As the school year winds down, parents of seniors across the country are bracing themselves for the next step their children are choosing to take on their life journey.
Perhaps no other step is as vitally important (and noble) as the one a young man or woman takes when they decide to serve their country, as an enlisted member of the armed forces.
If you’re a parent of a child who has decided to head to a community college or four-year university, advice and helpful tips on making that transition are all over the internet. From dorm supply lists to what to expect their freshman year, support and advice abound.
Ease the transition from civilian mom to military mom
But what about the brave moms and dads packing up their kids for bootcamp? What can they expect, and how do they prepare to send their kids off to armed forces without fear and anxiety.
Below are some tips to ease the transition from civilian mom to military mom. Be sure to check with their specific branch of service to ensure you are following their communication rules.
7 tips for parents whose kids are enlisting in the armed forces
1. Visit the recruiting office and/or recruiter with them.
Even if your child went solo and enlisted on the spot after meeting with a recruiter, go back with them and visit again. (This is if your child enlisted before age 18. After age 18, recruiters have no obligation to answer a parent’s questions.) Just like you would tour a college to meet with advisors and ask tons of questions, do the same thing at the recruitment center, and don’t leave until all of your questions have been duly answered, and you feel comfortable in the enlistment process.
2. Mail. Mail. And more mail.
Writing letters and sending care packages are crucial during bootcamp. They don’t need to be anything Pulitzer worthy, just a simple “I’m proud of you” postcard, and a small gift or food item (make sure to check package rules, each branch of the armed forces has difference care packager rules during boot camp) will suffice. Remember no perfume, glitter, or stickers on or in mail. Try it send 2-3 letters or cards a week, because bootcamp is a lonely place, and any handwritten letter from home is a treat. When they’re finally at their assignment location, you may want to switch to the Sandbox App.
3. Download the Sandboxx App
Developed by veterans, this brilliant app on your smartphone allows you to write letters and send pictures to your loved ones at bootcamp, or wherever they’re stationed anywhere in the world. Even though digital communication and email is the norm now, real paper letters are still the number one source to uplift morale of our service men and women. With the Sandbox App, your letters and photos are printed out and delivered to your loved one at mail call time, without needing access to email on their part. There are several apps and mail services out there, so shop around and find one that works for you.
4. First phone call home will be tough.
Your son or daughter will be out of touch for several days at first, but will then be allowed to make one phone call home. Depending on the branch of service they’re in, and what their Drill Sergeant permits, when exactly you will first hear from them will vary. It’s not uncommon for them to be reading from a script, and for their voices to be unrecognizable. Try if you can to just talk over them some, telling them how proud you are, how much you miss and love them, and how you can’t wait to see them at graduation.
5. Remind them they can still go to college.
If applicable, encouraging your enlisted child to pursue a college degree while serving is a terrific idea. All branches offer some type of continuing education, vocational and/or technical certifications, or the ability to complete an A.A. or Bachelor’s degree while serving- all at a reduced tuition cost.
6. Support them seeing the world.
This may be the only chance they’ll ever get to see the world, so be as positive as you can if they choose to be (or randomly) get stationed on the other side of the planet. Be proud that you raised a fearless human who embraces that kind of opportunity with confidence and excitement.
7. Joining a parental support group is VITAL.
Your child’s recruiter will be able to connect you with any number of local support groups for military moms and dads. Also, seek out a Blue Star Mothers of America group (BSMA)– a nonprofit organization which was formed during WWII, and provides support for those with sons and daughters in the military. A quick search on Facebook can also link you up with military parent support group pages, as well as connecting you with other parents who have a child serving directly with yours. Your child’s post will also have a website, and often support group connections can be made there.
Advice from the Military Mama Network
Geriann Wiesbrook, founder of MilitaryMamaNetwork™, has the following advice for getting through boot camp and the beginning of deployment.
- Get with a support group who will help you support your child and you, and one that sends boxes (or will help you send them) to your child, but also will provide accurate information in a timely manner.
- Before your child deploys, ask them if they want strangers sending them supplies and goodies, because some don’t.
- Stay busy.
- Don’t watch the news.
- This may be a good time to undertake a project that will require mental focus, like redoing a room, a boot camp of your own for fitness, finances or a hobby you’ve neglected.
- For both situations, ask your child what/how they want to be communicated with if something happens with the family. Get all their various online account information like logins and passwords, especially if you are their power of attorney. If you aren’t, ask them who is their power of attorney. These type of decisions are made as pre-deployment readiness, as well as the requirement of having your child prepare a will.
Finally, Wiesbrook suggests we remind ourselves that our children entering the military have decided to serve our country in the most selfless way. It is a serious undertaking. They will be busy, distracted, and sometimes have a game face on that parents may never understand.
Their busyness or changing priorities doesn’t mean they don’t love you. It means they are doing what they need to do to meet the expectation of their service.
Read how this young man is joining the army in Joining the Army: An 18 Year Old and His Mom