Should inform your school that you are a military family?

Perhaps because you have felt misunderstood or even discriminated against If you keep your military status private, you may be questioning the benefits of informing the school of your military status.  But awareness of the needs of military students among educators won’t increase if someone doesn’t present them with the issues.  They can’t be supportive if they don’t know.

To inform or not to inform

Should you tell your child’s school that someone in your family is being deployed?  It’s that your family has weathered deployments in the past without any negative without any negative effects on your child, but every deployment is different, and you can’t always predict how your child will react to the current deployment.  Informing your child’s teacher(s) and/or counselor that a parent has been sent on a mission—possibly as long as 18 months—will help them monitor how your child is doing in the classroom and plan ways to be supportive.

Here are helpful questions to ask your school…
  • How is my child responding to the news of my deployment?
  • Who will get my child to and from school? Does the child ride the bus….or will he/she need to start riding the bus?
  • Will my child need before/after school care?  Is homework help available?
  • If you are deployed, how involved do you think you can be in your child’s education?  Do you want to be involved in parent/teacher meetings by phone or teleconference, or do you want the parent at home to handle those meetings?
  • How will the school let the various staff members know about our family’s deployment?
  • If your child misses a day of school to say goodbye or see a parent home on leave, how will the school handle this absence?
  • Can missed class work be provided in advance? Can missed work be made up?

If you are the parent still at home, how much are you expecting the child to help with the household chores?

All members of a family should contribute to helping the home run smoothly, but a child’s primary job is to be a student.  If adding responsibilities such as chores,  or taking care of younger siblings, are cutting into the time your child needs for studying and doing homework, he or she could fall behind in class.  Likewise, if there is no longer time for leisure activities, spending time with friends, or extracurricular activities, your child is missing out on experiences that could help him/her weather this time without one of his/her parents.

Are your child’s teachers communicating with you, or are they worried about bothering you?

Did your child get into trouble in school, or get sent to the nurse’s office but you didn’t get a phone call?  It’s possible that the school staff at your child’s school is trying so hard not to create more stress for your family during deployment that they aren’t involving you in everything that is happening with your child.  Try to stay I close touch with someone in the school so they feel comfortable keeping you informed.  Note that some teachers and administrators tend to contact parents only when a child is in trouble.  Help them understand how important it is for you and for your child to hear about your child’s strengths and accomplishments  

Are support networks available?

National Guard and reservist families may not have the same family support services available to them as active duty service members.  It is even more important for you to communicate with your child’s school to make them aware and let them make suggestions for lightening the burden.

Is your child involved in fun activities at school or in the community?

If your child begins to pull away from activities he/she enjoys, or doesn’t have time for fun because of added responsibilities at home, this could lead to resentment or social/emotional problems later.

Is your child eating well?

Proper nutrition can contribute to improved performance at school and can alter a child’s mood.   You may wish to consider preparing meals ahead of time to keep school nights from getting stressful because of homework and other responsibilities.   Cooking meals together is an activity enjoyed in many families and children tend to eat better when they are the ones helping to make the meal.

What if my child has special needs?

When meeting with the IEP team, it’s important to communicate that since your child is growing up in a military family, he or she may face increased stress, or emotional instability that might be contributing to behavior or learning outcomes.

STARs in Schools recommends visiting www.branchta,org.  This group has resource centers in areas across the US and they are eager to extend their services to Reserve Component families.  It is their mission to support families with children with special needs, especially when the military assignment requires relocation.

Family Online Resources

The Yellow Ribbon Program:

Specifically for members of the National Guard and Reserves, this program provides information on benefits and referrals before, during and after deployments.  Its Center for Excellence provides “lessons learned” on a variety of issues, including a “Children’s Curriculum” area that includes activities for children during deployment periods and reunions.


This site from the Military Health System lists contacts for programs to support families from all branches during deployment.


This site provides ideas for activities, links to other resources, and helpful articles such as “Helping Children Handle Deployments

Operation Home Front

Military Child Education Coalition

Military Parent Technical Assistance Program


Strategic Outreach to Families of All Reservists aids families of Army Reservists and members of the National Guard. SOFAR is a mental health projet that provides free psychological support, psychotherapy, psychoeducation and prevention services to extended family members before and after a deployment.

Military Deployment Guide:  Preparing your family for the Road Ahead Guide.pdf

This page on the National Military Family Association website is divided into four sections:  Managing and Preparing, Reunion, Back at Home, and Support Groups.

Post Deployment

STARs in Schools recommends that you visit this website as you face the happy but sometimes difficult time of reconnecting with the parent who has been deployed.  This resource provides simulations for the family to explore to prepare for a healthy transition.

4-H Military Partnerships

Our Military Kids

Recommended Reading

My Dad’s Deployment: A deployment and reunion activity book for young children by Julie LaBelle
This 112-page activity book features mazes, dot-to-dot, counting, matching, coloring, crafts, telling time, and other activities familiar to preschool and early elementary children. Shown within the context of common deployment and reunion topics, the activities reinforce concepts young children are already learning and offer children the opportunity to ask questions, talk about their feelings, and feel connected to their deployed parent. This version is specific to a dad’s deployment

My Mom’s Deployment: A deployment and reunion activity book for young children by Julie LaBelle
The activities in this fun 112-page book reinforce concepts young children are already learning and give them a safe way to ask questions, talk about their feelings, and feel connected to a deployed parent. Four sections (Getting Ready for Deployment, Deployment, Getting Ready for Reunion, and Reunion) provide appropriate activities for each stage of deployment, from packing and saying goodbye to welcoming Mom home. Includes mazes, dot-to-dots, counting, matching, coloring, crafts, telling time, and other activities familiar to preschool and early elementary children. A fun book for children and an excellent resource for parents, teachers, counselors, and other caregivers to help young children feel a part of the deployment process and prepare them for what’s coming next. This version is specific to a mom’s deployment. My Dad’s Deployment is also available.

Soldier Mom by Alice Mead (for ages 9-12)
A fictional story of a pre-teen girl who takes on additional responsibilities and experiences personal growth, during her mother’s seven-month deployment to Operation Desert Storm.

While You Are Away by Eileen Spinelli (for pre-school to grade 2)
Three children’s stories of life while their parents are on active military duty abroad, each from a different branch of the armed forces. All three vignettes are upbeat and reassuring, and the book concludes with the safe return of all three loved ones.

Surviving Deployment: A Guide for Military Families by Karen Pavlicin
Talks about how to stay together as a family, how to adjust to long absences and uncertain communications, how to overcome the challenges of single-family parenting and new responsibilities, and how to manage financially through a blend of personal stores from hundreds of fellow military families and checklists.

Channing-Bete offers an array of publications for service members and their families on topic of deployment including:

  • Let’s Talk About Deployment
  • Information and activity book for children
  • Know What? My Parent is Being Deployed
  • Activity book for ages 6-8
  • Who Knew? The Deployment Issue
  • Activity book for ages 9-11
  • Write from the Heart
  • Stationery kit for military families

A Very Long Time by Geri Timperley and Nikki Arro (for ages 4-8)
A book for young children in military families whose loved ones leave for “a very long time”. Written to “help children grasp the meaning of time and generate the tools they need to deal with the separation that might otherwise seem to never end”.

Daddy’s in Iraq, but I Want him Back by Carmen R. Hoyt
An hour is a long time to a small child. How do you describe the length of a military war deployment to a preschooler? When attempting to tell her son that his Daddy was not going to be gone for just a week or seven wake-ups, but for several months, Carmen Hoyt longed for a better way to lay it out for him. I wished there was a way to help him “get his little arms around” the situation.” Written after the author’s own husband returned safely from Iraq, this story is for pre-school children who have a hard time coping with a parent’s military deployment. “I felt a need for this story to be written when my three year old, Jack, became very insecure upon his father’s deployment to the War in Iraq.”

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn (for ages 4-8)
Published by the Child Welfare League of America, this book is just the right book for any young child confronting a difficult situation or who is temporarily separated from home or loved ones.

Ned and the General: A Lesson in Deployment by Ron Madison (for elementary aged children)
A book of stories written in rhyme and based on real children affected by deployment. A copy of the book, of Ned and the General, was sent to each school district, IU, elementary school and elementary level charter school in Pennsylvania. For quantity orders of paperback editions, call the author, Ron Madison, at 814-255-6646.

Night Catch by Brenda Ehrmantraut (Author) and Vicki Wehrman (Illustrator)
When a soldier’s work takes him half-way around the world, he enlists the help of the North Star for a nightly game of catch with his son. Night Catch is a timeless story that connects families while they are apart and offers comforting hope for their reunion.