The Defense Department believes military children serve their country alongside their service member parents, DOD’s director of the office of family policy/children and youth said.
When military children serve, they do so by making sacrifices when parents are deployed, through frequent moves, starting new schools and making new friends on a continuing basis, Barbara Thompson said in a recent interview with The Pentagon Channel for the Month of the Military Child that’s being celebrated in April.
“We feel it’s important for the nation to know that military children also serve their country,” Thompson said.
To honor military children for their sacrifices and service, DOD and the services have planned activities this month that range from installation-based fairs, parades, and literacy and art events, she said.
Military Kids Day, April 15, marks the third-annual “Purple Up!” day when adults wear purple to show support of children from all the services, Thompson said.
DOD has numerous year-round programs and awareness efforts to honor military children, and Thompson elaborated on some of those initiatives.
To help children build their resilience, DOD has coordinated programs with Sesame Street to help with ongoing change in military children’s lives, Thompson noted.
“Sesame [Street] has been an outstanding contributor to the well-being of military children,” she said, naming a series of DVDs that cover such topics for military children as divorce, grief, separation and deployment, resilience skills, and visible or invisible injuries.
Sesame Street also recently launched two new smartphone applications.
“One [app] covers relocation, and another is to help children learn self-regulation skills so they become more resilient,” Thompson said. “And everything is free.”
Thompson emphasized that April also is Child Abuse Prevention Month and said awareness in this arena is important to DOD.
“Child Abuse Prevention Month is particularly important because it’s a social responsibility for all of us to make sure children are safe and their well-being is protected,” she said. “Everybody has a responsibility.”
Giving parents the tools to make them strong supporters of their children and to keep them safe from predators and from violence within the family is crucial, she added.
“Parenting is tough, regardless of the situation and the age of the child. They each bring their nuances to the table, whether it’s children at [age] 2 who say ‘no,’ or a teenager who’s sometimes a little defiant,” she said.
DOD offers parenting skill resources, Thompson noted, such as the newly launched Parenting Course. The course, she explained, examines parenting from the context of the military lifestyle, which revolves around deployments and parental separations from their children at different stages of their development.
And an installation-based initiative, the new Parent Support Program, involves home visitation for new parents of children up to age 3, “to help parents reach their full potential working with and being responsible for their children,” Thompson said. The Marine Corps’ program supports parents with children up to age 5, she added.
“The New Parent Support Program is a part of the Family Advocacy Program, which has a prevention piece that offers courses and opportunities for support groups. We want to make sure we address the stressors in families’ lives before they escalate,” Thompson said.
“Sometimes [certain] things really push our buttons,” she added. “So we need to have the tools, to know how to cope with those kinds of stressors and how we react to them.”