Supporting your child as they take their first steps toward adulthood can be nerve-wracking no matter what path they choose. Anxiety about what their choice of a military career could mean is a typical reaction, but it’s important to understand and moderate your response to support your child. Teens and young adults often have a strong reaction to anything they perceive as attempts at control or undue influence, and keeping open lines of communication is always preferable to ultimatums that will drive them away.
As kids enter their later teens and early 20s, they have the ability and right to choose their path in life. You can help them by seeking to understand their motivations and decision making, asking questions to help clarify for yourself – and possibly encourage them to further think through – why they want to join the U.S. Military, what the experience will be like, potential downsides, and the benefits they hope to experience or achieve.
If your child is still living at home, joining the Military will be a huge transition for both of you. She or he needs to learn how to live independently and take care of her or himself, and the structured environment of basic training and the military life can be a good way to make that transition. It will be challenging at first: you’ll miss the physical closeness and frequent communication; they’ll miss the flexibility of relying on mom and dad to pick up the slack.
While joining the Military can sometimes be a rebellious act on the part of a disgruntled teen, it’s more often a strategic choice that is regarded as an investment in the future. As a career, it offers stable employment with reliable remuneration, chances for advancement and developing leadership skills, and a number of benefits including healthcare and education assistance. There are several sections, including the army, the air force, and the navy, with many specializations within those, such as medical, engineering, linguistics and international relations, aviation, communications, cyber, and finance.
Your child can put prior education to good use or use joining the army as a way to upgrade skills and make further education or a professional career more attainable. Experience gained in the Military is valuable and transferable to the private sector, so whether they’re aiming for a long-term career, or looking for an affordable way to gain experience and training, it can be a great way to reach goals that might not otherwise be achievable.
There are many examples of medical professionals, politicians, and entrepreneurs who formed their skills and connections through an early career in the Military. Mark Green started out in the army, requested and got support to attend medical school, and finished his military career as a flight surgeon. From there, he went on to found a medical staffing company and charitable medical foundation, and later went on to join the Senate.
Supporting your child doesn’t have to mean denying your fears and simply putting on a brave face. It can help both you and your child to do research and seek out real answers to your concerns. It can also be meaningful to help your daughter or son work through their hopes and dreams, not just for what the Military can do for them, but for their longer-term future. Understanding what they hope to get out of the experience can help them enter the right section and take the right steps toward their goals.
As they head off to basic training the way you can support them changes. They’re committed now, but probably experiencing homesickness, frustration, and maybe even fear. It can be scary leaving home and standing on your own as an adult, and basic training is a challenging and character-building experience. Sending regular mail to stay in touch is a great way to show your support proactively, and as they progress in their training and career, take the time to get in touch, listen to their concerns, and remind them that you care and are proud of their progress.
As a member of the armed forces, your child may be involved in helping others in terrible situations. Pay attention to any changes in the way they communicate, especially after they return home. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a reaction that some members of the Military experience. As a parent, you can help identify if your child is acting oddly and might need treatment, and support them by getting them to a local VA medical center for assessment and further aid.
Joining one of the arms of the U.S. Military is an exciting adventure for a young person. You can give support by helping them understand the challenges and benefits of their choice, defining what they hope to achieve by entering military service, and how they can best reach their goals.