For many, handling separations of deployments and getting settled in new duty stations are at the top of our list of military life challenges. Our kids would probably agree.
Belonging is important for the military family.
“Belong” can be a tough word for military families, frequently moving from one duty station to another. Military kids often struggle to answer the question, “Where are you from?”
Change seems to be the constant of our lives. The uprooting of belonging was hard for me as an adult; what was it doing to my kids? As a mom, I often worried about the impact change and transition would have on my children.
The day I had to physically pull my 7-year-old daughter apart from her first best friend, I fought back tears thinking, my heart is going to fall out, right here on the front porch.
Red-faced with hot tears streaming, my daughter sobbed, “Don’t make me leave, Mommy. Why can’t Rachel come with us? We belong together.”
So painful, this first experience of a child now old enough to understand the security of belonging. I worried about the impact this would have on her tender young heart.
Transitions are challenging for kids.
For the military family, belonging includes a new address every few years. It can be hard to let go of belonging when the moving truck is packed, the orders are stamped, and it is time to leave.
This is the life rhythm that our family has gotten used to. Yet as hard as it is to embrace change and risk belonging, we are all the richer for it. Worry accomplished nothing except make the hard moments harder.
Although transitions can be hard, moving has many positive benefits over time. Here are just a few of the good things military moves have given my children.
- They have learned friends are found everywhere God sends us.
- They have gone to amazing places and done really cool things.
- They can unpack and organize their room by themselves.
- They know the strong bond of belonging to our family is not tied to a particular address. This benefit of military life has made our family stronger and closer.
- Siblings become friends through the transitions of military life.
- They have enjoyed the value of friends, yet each one has developed an independence and strength born of experiencing God’s faithfulness in many transitions.
- As teenagers, they had a broader perspective and a greater variety of life experiences due to the different places we’ve lived: WA, NC, CA, VA, and Japan. By the way, this is a huge benefit when it comes to writing college application essays!
- Adjusting to new situations and new people, our children have developed confidence and resiliency.
Now our children are pursuing their own lives, and each one has developed strength, flexibility, and courage through military moves.
Remember the sobbing child clinging to her best friend?
Though she experienced challenging adjustments, God has developed in her a love of meeting new people and traveling to new places. Currently she is serving two years as a missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM). In the last year she has worked in Australia, India, and the Philippines.
No, the challenges of military moves have not held her back one bit!
Military life has crafted the heart of a missionary. God is faithful to use the challenges to grow our children into amazing people.
Because of the transitions of military life, she has learned powerful truths about hospitality and giving the gift of belonging to others. She now uses this mindset born of military moves to extend the gift of belonging to Christ to those she meets, whether serving in a cafe in Perth or sharing the gospel in the slums of India.
During our moving years, the years I worried about what frequent moving would do to my children, I wish I had known then what I have experienced now.
God will bless our children, even through the difficult experiences of military life. He is with them each step of the way.
“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”–Jeremiah 29:11
How have you experienced God’s faithfulness in the transitions your family has experienced? Has worrying about your kids been hard for you?