April is recognized as the 'Month of the Military Child' for 1.8 million children of U.S. service members throughout our nation and the world. Children and families of U.S. service members make great sacrifices year-round, especially when one or more parents, siblings, or other family or community members are separated from youth due to deployments. Initiated in 1986 by Secretary of Defense, Caspar W. Weinberger, 2012 marks the 25th Anniversary of the 'Month of the Military Child.' A number of special programs and activities are available for children whether they live at or in close proximity to a U.S. service base, or whether they are geographically dispersed. These activities not only recognize their sacrifices but also foster resilience of military youth. See the article, "DOD Celebrates the Month of the Military Child."
Operation: Military Kids is one of the national 4-H programs designed to support children and youth impacted by deployment. OMK's goal is to connect military children and youth with local resources in order to achieve a sense of community support and enhance their well-being. Funding for OMK comes from the U.S. Army and is disbursed through grants to land grant universities to coordinate OMK programs in each state. In 2011, over 103,000 youth participated in experiences conducted by State OMK Teams in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Through a network of National, State and Local Partners, Operation: Military Kids provides access to youth programs and support services where military children live. Through OMK, military youth connect with other youth who are also experiencing deployment; participate in a wide range of recreational, social & educational programs; attend military youth camps; gain skills by participating in the Speak Out for Military Kids program or Mobile Technology Lab programs; and receive Hero Pack backpacks filled with deployment resources and fun items as a thank you for their sacrifice. OMK also provides Ready, Set, Go! Training workshops designed to increase civilian youth workers, educators, counselors and other community members' understanding of various topics including the unique issues facing military youth, military culture, the deployment cycle, and/or fostering resilience in youth. In addition, RSG! Workshops engage the participants in building state and local community networks to provide support for military children and youth.
One of the critical benefits of programs for military youth such as OMK is that they help foster resilience. Resilience is a key to helping military youth and their families manage life and the changes that it brings whether it is the result of separations from multiple deployments, multiple moves to other states or around the globe, adjusting to new schools, making new friends, or learning to adjust to a parent or loved one who has experienced a traumatic injury. According to 'Building the Resilience of Your Military Family,' resilience is defined as 'the ability to withstand, overcome, and adapt in positive ways to an immediate crisis or an ongoing challenge.' The full article below explains resilience in greater depth. Much research continues to be conducted on how to nurture resilience in youth.
Read the articles and check out the websites below to learn how you can support military youth and families during the 'Month of the Military Child' and year-round!
Compiled by: Deana K. Reed, University of Kentucky, Lisa Marcinkowski, OMK Program Coordinator, University of Connecticut, and Mary Ellen Welch, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, University of Connecticut, for the CYFERnet School Age Editorial Board.
Guide for Helping Children and Youth Cope with Separation
Traumatic Grief in Military Children (Information for Educators)
Traumatic Grief in Military Children (Information for Medical Providers)
DOD Celebrates Month of the Military Child (2011) article
Building the Resilience of Your Military Family
Maintaining a Strong Relationship with Grandparents When You Move Frequently article (military one source website)
Getting the Most from Your Family Readiness Group (FRG) article (military one source website)
Military One Source website - "Child's Stress and Grief" - lists of resources to address these issues
Military One Source - Questions & Answers About Deployment article
Operation: Military Kids Website
Website for Military Youth to Connect with other Kids Experiencing Deployment
Military Homefront website for service providers
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network website (Military Families Knowledge Bank)
U.S. Department of Defense - Military Family Appreciation Month (November 2011) website
Military One Source "Parenting & Child Care" webpage - lists multiple resources
4-H Military Partnership Website
Talking with Your Children About Parental Injury
Talking About War Injury for Families & Friends
Military Youth on the Move
Military Child Education Coalition Programs and Resources
Zero to Three Programs for Parents and Caregivers of Young Military Children
Sittercity Babysitting Assistance for Military Families