Welcome guest blogger Sara Horn!
Over one million children enrolled in school today have at least one parent who is active-duty military, reserve, or a military veteran. Even if you aren’t near a military base, there’s a good chance you, your church, and your kids will encounter a child who has at least one parent serving in uniform. Look for ways to support and encourage military families and help equip parents and kids in your church to do the same. By taking a little time to understand the similarities and differences of a military family, you can offer much-needed help and friendship.
- Their schedules are busy, too.
Just like any family today, military families are busy. They’re juggling family schedules with military commitments. Just because a service member isn’t deployed doesn’t mean he or she is always home. Weekend or week-long trainings, three-month schools, and even last-minute meetings can call a military member away, leaving the spouse at home to deal with everything else. If a military parent seems standoffish at the idea of a play date or dinner invitation, try not to take it personally, but wait for another opportunity. She may be facing a tough week with no room in her mind for anything else.
- Military families are resilient, but they aren’t robots.
Yes, military families know that deployments and challenges come with the job — but we shouldn’t expect them to be able to handle military life without worrying or stressing over those things. Military families are still human. They get tired and lonely, and they worry over many of the same things we all do from time to time. Let military families know they’re not alone. Mail an encouraging note, invite them over for a meal, or stop by with dessert “just because” — these are all simple ways you can let them know you want to be a friend.
- Avoid stereotyping.
Children repeat what they hear their parents and leaders say. Some of the most painful remarks military kids hear from other children are questions like “has your dad ever killed anyone?” or “aren’t you worried your mom isn’t going to come home?” Military kids are more aware of the dangers their parents face than others realize, but reminders aren’t what they need—they need encouragement. Make a habit of praying for military families with your kids, especially if you know a military family personally. Emphasize the sacrifice and the commitment military families demonstrate by serving their country and pray for their safety and well-being.
- Be friends for the duration.
Sometimes parents are hesitant to let their children be friends with a military child, knowing that child and his or her family will likely move away again. But trying to protect children from sadness in the future also keeps them from enjoying fun experiences with a friend in the present. Military families know the importance of jumping in wherever their next duty station finds them. They find schools and churches and activities their kids can be part of, and they are looking for friends. Don’t miss out on the blessings of a good friendship because of the fear of an inevitable goodbye. You never know when you’ll one day get to say hello again.
Sara Horn is a writer and speaker and founder of Wives of Faith, a ministry for military wives. Her husband, Cliff, retires this year from 20 years of service in the U.S. Navy Reserves, and they have one son, a freshman in high school. Visit her website at sarahorn.com.
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