Did you meet a military kid when they made your kid’s baseball team? Did you wonder how they made it on the team when tryouts were weeks ago?
Or maybe you saw some military kids in the newspaper with happy faces greeting their dad. Or you saw a video with kids crying when being surprised by their mom after a deployment.
Maybe you’ve met many military kids before because of a nearby base, but do you know what to say to one of them? Do you know what NOT to say?
Believe us when we say even other military parents with the best of intentions can make these mistakes. (Believe it or not, we have been known to get on our own kids about not knowing their address!) But when heard by the tender ears of our military kids, the comments shared below become total SMH (Smack My Head) moments.
Military kids told us it kind of sucks when someone says to them:1. “You aren’t from here.”
2. “How come you don't know where XYZ is (or who ABC is)? Everyone knows that! Are you stupid?” (Nope, just new.)
3. "You lived in Japan? You don't look Japanese. Do you speak Chinese?"
4. “Why don't you know your phone number? You are 10. You should know your address by heart.”
5. "Has it been 9 months already? Wow, that went fast.” (Upon hearing a parent is on the way back from a deployment.)
6. “Ten months isn't that long… at least it's not a whole year!” Upon hearing a parent is going to be deploying.
7. “Don't worry.”
8. “Wow. I wish my dad was at war because I bet you guys get anything you want now.” (But all I really want is for my dad to come home.)
9. “So has your dad ever shot someone?”
10. "If your Mom loved you, she wouldn't keep leaving you.”
11. “Why does your dad work so long? He never comes to your games.”
12. “I didn't invite you because you'll leave and I won't get invited to your party.”
13. “You’re only temporary.”
Why is it important not to say one of these things?It is important not to say these things because military kids (and their parents) hear them over and over-again with each move. The words invalidate the positives of the life that they do lead.
Many families have to work hard to adapt to the norms of the communities they move into. In fact, being from a military family can be a big challenge but, with your help, it doesn’t have to be a bigger one.
Here are 8 lucky things to say to a military kid instead:1. “Tell me about where you have lived!”
2. "It must be neat to meet so many different people and see so many different places.”
3. “What can I do to help you?”
4. “Come on over and visit with us!”
5. “Sit with me at lunch.”
6. “Tell me about yourself.”
7. “I know it must be hard to come to a new school.”
8. “Let’s figure this out together.”
As one military kid said to us, "The only thing that makes us different is that we move a lot and dad has to deploy a lot."
Military kids are just like other kids. They want to be accepted. They want to be understood. And they want to be seen as regular kids, not just a news clip or a statistic.
A few kind words (and keeping some not so kind ones to ourselves) can be a part of helping this great community of kids as they continue to send away their moms and dads, and as they work on welcoming home those who do return.
Janine Boldrin is cofounder of Chameleon Kids, a military family owned business. The company is the first stop for fun ideas, up-to-date information, and creative products for military kids. Their goal is to encourage the bright side of life as a military kid. Chameleon Kids is the publisher of MILITARY KIDS' LIFE magazine. Visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thechameleonkids.