Children need routine environment during moves, official says
WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Service members and their spouses who will travel to new duty stations this summer might face the added concern of keeping life routine for their children, the director of the Pentagon's office of family policy and children and youth told American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.
"Just as adults are affected by change, so are children," Barbara Thompson said, noting that if a parent is stressed about a move, a child can sense it and also feel stressed.
Military children can go through six to nine household moves while they're growing up, and even more in many cases, Thompson said, so their parents must be sensitive to how the disruption affects them.
"Military families with a wide range in age among their children should think of each child individually, and consider the nuances of their personalities" to help them adjust to their new homes and schools, Thompson said.
It's important to keep children on a routine as much as possible during the transition from their existing home to the new community, Thompson said.
"It's hard, because (military) children always are the new kids on the block," she said.
They also might start school too late to get on a team or join a group, so parents should be aware of how this would affect their children, she added.
The "Military Youth on the Move" page on the Military OneSource website is geared toward helping children make military move transitions, Thompson said. One video offered on the site is about bullying, she added.
"Because we recognize being the new kid in the school is a position of vulnerability," Thompson said, "we want to arm our children with tools on how to speak up and be a part of the solution and not continue to see (themselves) as bullies, or another child who is being bullied. It's a critical tool for our military children to have."
The site is interactive, and it caters to three age groups: children from 6 to 8, "tweens," from 9 to 12, and teenagers.
"(It) has a lot of resources so kids can learn about the new installation," Thompson said. "It also recognizes their feelings about the changes that are happening in their lives, and gives them ideas on how they can integrate themselves in the new community."
A discussion board on the site also allows military kids to communicate with other military kids, she said, emphasizing that parents can be sure the site is safe for their children to use.
Additionally, before children arrive at a new installation, youth sponsorship programs match them up with children at the new location, Thompson said, so the new child has someone who's already a friend to be counted on to help with the adjustment to the new location.
But even if parents do all that they can to help their children adjust, but they still feel stressed about their new environment, numerous resources exist to help, Thompson said.
"Parents can contact Military OneSource and get telephone or face-to-face counseling," she said. "A licensed clinician can help walk parents through how they can help their child adjust."
Installations also offer child and youth counselors who can support children who are having a tough time adjusting.
"While relocation can be stressful, it also can be a wonderful opportunity to go to new places, see new things, meet new friends, and have an adventure," Thompson said. "Our military children gain a wealth of information as they move from place to place, and they are open to new experiences, new cultures and new languages. It can be very rewarding."