Thursday, March 19, 2020

Month of the Military Child

Celebrating our OUTCAN Military Children

April is the Month of the Military Child.

I had a completely different post written to celebrate our OUTCAN (Posted OUT of CANada) kids. A fun, positive, upbeat piece about how fabulous our OUTCAN children are (and they are!) and how we can celebrate their resiliency.

And then…this.

Coronavirus. COVID-19. Pandemic.

I mean, how do we even begin to fathom what our OUTCAN military children are going through right now, when we can’t even fathom what we are going through ourselves?

It’s mind boggling.

Kids who don’t know what ‘home’ is, living far from the general area they associate as their home, watching almost everything they know and care about evaporate into thin air…invisible, like the virus that is threatening us all.

Friends. School. Practices, games, competitions, extra-curricular activities, proms, spring break plans, school trips,  concerts, birthday parties, playdates, graduation.

All gone.

They are being robbed of the things that make their already chaotic lives livable, and we, as parents and caregivers can only watch while we try to cope with the ever-changing reality of life in lock-down.

As a mom of three, I’m having difficulty even sitting here, writing this.

How can we celebrate military children when the world is in a state of emergency?

I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. Take a few steps into their world.

Talk to them. If you’re a friend or family member back in Canada, acknowledge their hardship in a text, message or call.

They’re scared. If they’re not old enough to understand what’s going on, they understand that you are scared. They know that something is different. Older kids know that the border just closed. They know that this is serious. They know that they or someone they love could get sick. They’re worried about what this means for their grades and their future post-secondary plans. If this is a posting year, they’re worried that they may never see their friends again.

They’re angry. OUTCAN High school seniors quite possibly are in their fourth or fifth school, and have spent the last 12 years preparing for this moment…the moment when they can finally have some control over their lives. They want to celebrate, and there is a very real possibility that every part of their graduation celebrations could be cancelled. They still have school work or classes without the benefit of hanging out with their friends, or the physical outlet of sports and extra-curricular activities. There is no way to control what is happening to them right now.

And they’re sad. They are grieving the loss of all of these things. It’s a lot to take on when you’re already on shaky ground. Their hopes and dreams are on hold, maybe cancelled altogether. Even though life before wasn’t normal, they want to go back to life before. And if they see mom or dad is sad, they are sad too.

To celebrate our kids, we can take these emotions seriously.

Whatever their age, validate their feelings. This is real. Their emotions are real. And make time in the day to appreciate their struggles, even if it’s just talking while supper is cooking.

"Clearly, they are anxious and simplistic assurances rarely work. So that is not the thing to do. It's to take their fears seriously and then address them,” says Dr. Peter Silverstone, a professor of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. “Never use, ‘Oh don’t worry about that. Everything will be fine.’”*

Help them move forward in these difficult days. Celebrate the simple things. Do your best to maintain a structure to your day.

Because, in the end, OUTCAN military children are resilient.

I’ll admit, I’ve grown to dislike the word resilient. It’s a word often overused to generalize the ability of military children and spouses to uproot their lives over and over and over again, and still be successful. I feel it’s truly inadequate to describe how strong military family coping skills are, and how much they have to put up with.

It isn’t enough.

But it’s less pop culture than ninja warrior, and less cutesy than super-kid or wonderchild. Really, it is the best word.

The Dunnes adventuring in DC over the Christmas holidays.
OUTCAN Military children are so very resilient.

My nest is almost empty, and—even though they are almost all adults—my kids continually amaze me as they cope with whatever life throws at them. This crisis is no exception. They are carrying on, taking it day by day, making the most of their new normal.

Celebrate that. Tell them how proud you are of them. Tell them they have the ability to do this. That you are there for them. Each day is a new day.

If you want, tell them they are ninja warriors, super-kids and wonderchildren.

Celebrate each and every day of this crisis with the applause it deserves. Let them control the few things that they can control—what they wear, what they have for supper, what time they get up.

And lastly, if you reach the point where you are beyond your scope of care, reach out for help. There are so many resources out there. Websites, literature, apps, lists of educational resources, and other people in the same boat.

Help is only a phone call, text or email away. And I am always here as a listening ear.

Stay safe,


Other Resources:
Family Information Line (For Canadian Military Families OUTCAN) 1-800-866-4546
MFS Outreach Social worker Tel: 867-873-0700 ext. 6845

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