From grade school to high school, children in military families face unique challenges when starting a new school year. By maintaining a watchful eye, teachers can serve as their first lines of defense to help students avoid academic pitfalls.
New School, New Standards, New Friends
On average, military children move six to nine times during a school career, making them more susceptible to academic challenges and emotional stress. By high school, they might have attended more than four different schools with four different sets of education standards and curriculums.
Moving also means saying goodbye to friends. Students may worry that old friends will forget them or that making new connections will be difficult. Other students might return to the same school, but are handling a recent separation due to deployment. They may be grieving the loss of a military parent or they may be adjusting to living with a parent in need of care.
Resources like the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2) Military Kids Connect and Sesame Street for Military Kids provide teachers with great classroom tools for teaching military children, including:
- Lesson plans
- Information about military culture
- Coping mechanisms
- Classroom and counseling activities
- Understanding behavioral changes due to deployment
- Tips for dealing with relocation
PTSD, TBI, Other Hidden Wounds
Beyond the stress of fitting in and keeping up with their school work, military children may have a parent managing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) or other hidden wounds. Be mindful that you are a source of stability. Your classroom routine may be their only “safe space.” Implement activities that encourage communication and creativity into your lesson plan. This may be a great way to help them cope with the tough situation at home.
Ask for Help
Teaching is a tough job. Both your students and their parents rely on your help and guidance. Make sure to communicate with your military families. Have open dialogues to let them know how they can help you support their children.