School can be hard for military kids. The constant moves, always feeling like the new kid and different standards can seriously impact how your MilKid feels about school. Add in deployments or other bumps in the military life road and K-12 school can start to become a mess.
But you can fix your military child’s school year starting right now. In fact, the end of the calendar year is a great time to take stock, look back and plan ahead.
New School, New Challenges: How To Fix-Up Your MilKid’s Year ASAP
Let’s be real: there is no one-size-fits all solution for school issues of any sort. But there are some common themes that run through many struggles and that can impact a majority of military children.
New to School & Feeling Alone
Maybe you’ve just PCSed, moved over the last summer or simply progressed to the next higher level of school. Whatever the case, your child is new. Even with almost 4 months of school under their belt, your child is still not quite feeling connected to the community.
It’s definitely hard to feel like you don’t belong. Here are some options to fix up your MilKid’s school year ASAP:
- Contact the teacher: works best in the lower grades; let them know your concerns
- Work with the school counselor: share your concerns and ask about options
- Extracurriculars: think beyond school-based options and include community-run sports, clubs and organizations
- Therapy: sometimes talking to someone completely separate from school and home can sometimes help uncover issues
- Connect with old friends: set up video chats with friends from previous duty stations; connecting with old friends can help boost confidence to make new friends
Someone is Deploying Soon
A fact of military life is deployment. But just because it’s “normal” doesn’t make it easier.
But you can build out your support team with these tips:
- Share with the teacher: respect OPSEC, but share as much as possible
- Let the admin and counselor know: there might be extra resources available to support your child or family
- Keep communication open: let the teacher and school know about changes with the deployment or your child at home
- Look for changes: dropping grades, changing behavior and social differences can all hint at bigger issues; let the teacher know if you notice these things, ask that the teacher do the same
Getting Ready to PCS Soon
The process of leaving can be hard. Every child acts and reacts differently. Keeping your school and community in the loop can help to make PCSing easier.
Try these tips:
- Reach out to the school counselor: use support groups and resources
- Tell the teacher: ask for contact information for classmates; request recommendation letters, final assessments and one last report card
- Request the cumulative file: talk to the school’s administration or front office; ask for a copy of your child’s permanent record and let then know when and where you’ll be moving
- Create a contact list: plan to keep in touch with friends – set up an email group or other chat group, pre-address envelopes and put video chats on your schedule
Grades Aren’t Looking So Hot
Every child can struggle with grades, regardless of military connections. How you react to lower than expected grades can help your child get back on track.
Try these tips:
- Talk to the Teacher: start by talking to the teacher(s); use email, phone calls or in-person meetings to chat about trouble spots and ways to help
- Ask for resources: there might be extra options in school to help your child succeed, like differentiated assignments, extra tutoring or other small groups for learning
- Keep good data: make a file of your child’s grades, assignments, tests and other work; keep track of where those trouble spots are popping up routinely – use this data when you talk to the teacher
- Get a tutor: free tutoring is available to military families through Tutor.com, but hiring someone to work with your child in-person could be a good option; ask the school for a list of teachers who tutor or reach out to the military community for recommendations
- Request testing: if nothing is working, and you’ve tried a lot of things, you can formally request special education testing to see if your child might qualify for an IEP
You’re Feeling Disconnected & Alone
Maybe everything is going well for your child, but you’re the one feeling out of sorts and lonely. Try these things:
- Join the PTA: yes, it’s another thing to do, but you’ll also get access to their membership rosters – which means contact info for parents in your child’s class
- Find just one: start with one person; reach out to the parents of your child’s best friend or talk to someone at practice on Saturday – it just takes one friend
- Use the military community: hop into the digital community and send a request for a buddy out to the hive mind – someone will respond and you’ll gain a new friend
- Be a joiner: don’t limit your new found love of joining things to the PTA, try other groups like Toast Makers, rotary groups or fitness communities; your new friends might be waiting there