Mar 17, 2024

Transitioning Children of Veterans

All military families know that transitions are inevitable.

When a parent concludes their active-duty tenure, the entire family undergoes a profound change. While there are many resources for service members and their spouses, the impact on military children often goes overlooked.

As nearly 44% of active-duty service members are parents, addressing the unique needs of veteran children is paramount.

Promote a Positive Mindset

A military family’s transition to civilian life can be accompanied by shifts in geography, job uncertainty, and the loss of personal and systemic support systems. In the face of these challenges, a veteran family can support a child by focusing on opportunity.

The family can now live wherever they want, including near relatives previously separated by distance. There are new opportunities for quality family time that come with less demanding job duties. Now, both parents and children could expand their networks, adopting a mindset of expanding their communities, rather than exchanging the old for the new.

There is an immense sense of pride that comes with being a veteran family, and there can also be external benefits for children of veterans to access.

The National Veterans Foundation has outlined thirteen opportunities for veteran children, and these include:

  • Healthcare benefits
  • Educational benefits
  • Scholarships
  • Survivorship and Burial Benefits
  • Home Loan Assistance

Plan Ahead

Children rely on their parents to provide a world that is safe and predictable. Veteran children are no different. They want to know what life will look like after service, even if the plan isn’t fully developed.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers transition planning resources that can help veteran parents sort out the immediate details. Specifically, service members have access to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) one year before separation and two years before retirement. As a veteran’s plans for civilian life take shape, this helps them navigate family support, disability compensation, education, and health care benefits.

Military parents can also plan their next career move through The Commit Foundation, our national service that helps veterans identify their passions and leverage their skills in civilian careers.

Maintain Communication

This new phase of life can be exciting, confusing, alienating, or evoke any number of emotional responses. After all, many military children are transitioning out of the only life they've known.

Veteran parents should be there for their children to discuss how they’re doing. Maintaining contact during this transition can help alleviate anxiety and feelings of loneliness as they enter new towns, new schools, and attempt to make new friends.

Strategies for parents

  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Give the child your full attention, while maintaining eye contact.
  • Express vulnerability to create a safe space for your child to do the same.
  • Clarify any misconceptions they might have.
  • Frequently remind them you are available whenever they need to talk.

Establish Routines

Children crave routines, but every member of a military family will experience interruptions when a transition occurs.

Still, it’s important to maintain as many routines as possible – bedtimes, movie nights, calls to grandparents – that can give a veteran child comfort as they navigate the tricky process of incorporating new routines.

If the child is older, parents can encourage extracurricular activities they enjoy. Whether it's sports, music, art, or other hobbies, these activities and passions can be carried over in the child’s new setting.

As military families embark on this journey of transition, remember that each child is unique, and their adjustment process may differ. By implementing these strategies, veterans can empower their children to not just adapt but thrive in their new civilian lives.

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