May Is Military Appreciation Month: Kids Serve Too!
If you’ve noticed the weather lately, April’s showers have continued into May. The good news is that with showers come flowers. One particular flower, the dandelion, symbolizes a military child’s experience. While most see the dandelion as a weed, it is actually a flower with incredible resilience, many healing qualities, and has the ability to grow just about anywhere. When you think about the flower from this perspective, it’s easy to see why the dandelion is symbolic of the millions of children living in US veteran households. And did you know, April was Month of the Military Child. So it’s poignant that the focus of this blog entry is on our military and veteran connected children.
As the parent of two veteran connected children, I strongly believe that kids serve, too. So, it’s not a surprise that as co-lead to Maryland’s participation in the VA/SAMHSA Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and Families, I pay particular attention to ‘Families’. And why should we know about veteran kids? According to the US Census and National Child Traumatic Stress Network 13% of veterans live with children in the home and in the post 9/11 cohort, 44% of veterans live with children in the home. Approximately 2.3 million children under the age of 18 are living with a veteran who is disabled. A recent study found that for veterans seeking treatment for mental health they felt distant from their children. But there are resources to help and to improve relationships between these children and their parents.
Each month, Governor’s Challenge states and territories come together for team lead calls. These calls provide opportunities for education and networking. Last weeks’ call focused on resources for veteran families with children. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has published some great resources and fact sheets for families, providers, and educators on the importance of becoming military informed and trauma informed when raising or working with children and youth. I encourage anyone who is interested in suicide prevention work and empowering resilience in military and veteran connected kids to please visit these resources. And the next time you see a dandelion, be reminded that kids serve, too and help that flower grow.
Resources for supporting military and veteran connected children:
MDVA Suicide Prevention Initiatives: Direct link to national and local initiatives and free training portal
National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Direct link to resources for parents, providers, and educators of military and veteran connected children
Understanding Child Trauma and Resilience: For Military Parents and Caregivers
Offers military parents and caregivers information and checklists about child trauma and resilience. https://www.nctsn.org/resources/understanding-child-trauma-and-resilience-for-military-parents-and-caregivers
Understanding Child Suicide: For Military Parents
Offers military parents information about military youth suicide. This fact sheet includes information about suicide and military youth, how to talk to your child about suicide, warning signs that your child may be experiencing suicidal thoughts and helpful responses by age group, as well as evidence-based treatments for suicidal youth, and how to address your needs as a parent.
Dana Burl, Program Director
Communications, Outreach, and Advocacy Program
Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs