Since 1986, April 1 has kicked off The Month of the Military Child. The Month of the Military Child is a time to focus on and celebrate the contributions of military children and the unique needs of their lives.
The Defense Department has said that the objective for the Month of the Military Child was to highlight the unique life and challenges of military children. DoD’s goal is to improve the lives of military children and help mitigate the demands they experience from all the transitions, such as frequent moves, parental separations for military training and worrying about their parents when they're deployed.
If you’re a parent of military children, there are many ways that you can show them your appreciation for all of the things they endure because of your family’s military service. Every day military families can show their appreciation to the military children in their lives. The Month of the Military Child simply gives us an excuse to show love and gratitude to the most resilient and brave kids around.
USAMM’s veterans, many of them former military family members, got together and compiled a list of the top 10 ways to celebrate the Month of the Military Child, presented in no particular order.
Dates are great for couples, but kids can use them too. There is no better way to show you’re devoted to your military children than to give them a date night. Let them choose the activity and then spend some quality one-on-one time with them. If you have multiple kids, consider individual dates so each of them can recharge and you can enjoy them individually. This is a great way to celebrate the Month of the Military Child. If you can, select an activity that will last throughout the month instead of something like going to a movie that will be one and done.
2. Road Trip
If you have the time and the money, a road trip to someplace new or even a favorite destination is an awesome way to catch up with your military children. If you are into theme parks, make sure there is ample time for you to spend quality time with the kids since most of your day will be spent standing in line and in crowded spaces. Playing on a beach, sitting around a campfire talking over s’mores and catching up during a favorite board or card game are great ways to give them the attention they deserve and have earned, so pack accordingly. While the Month of the Military Child is a great reason for a road trip, we also recognize that getting away during the school year is hard. Consider a weekend trip if that’s the case, but the point is to spend some good, quality time with your military children.
3. Start New Tradition
Starting a new tradition is a great way to mark Month of the Military Child, not only because you are recognizing your military kid, but also because you are handing down a legacy that the child can continue into adulthood. One of the USAMM veterans said that every year, his family would have a ping pong championship in the garage. When family came to visit for spring break, they would have a ping pong tournament complete with crazy, over-the-top trophies for the top three winners. Another USAMM veteran talked about how there was a yearly hunting or fishing trip set aside just for the kids. In any case, your kid can carry on the tradition when you are not around which ties you closer together.
4. Month of the Military Child Mission
The thing about life is that there is always someone who has it worse. Military kids are no different. While your kids might endure long separations or regular moves, there are other military families out there who might be trying to manage life with a catastrophically wounded veteran. One of their parents might require 24/7 care and maybe those military kids don’t get regular opportunities to let loose. If your military kids have service flowing through their veins, think about helping another military family in need and help those military children have a good time. Consider taking those kids along on an outing. It is not only a great way for your kids to make new friends, it is also selfless.
5. Host a Month of the Military Child Community or Neighborhood Event
Live on a military installation? Then pulling off a big party for military kids shouldn’t be too hard to do and it shouldn’t break the bank either. Maybe music can be provided by a local military band if there is one in your area and other local non-profits might be able to help by providing entertainment and things like bounce houses. Food trucks and caterers will likely be the only item to require cash and you can either start a crowd sourced fund or just let food trucks charge attendees directly. On post, MWR might be a good source to tap into for help.
If you are a military family that lives out in the economy then consider having an event at a local park, place of worship, community center or even a front yard. It is important to try to make the most out of resources available to you in the military community and in your neighborhood. Many civic organizations and veterans service organizations relish the opportunity to help military families so it is likely there might be ample support for a Month of the Military Child event. Your military kid will love being involved in the planning of your operation.
The important thing is to remember that throwing money at something isn’t the answer. Celebrating the Month of the Military Child with your kids is an important way to let them know how much they mean to you and to show them that they are an important part of your military service. It is imperative to show them love and for a little while to get them to forget about the dynamic life they live as a military child.