina recognized the positive impact of military service on military kids, they didn’t deny the real problems military kids can face or the need to find solutions. Madison explained, “The uncertainty of military life deeply affects military kids: constant moving and deployments can cause educational issues, mental health issues, and more. When adults look at focusing on the total military family, it’s important to ensure there are programs that directly meet these issues head on and provide clear successful improvements.”
But they know what they need too. Military kids are adept at knowing what they need to do and advising each other. Katrina offered the following advice: “To military kids preparing to leave the nest, I'd say that the strength and resilience they have gained through years of moving, deployments, accommodating different cultures and points of view will serve them well in the next steps of their lives, no matter what they may be. Don't be scared to declare a home, a family, or a group of lifelong friends, even if it feels like you've never had that. Choose a path that is right for you, because post-high school plans are NOT one-size-fits-all."
In honor of the month of the military child, let’s celebrate the smart, resilient “kids” we are raising and look forward to their impact as adults. The military kids are all right.
A very special thanks to the amazing young women who took time out of their lives to speak to me about their lives as military kids. I can't wait to see what they do next.