Since 1986, April has been a time when all branches of the Armed Forces honor the service, sacrifices, and strength of their children and families. This month-long observance includes countless events across the country, including the practice of wearing purple as a visible sign of support and appreciation. Purple was chosen at the color of the month because it symbolizes all branches of the military: a combination of Army Green, Air Force Blue, Coast Guard Blue, Marine Red and Navy Blue.
Per the Department of Defense, there are 1.2 million military children of active duty members worldwide, and approximately 2 million military children who have experienced a parental deployment since 9/11, often 2-3 times. It’s important to remember during April, the Month of the Military Child, and throughout the rest of the year that kids serve, too.
The familiar Hollywood depiction of the “military child” suggests the notion of military families who constantly move from base to base, overseas and stateside, experiencing a seemingly never-ending series of short-term homes, jobs, and schools. That can and sometimes is the experience of military families, but the military child experience also includes situations where the family unit is not together, often with the military parent(s) still serving overseas and at remote bases. These permanent-change-of-station moves, deployments, among other facets of military life, can present unique challenges to children who must constantly adjust to distance, unfamiliarity and uncertain schedules.
“In the most recent Blue Star Family 2017 Survey, members of the military and their spouses rated their children’s education and the impact of deployments among their top five concerns,” cites Bonnie Ohye, PhD, Director of Family Services at Home Base. “It’s a growing concern among military parents.”
Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Program, offers a variety of programs to help military children cope effectively with these challenges, as well as programs for parents sensitive to the unique aspects of a military family; we believe that when one family member serves, the entire family serves.
To address concerns related to education, during the fall of 2012, Home Base launched Staying Strong, an initiative to support military families at home and in our school communities. Staying Strong provides free online parenting advice for families managing the transition home, and tools for educators, caregivers, and community members who want to do more to support military-connected families at school and in their communities. Through educational programs like Staying Strong, Home Base strives to build understanding and support within communities that include military children and their families.
In addition to Home Base’s online educational resources, Home Base’s Outpatient Clinic offers behavioral health care for military children up to 18 years of age. “Services not available elsewhere to military-connected children and their parents are available at no cost to the family at Home Base. We provide consultation regarding behavioral, emotional and mental health problems, as well as neuropsychological testing for learning challenges. Individual psychotherapy for emotional distress associated with a parent’s military service is also available,” said Ohye.”
Ohye reported that military parents, too, have resources at Home Base to enhance parenting skills, as well as to find support during parenting challenges. “We have a new Veteran fathers group that is offered the first Tuesday of every month at 12:00 PM.” The group offers peer support from other Veteran dads and the expertise of family clinicians on how Veterans can strengthen family communication, relationships, and parenting skills. “Home Base’s military family clinical services are offered to make sure our families are resilient and to strengthen their efforts to be the parents they want to be,” Ohye adds.
Across the services, Home Base’s monthly Adventure Series events develop engaging and amusing activities to solidify the bonds among families and communities. Through these events, Veterans and military family members may explore a new sport, meet other Veterans and their family members, and learn more about the clinical services, education, and research at Home Base.
“Home Base applauds military children for the sacrifice that they make each day and understand that we all have a profound influence on the resilience of military-connected children,” said retired Brigadier General Jack Hammond, Executive Director for Home Base. “As service members return from deployment, relocate or retire, our services provide strength and family-centered clinical care to increase connectivity within the entire military family.”
Home Base collaborates with businesses and non-profit community organizations throughout New England who host the Adventure Series activities. Past activities include skiing, skating, and museum visits in the winter and sailing, attending baseball games, and other sports in the summertime.
“Happy, healthy military-connected children mean less stressed and happier parents, and in turn strengthen the force — not just today but in the future,” concludes Ohye. “Here, at Home Base, we encourage all Military family members to reach out and learn more about the services available to them.”
If you are interested in learning more about Home Base’s family services throughout the year, please contact Home Base at (617) 724-5202.