Q&A with Debbie Nichols, Founder/CEO, Military Childrens Collaborative Group

As we approach Month of the Military Child, please tell us a little about your experience as someone who became the guardian of your granddaughters when your daughter deployed.

My husband Alan and I were working empty nesters; overnight we became parents to a 6 and 10-year-old granddaughters, Ivie and Bailey. Who only visited us once or twice a year. Becoming a guardian was not like being a grandparent.

We did not live near a military base. The school we enrolled our granddaughters in had never had a military child attend. I thought our educators would be knowledgeable about the needs of a military connected student, I was wrong.

What is the one thing you wish you knew then that you know now?

No one tells you what a deployment is truly like and what to expect. Deployments are like a death in the family. You mourn for that person’s presence in your daily life. But you know they are alive, and it’s a difficult time for a military child and the family.

When our daughter returned from her deployment I thought I could hand back the children to her, like babysitting. That was not the case. My daughter needed to transition and it took time for her to adjust. When our daughter and her children returned to their home, my husband and I had a huge void.

What are some things people should be aware of when considering caring for military children?

Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day. They know their parent can be called to duty at any time.

Because they are brought up in a military lifestyle, military kids have a “suck it up” attitude when times get tough. Communication is key to enabling a military child to share how they truly feel. Just ask, “How are you doing today?”

Military children enjoy giving back; supporting other military children facing the same challenges they have had to overcome.

What resources are available to these families? 

Active duty families have more resources available then the National Guard, Reserve and Veteran families. These families have to rely on their own local community. In my community in Southern California, I began reaching out to local Veterans and Military Family Collaborative Groups and learning what organizations offer.

What can members of the community do to help these families? Where can they go to learn more?

You can acknowledge and support military children and their families in April- Month of the Military Child, May- Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day and November- Month of the Military Family Appreciation, by encouraging your schools, work, and community to show their appreciation and support through activities that help teach their peers what it means to be a military child. And throughout the year it is important to continue to say “How are you doing today?” and “Thank you for your service,” as these children are serving too.

The Military Children's Collaborative Group has toolkits and resources available to help facilitate communication with military children of all ages. You can access these on our website at www.militarychildrenscollaborativegroup.org or www.mccgroup.org.

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