3 Practical Ways to Cultivate Resilience in Military Children

3 Practical Ways to Cultivate Resilience in Military Children

It’s no secret that the military lifestyle is unpredictable. Or maybe it’s immensely predictable in that changes are inevitable. First, you have PCS orders to Cavazos.  Then a week later, you have orders for Moore. The following week, it’s back to Cavazos. And finally, they wind up sending you to Japan- and you need to be there next month. Oy vey! 

How are military families navigating these, (among many other) military lifestyle challenges? What can service members and military spouses do to effectively equip their children to be resilient in the midst of so much change and chaos? Does raising resilient military children really make a difference in living their lives with little to no control? 

Having grown up as a military child myself and serving in the Army as an adult, I recognize the immense challenges associated with being part of a military family. I’m intimately familiar with the ups and downs of moving, deployments, instability, uncertainty and too-soon goodbyes. While military families are subject to the plans and purposes of the Armed Forces, there are ways to not only survive this season, but to thrive. Cultivating resilience in military children is not only beneficial in the here and now, but incredibly worthwhile in establishing a healthy, lifelong response to the ebbs and flow of this world.


Why Resilience Matters

The definition of resilience according to dictionary.com is, “[T]he ability of a person to adjust to or recover readily from illness, adversity, major life changes, etc.” Major life changes refer to events outside of one’s control such as death, divorce, moving, major illness or injury and job loss. 

An average military family may experience several major life changes within the span of just a few months or years. Teaching military children a few coping mechanisms will effectively help to combat the inevitable adverse effects associated with the military family lifestyle. Parent modeling, creative expression and seeking out community are three practical ways to cultivate resiliency in children.


Parent Modeling Helps Them and You

Parent modeling is essentially living the life you want to see your child emulate. We all want to see our children succeed and live their lives well. Children naturally learn through observing and parroting behaviors. Seeing Mom or Dad handle adversity and change positively will set a foundation of resiliency for your children. We can adjust our perspective on hardships and recognize them as opportunities for growth. One former military child put it this way, “I learned that obstacles aren’t something that prohibit progress, but something that allows for progress and personal growth.” (C.,B., 2020) When children can observe positivity, strength and endurance in their parents, they are much more likely to be resilient children and adults.


Creative Expression Provides Space to Process

Creative expression can take on a variety of forms such as painting, writing, music, storytelling, dance, ceramics, theater, journaling, performance sports, scrapbooking and drawing, among many others. Encouraging and supporting creativity in children can yield an improved mood, combat depression and stress, promote mental processing of life circumstances, reduce blood pressure and foster focus. In addition to the mental health benefits, creative expression is also an activity that can be enjoyed alone or with friends or family. Resiliency is less about eliminating challenges, but rather finding ways to effectively navigate and process those changes in a healthy way, like creative expression.


Community Matters

Most would agree that raising children is often a collaborative effort. Whether through extended family members, schools and daycares, after-school programs, siblings, neighbors and friends, having a solid support system is a vital aspect of raising children, and especially children of service-members.

Military families are often uprooted, separated from loved ones and spouses, in new schools, new neighborhoods and new countries, making it even more difficult to rely on others for support. Thankfully, there are some excellent resources available to help navigate this lifestyle. From Family Readiness Groups (FRGs) to chapel services, Military OneSource and Military and Family Life Counseling, to MilSpouse Festivals and military children’s books by authors who have lived this life, these and other programs are ready to help your family get connected to your community.  Community, consistency and continuity will support and cultivate resiliency in children and families from one installation to another.


Through positive parent modeling, facilitating room for creative expression and seeking ways to connect as a family with each new community, you're equipping military children with the tools they need to develop resiliency within the military lifestyle. 

Life is full of unexpected surprises, but with a little intentionality, we can raise military kids who are resilient in adversity and succeed wherever life sends them and in whatever they put their minds to.


About the Author

Sarah Doran is a former military child, U.S. Army veteran and veteran military spouse. Today, she enjoys writing and publishing high quality military children’s books and sharing her story with others. Sarah is also a homeschool mama to two boys, enjoys reading historical fiction and serving her community and local church.

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