When Parents Go To War

Earlier this summer, The Washington Post published a piece about help that is available for U.S. children whose parents are at war. The article cited that children often become angry, combative, emotional or disengaged and struggle in school when a parent goes overseas to fight. Child psychiatrists believe that it is the emotional burden children carry as they worry about whether their mom or dad will come back okay, the disruption of routines, and hearing or seeing graphic depictions of the war that causes these behaviors. One organization that helps kids who are struggling with the sudden parental absence associated with war is called Our Military Kids. The organization provides grant money to military families so that theirs kids can participate in special extra-curricular activities. Parents are finding that when kids get distracted by something they really like to do, be that art, music or sports it helps them deal with their stress, and makes them happier and less likely to act out emotionally.

Teachers should be aware of the behaviors that are associated with a parent going to war, so that they can respond appropriately to the sudden changes in attitude and achievement by giving the child the additional support they need during the difficult time. It would also be appropriate for a teacher to work with the parent who remains at home to find activities and programs that will help the child adjust to the change and deal with the stress. There are already tens of thousands of children in the public school system whose parents are away at war and there will likely be more. As teachers we must be aware of the consequences that can plague a child when a parent leaves for war so that we can best help the child to continue learning and developing as normally as possible, even in the absence of a parent.


Added by Jennifer Kirmes