Positive parenting for military families is, at its core, very similar to positive parenting for non-military families. The difference comes from its impact and its importance. While every single family can benefit from positive parenting, military families may see even more benefits, especially if they are moving around to different places around the world on a fairly regular basis.
Only military families truly know what it’s like to have to uproot your whole family and start in a new city. Full transparency, I am not part of a military family, but I have friends who are—their resilience and strength to make the very best of difficult situations is outstanding.
Positive parenting strategies offer a roadmap to maintain emotional regulation and consistency for your kids, even during the most strenuous and challenging times. I’ll always reiterate that this DOES NOT mean that perfection is necessary. In fact, perfection is impossible.
Positive parenting recognizes that we are all human beings. Humans are innately flawed—perfectly imperfect. It’s a wonderful quality because it allows us to constantly learn and grow. So positive parenting will not magically transform you into the “perfect parent”. Nope!
What it will do is offer you the tools to know HOW to model emotional regulation for your kids so they can learn these skills as well. It will also teach you how to repair when mistakes are made. See how I wrote WHEN. You need expect mistakes of yourself.
You need to be prepared for moments when you are triggered, lose your temper or say things you don’t mean. When you are prepared, then it eliminates the shame that can come after those moments. There is no need for shame. What we need is healthy repair. Saying you’re sorry. Showing compassion to yourself and your kids.
But I digress. All of this applies to everyone, including military families. This methodology may offer a sense of structure and comfort, knowing there is a guide to help the whole family navigate challenging moments. So, here is a complete breakdown with more details on how military families can benefit from positive parenting:
Maintaining consistency and structure:
Military families often experience frequent moves and deployments, which can disrupt routines and schedules for children. Parents can help mitigate this by maintaining consistent rules and routines, such as regular bedtimes and meal times, even when living in temporary housing.
Positive parenting emphasizes boundaries as important, both int he sense of parents setting their own boundaries, as well as respecting our kids boundaries. This offers everyone in the household a sense of control, which is all the more important and comforting when faced with a new and perhaps overwhelming reality.
Communicating openly and honestly:
Children may have questions and concerns about their parent’s deployment or the reasons for their family’s move. Parents should make an effort to communicate openly and honestly with their children, answering their questions and addressing their concerns in an age-appropriate manner.
Positive parenting recognizes the importance of respecting our kids as individual human beings, no less important or valued than grown ups. This does not mean that they are spoken to the same or that things are explained in the same way, but that their insights, feelings and perspectives are considered as valued.
Being intentional about having open conversations is valuable for military families. These conversations will look different depending on the age of the child, but the intention is the same: responding to the child where they are at, encouraging curiosity, and reassuring them that no question will be shut down or shamed.
Building a support network:
Military families may be separated from their extended family and friends, so it’s important for parents to build a support network of other military families and community resources. This can include joining a military family support group or connecting with local organizations that provide services for military families.
This isn’t specifically related to positive parenting, but recognizing the need for support ties into positive parenting because it means that parents recognize the need for support and self-care. Parents need to recognize their own needs and take care of themselves. Prioritizing support is an important building block of self-care.
Prioritizing self-care and stress management:
In the same way that seeking support is a form of self care, there are many other ways that military families can prioritize self-care. Military life can be stressful for parents and children alike, so it’s important for parents to prioritize self-care and stress management. This can include taking time for exercise, hobbies, and relaxation, as well as seeking professional help when needed.
This is important for parents, but also for kids. You will be modeling self-care for yourself, which is setting a great example for your kids. You also need to make sure that your kids are doing things that bring them joy and fulfilment. Help them find a way to participate in their favourite hobby, no matter where you live.
Encouraging independence and resilience:
The frequent changes and challenges of military life can help children develop independence and resilience. Parents can foster these qualities by encouraging their children to try new things, take on responsibility, and problem-solve on their own.
Positive parenting is often misunderstood as passive and placating. True positive parenting could not be further from this. Parents who implement positive parenting strategies do NOT try to “fix” situations and make sure that their kids do not feel sad or angry or upset. On the contrary. Feelings are always validated and kids are never told to stop feeling what they are feeling in any given moment.
Because of this, parents following positive parenting techniques will hold a boundary, even if their child isn’t happy about it. They are shown compassion and empathy for their feelings while ALSO holding the boundary. Many critics of positive parenting don’t realize that allowing our kids to feel every feeling and showing empathy allows them to build resilience and independence.
Kids learn the invaluable skill of moving through their feelings without shame. This helps kids learn and experience from a young age that they are strong and they can make it through any difficult situation.
Why positive parenting for military families?
To sum up, many military families experience a lifestyle that no one other than fellow military families will ever truly understand. It is fulfilling and challenging, exciting and scary, interesting and overwhelming, all at the same time. Military families live through challenging experiences and emotions at a level and for a duration that most families cannot relate to.
While every family can benefit from positive parenting strategies, military families can benefit from the structure, predictability and emotional regulation tools even more as they continue to navigate challenging situations and changes to their environment. We are thinking of military families and supporting you from afar as you continue to show your resilience and strength.