Today’s Teachers: Frontline of Defense for Military Children

Today’s Guest Post is from Levi Newman of Veterans United Network

 Today’s military children have to adapt to more stressorsthan ever before. Their parents are deployed more frequently and many kidschange schools anywhere from four to twelve times during the course of theirparents’ military service.

It’s a stress many outside the military are unfamiliar with,especially teachers. The biggest service we can offer to these children andtheir teachers is to preparethem both for these transitions. And while the children can ask theirparents how to prepare for these changes, who is there for the teacher?

You may be thinking, “What does a teacher need to know aboutthe child’s move?” Well, it really depends on what type of teacher you striveto be. If you want to help that young person adapt to their new surroundings sothey can flourish and succeed, then keep reading.

Military Children 101

As of Jan. 2013, there were
1.4 millionpeople on active duty, withan additional 850 thousand in the seven reserve components. That meansapproximately 900 thousand of the 1.7 million registered military children (under18) have had a parent deployed at some point in their lives.

This statistic, coupled with the fact that most militaryfamilies move every two to three years, means military children are confrontedwith many unique challenges their nonmilitary peers will never face.

Some of these experiences include: absence of a deployedparent, moving, changing schools, leaving old friends and meeting new ones, copingwith a parent’s injury or worse—death. Separation anxiety, sleep issues,withdrawal, frustration and fear aren’t just feelings limited to the home; theycan be brought to school.  

How Teachers Can StepUp

The most important thing to know is that teachers often actas the front line to children’s problems, meaning they can often spot problemsbefore a parent or sibling even notice. Here are a few tips to help you betterunderstand your student, as well as keep them on the right path.

1. Be honest and reassuring. Talk with your new student tolet them know that you understand what they’re going through and that you’rethere to help in their transition. Don’t make unrealistic promises.

2. If you know their parent is deployed, help them set asidea school scrapbook so they can mail (or keep) their work to show their parentwhen they return.

3. Understand that children may have difficulty studying ifthey’re thinking about deployed parents. Pairing them up with other studentsthat share similar interests could help keep them on track.

4. Get in touch with their family and let them know you’rethere to help. Parents in general often worry about their children’s educationand success, so easing their minds even a bit can do wonders both or the childand for the service member. 

5. Help kids express their feelings. Using differentart mediums to let their emotions out can do wonders.

6. Each child reacts differently to change, meaning whatworks for one child may not work for another. Vary your teaching to help ensureyour students are getting the most out of your teaching.

7. Spot problems early and be as encouraging as possible. Ifyou notice a student starting to slide, make sure you contact their careprovider. Letting issues linger can just lead to more problems.

Most military children will show you a character andstrength that are unmatched in young people today. But children of all ages canalways use a consistent, caring presence in their life. As a veteran and afather of three, I can’t tell you how invaluable a caring teacher can be.  They can be the rock both the parent andstudent need in times of stress, and they can set the tone early after anymove.

Remember that you are the first line of defense for today’smilitary student. And just by being open, honest, supportive and predictable,you can assuage many fears and concerns; ultimately reducing the risk ofemotional turmoil and setting the student up for success.


Levi Newman is a 10-year U.S. Army veteran who served in multipleoverseas deployments and assignments. Levi covers veteran benefits and news asthe chief writer behind Veterans United Network and VABenefit Blog. Connect with Levi on Google+.

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byLeanne KocsisonTuesday, April 23, 2013Military Life:,,

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