Recently the MFLN Family Development Early Intervention team published Part One of an interview with Kellie, a young woman who grew up in a military family. You can read Part One of that interview here. Today we bring you the final thoughts of our guest. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Did you move frequently? If so, what strategies did you use to get used to your new “home” and make new friends? What recommendations do you have for adults to help military children through these transitions?
I moved every 2-4 years depending on my dad’s job at the time. I have moved a total of seven times since I was born. I think the best strategy I used to adjust to my new home when I was younger was just getting involved in activities and not being shy. One thing a lot of kids don’t realize is that everyone truly wants to be friends with the new kid!
As I got older it got harder. I was in the same place for all of middle school and I got very comfortable with that place. I was on a dance team, I had a set group of friends, and activities I was involved in. I then found out I was moving to a new school, in a new state, at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. That was devastating news for a teenager. I focused on a goal: I was going to make the high school dance team, no matter what I had to do. I started emailing my new school’s dance coach; I set up a video audition, and ended up making the team. I met my team the summer before school started, which meant I had thirteen friends on that first day of school. It made the transition so much easier.
I did this again when I moved to Florida the summer before my junior year. This time, my parents drove me from Missouri to Florida in order to try out for my new dance team in person after months of contact with my new coach. Once again, I made the team, gained new friends, and even lived with a girl on my team for a month because my dad couldn’t leave work yet, and I had to be in Florida for dance practices. Having friends before school helped me so much, and I will forever be grateful for them because they made my transitions so much easier!
My advice for a child before moving is to make goals and get involved in things you love. Just because you move does not mean you cannot do your favorite things. There are ways for you to meet new people when you move finding something in common with them makes this easier. For parents, support you children, push them to be involved, and go above and beyond for them. My parents worked so hard to make sure my adjustment was as easy as it could possibly be.
If you could talk to your “young” self today, what would you tell him or her about concerns or anxieties you might have had as a young child with military parents?
- I would tell myself not to worry and that everything truly does happen for a reason. I would tell myself that because of what I am going through, I am becoming a stronger person and gaining leadership qualities that most kids do not have.
- I would tell myself to push for my goals and do anything I can to reach them.
- And finally, I would tell myself that as much as it feels like your world may be crashing down around you, it is going to be okay, you just have to stay strong and be positive.
What are some of the things you can remember that your teachers did for you at school that helped you adjust/cope with military family life?
I was blessed with amazing teachers who cared about where I was from, what I was learning before, and what my interests were.
- They helped to facilitate friendships.
- They cared when I was behind and took extra time to get me to where I needed to be.
- If I was ahead, they continued to challenge me.
Teachers should build relationships with their students; that is the greatest gift they can give a child. I know it really seems simple, but I remember those teachers because of their relationship with me and how much they cared for me. Those are the things that matter, because teachers will establish trust with a student, who is then able to look to that teacher for help when they need it.
From your own experience growing up in a military family, what one piece of advice would you give to:
- Military parents who currently have young children?
- Get them involved. What they are involved in when they are young is what they will grow to love and set goals for when they are older.
- Support them in everything they want to do. Do not ever tell a child that they cannot do something. Parents are their child’s lifeline and should do everything they can for them.
- Other children military or civilian?
- Follow your dreams and set goals for yourself. No matter what boundaries you may run into, you can beat them and achieve your goals.
- Do not be afraid to dive into something new.
- Think of the positives about being a military kid, not the negatives, and learn from your experiences. Be proud of yourself and where you came from, because you live a much cooler life then most kids!
- Other adults about military children?
- Be open-minded and try to understand what the child is going through before you make assumptions. So often military children get ignored or pushed to the side. Do not be the person who lets that happen, especially if you are a teacher. As a teacher, you are their go-to person to make them feel comfortable, and you can truly be the person who makes their experience a more positive one. I may be just a little bit biased, as I am a future teacher, but it is so obvious how powerful a teacher is in a child’s life, so use that power!
This post was edited by Robyn DiPietro-Wells & Amy Santos, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and YouTube.