Resiliency Programs for Military Children
he daily challenges faced by military children make them resilient. They withstand deployments, moves, and traveling the world. Their experience is unique, and should be appreciated by, and reflected in, the support they receive. Here are three completely free programs which recognize this unique experience, and offer tools to help keep military children strong—physically, emotionally, and mentally.
The Military Kids Connect website, an initiative of the Defense Health Agency (DHA), is an online community for military children aged 6 to 17 which provides resources and support for dealing with the mental and emotional challenges of military life. Through informative videos, activities, and peer communication, Military Kids Connect offers a space to build understanding, resilience, and coping skills in the face of difficult life dynamics like deployments and frequent moves to new cities and schools.
This site is divided into three sections of content:
- Videos of military children sharing personal stories
- Graphic novels depicting the experience of a military move
- An advice column
- Clips on bullying, substance abuse, and how to take in negative news
- Examples of strategies military teens use to cope with their feelings
- Stress reduction tools
- “How to Talk to an Adult”— a checklist to help youth prepare for difficult conversations
Health and Wellness
- Tips for improving exercise and nutrition
- Tools to help with family adjustment to the reintegration (post-deployment) period
There is also a message board where military youth can ask questions and have conversations with peers. This message board is made safe by:
- Meeting the Child Online Privacy Protection Act regulation, in not collecting personal identifiable information
- A subject matter expert who reviews all posts, removing personal or security information before they are published
- Moderators who screen for signs of bullying and predatory posts, removing any users that could be considered harmful to the community
Find more support via the Military Kids Connect social media communities:
The Boys and Girls Clubs of America has partnered with the U.S. Armed Forces and military-serving organizations to support military-connected youth on and off installation since 1991. There is a Boys & Girls Club or BGCA-affiliated Youth Center in all 50 states and in 16 countries around the world, providing a safe environment to help military children succeed. All military installation Youth Centers are affiliated with BGCA, even overseas.
Membership pricing varies by location, but is usually something around $100 per week. For children of National Guard, Reserve, and Active Duty families who do not have access to a military Youth Center, the membership fee is waved.
Some programs put on by the BGCA include:
- Triple Play
A comprehensive health and wellness program which strives to improve overall health of club members by increasing daily physical activity and teaching them about good nutrition and healthy relationships
- Career Launch
Prepares teens for the world of careers and work by learning how to make good educational decisions and exploring possible vocations.
- Passport to Manhood
Teaches responsibility to boys aged 11 to 14 with sessions focussing on the aspect of character and manhood via interactive activities.
- SMART Girls
Provides health, fitness, prevention, education, and self-esteem enhancement for girls aged 8-17.
The Child Mind Institute is a national nonprofit aiming to help improve the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders through compassionate, evidence-based mental health care. The website features collections of articles on concerns like anxiety, bullying, confidence and self-esteem, drugs and alcohol, sexuality, and more. The Child Mind Institute is committed to supporting troops and their families by addressing their unique needs via their clinical care and parent resources.
Although military children are incredibly resilient, they go through some very stressful experiences that can lead to emotional and behavioral difficulties, like:
- Parent deployment
- Moving to new places and schools
- Exposure to war and violence
- Injury and bereavement
The Child Mind Institute recognizes these challenges, and offers assistance to military families in the form of:
- Helping military members and their spouses thrive as parents
- Offering resources that address issues specific to military life, like preparing for and coping with deployment
- Giving visibility to the unique challenges the military family faces by bringing their experiences to the attention of the general public
About the author
Marissa Fuller is a freelance writer and editor with a degree in Creative Writing and Classical Civilizations from the University of Arizona. She can be found translating Shakespeare into Ancient Greek in the English countryside, where she is currently stationed with her Airman and their faithful hound.