April is designated as the Month of the Military Child by the Department of Defense Military Community and Family Policy, underscoring the important role military children play in the armed forces community. The Month of the Military Child is a time to applaud military families and their children, thanking them for the daily sacrifices they make and the unique challenges they overcome.

 

Here at the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness, we are always working to develop programming that supports the health and well-being of military children. This month, we’d like to give special recognition to three programs in particular that are making an impact.

DoDEA

The U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity is responsible for planning, directing, coordinating, and managing pre-kindergarten through 12th grade educational programs on behalf of the Department of Defense. While DoDEA runs schools on military installations across three continents, they are also concerned with the children of military families who attend schools among civilian communities.

 

One thing they’ve learned is that teachers, school counselors, and school administrators are not always familiar with the unique challenges military children face—particularly when it comes to parental absence. Even new teachers hired for schools on a military base might not have a military background, and so are in need of some additional training. Over the past five years, the Clearinghouse has built these training modules and they are available online for school support staff.

 

The training modules help teachers, nurses, school social workers, and other staff members to help students navigate geographic transitions, parental injury, and a number of other topics familiar to military families, but potentially new to school personnel.

 

The website also identifies the best free resources available to school personnel and students. What do we mean by “best?” Some existing programs have the potential to support school personnel but, while well-intentioned, are ultimately ineffective or even harmful. The Clearinghouse has reviewed over 900 programs to determine their potential benefits and effectiveness, so we know the recommendations we make for our military children are supported by scientific evidence.

 

THRIVE

Before military children even get to preschool, their families have a lot of hard work to do nurturing them from conception. Luckily, the Clearinghouse has them covered. THRIVE is a series of education programs designed to empower parents with skills and information about the prenatal period through adulthood. Focused on positive parenting, physical health promotion, and parent and child stress management, THRIVE’s programs are broken down into four key areas of development. Take Root! serves children aged 0-3. Sprout! serves children aged 3-5. Grow! serves children aged 5-10, and Branch Out! serves children aged 10-18. Because the Clearinghouse is building this curriculum from the scratch to offer the best possible evidence-based information to military families, many of these programs are still in the development stage. Right now, families on eight military installations across the United States, Germany, and Italy are using the Grow curriculum—attending in-person classes and using online modules to learn everything from healthy nutrition for kids to visualization exercises for parents or children.

 

There are a lot of parenting programs out there, but many of these are unsupported by evidence or costly to access. Studies show that parents can be taught skills such as using discipline to teach, engaging in child-directed play, encouraging healthy eating, and promoting physical activity to positively impact child outcomes. The Department of Defense’s Office of Military Community and Family Policy has invested in THRIVE to build the gold standard of parenting support for military families.

 

5210

Speaking of healthy eating and physical activity, the Clearinghouse is working with military families to promote the 5-2-1-0 concept. This nationwide campaign spreads the message about four healthy behaviors all children benefit from achieving each day: eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, no more than 2 hours of screen time, at least 1 hour of physical activity, and 0 sugary drinks.

 

The Clearinghouse has helped to tweak this messaging so that it applies specifically to military families. 5210 Healthy Military Children includes information about making healthy food purchases at commissaries and tips for eating in military dining facilities, as well as signage and handouts for base personnel to display in areas such as fitness centers, community centers, or near water fountains.  Because the messaging of 5210 directly applies to the work the Clearinghouse supports, the concepts are woven throughout other projects. The toolkits are available for immediate download and distribution to both military and non-military communities.

 

These initiatives represent just a small slice of the work the Clearinghouse is doing every month to provide you with the right tools and information to keep our military families strong. To begin offering these programs for military children (or any of our other evidence-based programs), contact us today and our staff of proactive problem solvers can help you address the challenges facing our military families.