April is designated the Month of the Military Child to recognize the importance children in military families play in armed forces communities across our country. While military families face many of the same struggles and opportunities as non-military families, military-connected children and youth navigate a variety of challenges that are uniquely related to military life.
Navigating Deployment, Loss, and Moving
Stressors associated with the deployment cycle, the loss of a parent, and moving put military-connected children and youth at risk for social, emotional, and behavioral health concerns. Among the heightened emotional and behavioral difficulties for military youth of all ages are depression, anxiety, emotional withdrawal, difficulty sleeping, and a decline in academic performance.
Whether military children are able to cope in the face of these adversities and have healthy social and emotional development largely depends on the strength of the child’s parental attachment bond and their sense of security.
“Various stressors associated with the deployment cycle, such as repeated and prolonged parental absence, poor parental emotional health, fear of parental loss, and financial trouble, can negatively impact the attachment bond by interfering with the quality of parental care and threatening the child’s sense of security.” – Military Youth and the Deployment Cycle: Emotional Health Consequences and Recommendations for Intervention
Resources for Military Children and Families
A variety of resources have been developed to support military-connected children as they navigate the strains of military life. Hover over the boxes below to learn more about and access some of these resources.
The Children’s Museum at JBLM
A year ago this April we opened the Children’s Museum at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the first children’s museum on a military installation. Our intention for the Museum is to support military-connected children and youth by providing military families a space for community building, decompression, and bonding through play.
Play is essential to a child’s mental, social, and emotional development. When children play together, they learn how to share, compromise, wait their turn, and handle conflict, which in turn deepens their understanding of their emotions and how to express them.
When caregivers intentionally make space in their routine to play with their children, it communicates to the child that they are being paid attention to and provides an alternate avenue for children to express emotions that might otherwise be difficult to convey.
Month of the Military Child
At the Children’s Museum at JBLM, we are working intentionally to ensure that all military children and families have a space to escape the stressors of military life, reconnect with loved ones, learn about resources on and off base, and build confidence through play.
This month at the Children’s Museum at JBLM we are hosting activity sessions every Saturday for our Resiliency Challenge, designed to help school-age children of service members understand and navigate emotions related to military life. Our intention is that the Resiliency Challenge will bolster military children’s confidence in their ability to cope with stress and provide military caregivers an additional space to provide parental support.
We also have several prompts in the Studio at the Children’s Museum at JBLM to guide children in creative activities related to the strains of military life.
The Resiliency Challenge will culminate in a showcase of artworks created during activity sessions, which will be on display in the Program Room at the Museum from April 29 – May 2.
We will also be hosting activities for Kids Fest on April 30! Join us in front of the Museum for bubble and chalk experiences and in the Museum lobby for book making activities.
Over the last year our Museum has grown to become more than the playscapes it holds! We offer a variety of programming that supports children experiencing special needs, early learners, and military-connected children and youth. Hover over the boxes below to learn more about our current programs.
The Children’s Museum at JBLM also hosts birthday parties, special events, and group visits, provides military families a 10% discount on membership, and hosts a variety of additional events and activities throughout the year. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay updated on the latest offerings at the Museum!
To learn more about the first six months of our time on JBLM and to hear from our JBLM program manager, check out our Military Family Month blog.
How can you recognize military children this month?
- Purple Up! Wear purple this month to show support and thank military children for their strength and sacrifices. Purple is the combination of the colors for each branch of the military and promotes solidarity in our efforts to support military-connected children and youth. Use the hashtag #PurpleUp to show your support for military families.
- Download printable certificates and stickers, desktop wallpapers, posters, and yard signs for Month of the Military Child.