sham·bo·lic (adjective) INFORMAL•BRITISH 1. chaotic, disorganized, or mismanaged. (Definition from Google Dictionary)
A friend of mine recently shared this word on her Instagram account describing how life looks on the homefront while her hero is deployed. Of course, I naturally agreed with her as soon as I read the definition.
Then I started to ponder this word and how accurate it is for a decent portion of the military community on any given day.
Later that day, my kiddo had a bit of a breakdown regarding our upcoming PCS.
All I could think was, “her life must feel so shambolic right now”.
I realized, in that moment, how thoroughly this one word probably explains most military kids’ deep feelings toward the state of things in their lives.
It’s often said, and often true, that MilKids are the littlest warriors, and their sacrifices often go unnoticed, unmentioned, and unseen. As parents, we hope we are doing better and not overlooking their struggles, but we can’t always be perfect.
What we can do is help them learn to bravely face challenges head on and build resilience in the process.
Here are some simple steps to help your young ones overcome obstacles, adjust before, during, and after transitioning, and know they are seen.
I think by now, most of us are aware of meditation and its benefits on stress reduction. In 2012, Cambridge University conducted a study on “The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation: Changes in Emotional States of Depression, Anxiety, and Stress” and reported, that,
“As predicted, the severity levels of all affective measures have decreased by the end of the meditation course. Participants with severe emotional difficulties at the time of commencing the meditation course demonstrated the most notable improvement over time.”
Encouraging military children to find a version of meditation that works for them is key. Meditation does not have to mean sitting on a cushion cross-legged with your eyes closed while listening to “singing bowls” or some other “calming” music/sounds.
Making bread, walking the dog, and creating are all forms of meditation.
The important piece here is to work with your kiddo to find something that brings them joy and calm. Help them learn how, while performing this task, to focus on their breath and be fully “in the moment” with the experience telling all other thoughts that come into their mind during the process to step aside and come back later.
Stay on Track
Routines are one of the simplest, yet trickiest, tools to implement in building resilience.
I say simplest because we all pretty much know what works for us at what time of day, the order we like to do things in, and what our average overall day looks like.
I say trickiest because we often forget that routines are flexible and crumble once one thing derails. In the past seven years parenting our daughter with special needs, I have learned that there is no such thing as an exact schedule in my house and that is okay.
What I recommend is to sit with one child at a time and go through their day.
Ask where the challenges are and identify the challenges you know exist. Write out a list of daily tasks and assign ideal time constraints to each. Have your child put them in order of what works best for them. Have a look at the examples I’ve included for a better understanding.
Once you have the routine figured out, the rest will follow. Remember, we don’t have actual times of day assigned to these, only amounts of time for each task, making it so the routine can be employed anywhere, anytime, even on vacation or during a PCS.
Something I have recently come to terms with is that my daughter, like most kids, has a memory attached to almost everything she owns.
Whether it’s a shirt from three St. Patrick’s Days ago when we all dressed in green together for a 5k or a bracelet she got out of a gumball machine, she remembers and can tell you on cue.
After much reflection, I recall being much the same in that aspect. As military families, we live in a state of flux, constantly purging the “old” stuff before our next PCS and then acquiring new things at the next duty station.
This definitely sounds shambolic to me.
I think it’s time that we let our children hold on to things a little longer if they want to, regardless of our personal opinions of the items.
I was sitting with the kiddo and sorting through her things for “the PCS purge” and, as she asked to keep the 27th article of clothing that no longer fits her so we can, someday, turn it into a blanket or pillowcase, I came face to face with the fact that I was asking her to throw away memories of places and people she may never see again.
She doesn’t know how to verbalize that to me, but her face said it all. I grabbed the dress and threw it in a bag that expands weekly.
I propose that we give each child a box.
We moved a lot when I was a child for various reasons. Whenever we did, my parents gave me a large moving box and let me fill it with all the things I wanted to keep that they, probably, thought was junk. It wasn’t until that moment that I recalled this.
I had that box until I was 24 years old and it, ironically, got lost in a non-military affiliated move.
We could do this with our children. Perhaps invest in a trunk. Let them put whatever randomness they want to cling to in there for them to go back and look through when they miss their friends, their old school, an old house, a former pet. We ought to give our young humans the opportunity to hold on to those memories a little longer.
To choose later, after time has passed and the wounds aren’t so fresh, what memories they still cherish and which they can part with.
While there are many other ways we can support our littlest heroes on their journey through the crazy, wonderful, unpredictable, pricelessly unique lives they lead, it’s beneficial to have a jumping off point.
These are three of the simplest steps I know to remind your younger generation that you acknowledge all that they do and want to support them in whatever way possible.
Let’s start a conversation. Drop a comment below about how you support your military child or reach out to me via the links below for additional ideas. Good luck, friends.