Military brats unite! As crazy as life seems for the military parent – moving all over the world, switching schools and making new friends – to the military child it can be one of life’s greatest adventures. But some would argue that the mobile lifestyle of a military family is not as glamorous as it sounds.
When one or both parents are deployed in another part of the world, it can be an incredible stressor on children. Not only are they missing their parent; they also have new responsibilities at home and the added worries about their parent’s safety. Kids may be resilient, but they may experience some difficulties in school with so much stress on the home front. One thing is for certain; military “brats” stick together and they make friends quickly. Military families lean heavily upon one another for strength and support because they never know when they’ll have to pick up and move to another base.
From the outside, it may seem as if military kids have it made. They are far more patriotic and responsible than their non-military peers and they adapt faster to new situations and cultures. As a group they tend to be less materialistic and more adventurous, but there are also many disadvantages to this lifestyle. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of “growing up military.”
Foremost among a list of pros would be the enormous exposure that these kids get to other cultures, traditions, languages and cuisines. They are less attached to the typical American’s way of life and quickly become well-rounded. Grown-up military brats say the experience they had as children added to their perspective and broadened their way of thinking. It also shaped their personalities because they had so many rich experiences with people from other parts of the world.
Socially, military kids are very well adjusted. They get to meet so many interesting people from different countries, states and nationalities. Their friends are usually much more diverse than kids who live in civilian communities, and they learn how to talk to anyone about anything. These days, with the rise of social media and texting, military kids can stay in touch easier than ever before. As a result, distances no longer pose any restrictions to maintaining friends from all over the world.
Last, but certainly not least on the list of pros, is the military brat’s self-sufficiency and how they learn to take care of themselves early in life. Kids whose parents are in the military may learn how to handle small tasks instead of being coddled. They are all too familiar with being dropped off at a new school and going in with the confidence that they will make new friends quickly. As a result, the early maturity shown by these kids is almost stunning when compared with their non-military peers.
Just the knowledge that one of their parents is out there fighting for their country and may not come home and the reality that they may need to look out for younger siblings helps them become more appreciative and respectful. They also develop a form of patriotism and deference to authority that cannot be taught in school.
One of the hardest questions a military brat would have to answer is “Where are from?” The truth is, military families have a rootless existence that can cause confusion among children resulting in an identity crisis of some kind. Frequent moves may not impact the extroverted child who adapts well to new situations; however the introverted kid could resent the military lifestyle. It may seem like as soon as they get settled somewhere they have to start all over again somewhere else. They may be able to list all the places they’ve lived, but there is hardly a place that they could call “home.”
Long separations from one parent can be hard enough when a service member is deployed, but sometimes the entire family cannot move to a new location at the same time. This occurs when kids enter their important high school years and the family decides not to make the move until after graduation. Teens can find themselves depressed for a little while until they become accustomed to their parent’s absence or the whole family is reunited.
Every military family has a different story to tell about how the lifestyle has affected their family life, and each military brat has a unique experience growing up in this fashion, but most have so many cherished memories that they wouldn’t trade places with their civilian counterparts.