Project Sanctuary Helps Military Children and their Parents Learn to Overcome and Thrive
It’s estimated that nearly 2 million children have parents serving in the military right now. When people think of “who” serves this country, they think of the veterans and the active-duty service members who have served our country or still do. However, in our experience of serving more than 700 military families, we know that the children serve also. They have their own struggles and sacrifices due to their parents’ service to our country.
Research indicates that although most military children are healthy and resilient, and may even have positive outcomes as a result of certain deployment stressors, some groups are more at risk. Military children will face several more disruptions in their childhood than most civilians will face in their entire lives. Disruptions include multiple school changes, moves across the country, and one or more parents gone for months at a time or for years collectively for deployments.
Research shows that smaller children may show stress symptoms such as acting out, sleeping problems, or problems getting along with friends. Children of military personnel could face elevated risks for social, emotional, and behavioral problems, according to a report published in Pediatrics.
Military teens face a more serious problem according to one study—elevated risk of suicide.
Data for the study was drawn from the California Healthy Kids Survey, an ongoing survey of 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th graders administered by WestEd for the California Department of Education. It found that nearly 12 percent of military-connected youth in California reported attempting suicide, compared to 7.3 percent of nonmilitary-connected youth. Approximately 24 percent of military-connected youth reported seriously considering suicide compared to 18.1 percent of civilian youth.
Many programs are attempting to provide more services and tools to support the mental health of our veterans and active-duty service members, but it’s critical that the needs of their children are attended to as well. That’s why Project Sanctuary has military families begin their 2-year mental health program at our 6-day military families’ retreat—so we can support the needs of the WHOLE family. During our retreats, we have a specialized children’s program, and families have time to reconnect with one another in order to understand the needs of each family member. It’s a time of healing the invisible wounds of the WHOLE family.
With the right support, military children and their families can manage their stressors and learn to thrive.