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Dad and Son Walking

We’ve all seen the images on television. The surprise appearance of a military parent returning from war. The grateful hugs and tears of the relieved child. Do you ever think about what happens next? Do you wonder what it’s like to be part of a military family?

Approximately 1.76 million children know the answers to those questions. That’s the number of children in the United States living in military families. They know first hand the cost of service. Some lost a parent. Others live with parents who came home injured or unable to provide for them. Many endure the loneliness of lengthy separations. And the isolation that comes from frequent changes of neighborhood and school.

These children sometimes find it difficult to cope with the challenges of military family life. When this happens, their behavior at school may change. They may be more impulsive or aggressive than usual. Or appear rigid and incapable of compromise. They may find it difficult to complete tasks or sustain interest in classroom activities.

Children from military families need teachers who understand the circumstances of their lives and are willing to lend a hand. Like others struggling with the effects of chronic stress, they benefit from a trauma-sensitive school environment characterized by:

Community Awareness

  •  Know the children in your school who having family members serving in the military
  •  Know who is caring for the children in military families who attend your school. Grandparents or other guardians care for some children when both parents are deployed or a single parent is deployed.
  •  Know the school history of children living in military families. State Standards and Core Curriculum can vary. Be sure there are no gaps in children’s instruction that put them at a disadvantage in your school.
  •  Know the vocabulary military families use to describe their status? (pre-deployment, deployment, reintegration, theater, permanent change of station “PCS”,  rest and relaxation “R&R”) Check out http://www.militarykidsconnect.org

Positive Behavior Support

  • Anticipate needs
  • Follow a predictable schedule
  • Provide additional support for transitions, changes in routines or personnel
  • Encourage peer collaboration
Trauma-sensitive instruction
  • Use on-going assessment of interests, preferences
  • Provide activity-based assignments
  • Use a small group structure
  • Offer frequent opportunities for collaboration and self-reflection