It’s been over a decade since the tragic events of 9/11. Among those who continue to experience the effects of 9/11 are service members and their families. Recently, a teenager named Sophie Roth-Douquet reminded us in a USA Today opinion article that more than two million military kids have sent parents off to war in the past 12 years; while major deployments are coming to an end, the effects remain with them. For instance, 900,000 of these military children have seen a parent deployed multiple times, and 10,200 have experienced the death of an immediate family member. These children should also be remembered for their sacrifice.
While military families might face hardships such as frequent moves, deployments, posttraumatic stress disorder, or the loss of a parent, most children exhibit extraordinary resilience. In the newly published issue of the Future of Children, Military Children and Families, authors M. Ann Easterbrooks, Kenneth Ginsburg and Richard M. Lerner observe that most military children turn out just fine. Although research on the topic is surprisingly limited, military life can offer unique opportunities for children. For example, children whose parents are deployed may build their self-confidence by taking on new responsibilities in the family, and moving provides opportunities for adventure and personal growth.
One thing is certain, though: military children are children first. And “they must establish positive friendships and peer relationships, make their way through school, build on their talents, develop their own ‘moral compass’ and participate in their families and communities.” When they encounter adversity, they need social support from adults such as parents, committed mentors, and teachers or coaches. While there is much that needs to be done in research and program development to understand and increase resilience among military youth, first and foremost, we should reach out to the military families around us. We owe them an incalculable debt. For more information on resilience among military youth, see the Future of Children issue on Military Children and Families.