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Parenting Military Style

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Married to the military? As the nation thinks about its independence this 4th of July, momlogic gives thought to the service members who protect our country, and the wives and mothers who support them by holding down the home front.

Military father with his family

Kimberly Seals Allers: With frequent relocation and limited school options, raising well-adjusted, confident kids takes real parenting moxie. Here are some time-tested and military-mom-approved tips for raising kids in the military lifestyle.

Raising a Military Brat?

With frequent relocation, military kids face a new house, new friends, new schools, and other big changes, sometimes as often as every three years. What's more, their military parent is on an endless cycle of living in the home one minute, being gone the next, and then back again. It's usually up to Mom to create stability, take on the bulk of the parenting role, and make every transition as smooth as possible. How? By having a positive attitude, keeping the lines of communication open, and maintaining consistency in the "how," rather than focus on the "where." Try these military spouse parenting tips:

1) Manage Moving
Moving is part and parcel of the military life. But the kids aren't going to like it if they always hear you complaining about what a h*llhole the new base city is. Be positive. You need to sell it! Use the Internet to find places of interest, their favorite sports activities, or dance programs in the area. Then make the actual move an adventure. Plan some fun activities for the transitional period between leaving the old house and moving into the new one. And see if there are any kid-friendly fun spots along the way if you're driving to your new home. 

2) Create Family Traditions
Having family traditions from Friday taco nights to eating out the night before school starts can help the kids have a routine and familiarity no matter where they are. 

3) Make School Transitions Easier
For some military kids, it seems that just when they have gotten used to a school, it is time to move again. To help ease the transition, one military spouse contacted the new teacher and set up a pen pal system. The students sent letters and pictures with brief introductions, and her child did the same. By the time they arrived at their new station, her son was looking forward to his new class. If possible, choose a school where there will be other military children. Also, be sure to check out the school's website for any extracurricular activities, and ask the coach or teacher for a peer buddy. Check out Military Students on the Move: A Toolkit for Military Parents (scroll halfway down the page to find the free pdf publication).

4) Develop Single Parent Survival Skills
Let's face it, military spouses are technically single parents most of the time. To keep your sanity and your home running smoothly, get the kids involved in all aspects of the house. Limit the number of activities each child participates in. Ask for help from family and friends. Post chore lists and schedules to make things easier. 

5) Keep Kids Close to Extended Family
Cousins, grandparents, and other extended family members are great connectors for your kids. Keep in telephone, e-mail, or webcam communication with family members and visit as often as possible. Including family members on vacations, exchanging photos, e-mails, and letters, and celebrating important life events together are more great ways to stay in touch and create stability for military kids. 

For more military-mom-approved tips for raising confident kids in the military lifestyle, check out my new book, written with Pamela McBride: "The Mocha Manual to Military Life: A Savvy Guide for Wives, Girlfriends, and Female Service Members."

next: Surrogate Moms Are Not Just for Babies
10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jill July 2, 2009, 2:00 PM

A great way to keep children connected with their loved ones away in the military is via The Friendship Stone. Hundreds were donated to soldiers pre-deployment to Iraq to keep them connected to their loved ones while apart, and reminding them to always look for the positive in each situation. Check it out!

Militarymomma July 14, 2009, 3:11 PM

I just want to remind everyone that its not just men serving in the military. I am a woman who leaves her husband and son at home while I go fight for my country and I am proud to serve, but it seems that everyone assumes that its just women left behind, but there are men left behind, who in my opinion have it much harder.

Cassandra July 15, 2009, 11:36 PM

I just finished reading a brand new book called “When the Girls Come Marching Home,” by Kirsten Holmstedt. What an incredible book! It reports the experiences of about a dozen women who served in Iraq under fire and, upon returning to the U.S., faced a variety of challenges in adjusting life outside the war zone. Several of the stories told by Holmstedt concern mothers who are serving in the U.S. military, and what it is like for them to try to be mothers again after being in combat. Although a couple of those stories are about how this was accomplished relatively smoothly, most of them show about how heart-rendingly difficult it is. Anyone for whom the points made in this blog entry and in these comments will do well to read this book.

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