Raising Military Children Part 2: Exposure

The military life is not an easy one, adding parenthood to the mix complicates it even more. As parents we have a huge responsibility to raise our children to be the leaders of this world and in my opinion, it is our responsibility to expose them to the world, to teach them to think outside the box and to appreciate the little things in life.

Mapela Motshabi-Custodio, MS
Military Spouse and Mother

One of the ways that one can achieve this is through travel.  Thankfully with the military life travel is inevitable. Though the disadvantage is that you can never set your roots in one place and call it home, the advantage is that you get the opportunity to be exposed to a lot of different cultures and get to live in many different states and sometimes even overseas.

I know that it is dreadful to travel with children, but it is doable and it is very much worth it.  Your kids have an opportunity to be “Citizens of the world”. These experiences will help shape their views of the world, they will help them relate to people from all walks of life, making them better leaders and members of society in the future.

With every PCS comes a period of resentment, a period of longing for the previous station and a lot of stress. But as parents, we are role models to our children and to help them do well with our lifestyle, we need to be the positive light in their tiny lives. Every time you relocate to a new place, be open-minded about learning all you can about the new place. Even if there might be negativity associated with the place, choose to ignore it, and create your own positive experiences about the place.

If you live on base, you will probably have all that you need within the base, schools, the commissary, the library, the exchange, there is literally no need to go off base for anything but for your children. It is best to go outside of the comforts of the military life and expose your children to cultures other than the military culture, help to foster their interest in learning, in exploring and also to teach them appreciation of other cultures.

Relocating to a new place, especially overseas, can be a scary experience. As parents we need to let go of the fear and get out there and explore. My family and I just returned to the US after a PCS to Okinawa, Japan. We were in a country that speaks a different language, we had to drive on the different side of the road, and we lived off base. I embraced this experience, because I was thinking of all the good it will do for our children. My daughter was 2 and my son was only 5 months at the time but I did not let that get in the way. I learned the basic phrases to help me when I went to the local stores and restaurants, I immersed myself in the culture and by doing so, I indirectly was guiding my children to accept and appreciate their new home and culture.

Raising children in the military has a lot of challenges, our children grow living away from family, we (parents) are most of the time exhausted and are single handedly faced with the tough job of raising our children on our own with no help from family, but we are blessed with the gift to travel “the world”. Our children get the opportunity to learn and understand at a very young age that the world is a big place, there are people who speak different languages, who have different customs and these experiences will benefit them in the future.

Even if you have never been relocated overseas, the opportunity to live in different states in the USA is still an immeasurable advantage.  Different states have different history, different culture and different experiences. Immersing our children in these different cultures will still be a priceless opportunity with a lot of exposure.

If you do not know where to start to take advantage of this amazing opportunity here are a few ways that you can get yourself out there:

●     Find mom groups on Facebook, where you can find people to go to play dates with. When I moved to Okinawa, I joined the Stroller Warriors running group, through this group I was able to discover many local parks, I got to meet new mothers who have the same passion of running as I do, my children were able to make new friends on the playground and were exposed to different areas of our new home.

●     If you live overseas enroll your children in an International school, whereby they will get the opportunity to meet children from the local area, and through this environment you can learn about local cultural events/festivals and you will also have an opportunity to make acquaintance with people who are bilingual.

●     Visit other community centers outside of your military community center, this will give you the opportunity to meet with people who are not affiliated with the military and your children can make friends with children from different backgrounds.

When in doubt, remind yourself of the numerous benefits your children will get by being exposed to a world outside of the one that they are used to. Think of how exposing them to different cultures, countries and people will add to their development and the advantages that they will have compared to their peers later in life. Think of it as a way of giving them tools for success in life. Go out there, explore, expose them and appreciate this amazing opportunity you have as a military family.

As Neale Donald Walsch said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”, go out there, explore, live, laugh and make the most of this military lifestyle.