It’s easy to see many wounded warriors. Their scars are mostly visible. There are resources out there to help injured troops, like the VA and non-profits.
The spouses and other adult caregivers of wounded warriors have resources, too. There are support networks, like the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, with programs and services that can help.
Often the children of wounded warriors get lost in the shuffle.
What this amounts to is thousands of military connected children whose family structure and lives have been up-ended. These children are enrolled in schools across the country. Too often they are flying under the radar.
Children of wounded warriors are under tremendous stress and pressure. They are often actively caring for parents with complicated conditions. Many children have moved with their families in order to be closer to treatment facilities. All of this could lead to changes in behavior and academic performance.
Communities and schools can offer supports that help children and families of wounded warriors.
School-based Counseling: every school or district should have a psychologist and team of social workers. It’s important that military connected families know who to contact. Children can be pulled for in-school counseling and conversations individually or as part of a group.
If you live or work in an area with a heavy concentration of military families, it could be valuable to advocate for a Military Kids focused group to discuss changes and challenges specific to military life.
Military One Source: for targeted individual service, military families can reach out to Military One Source. They offer free counseling for veteran caregivers, including children.
Respite Care: if you know that a family in your community is overwhelmed caring for a veteran, offer to help. You could offer to come watch the game or hang out with the veteran while his/her family steps out for a few minutes. Or be available as a backup driver to medical appointments or act as an extra set of hands.
Whole Family Support: taking care of a wounded warrior is a full-time job. This can cause a lot of other issues to slide. Offer to swing by with dinner or set up playdates for the kids. Arrange to help with carpools to school, sports or clubs. Taking these small things off of the parents’ shoulders can ease a huge burden. Plus, hosting playdates can let military connected children let off a little steam.
Books: while reading a good book won’t fix everything, it can help build understanding. Reading about children in situations similar to their own can also help children process. My Dad Got Hurt, What Can I Do is just one of many great books on the market to help military connected children understand their family and parent post-injury. Outside of military-heavy communities, it can be hard to find these books at libraries. You can help greatly by donating copies to your local library, school, or directly to KOAH.
Friendship: whether you are an adult or a child, having a good friend can go a long way to healing and supporting in tough times. As a parent, reach out to military connected families. Encourage your children to include Military-connected Kids in their recess games and in other activities in and out of school. If can be hard for military children to make new friends, especially when they move frequently or are dealing with lots of stress at home. Having a friendly face and a shoulder to lean on can help children decompress and relieve stress.
November 11 is Veteran’s Day.
And we should definitely honor the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve. However, it’s important that we show our support for their families this month.
The families, especially the children, have also given much of themselves as supporters and now as caregivers.