Did you know calling military children “brats” is a term of endearment and has been used for at least 100 years? In the beginning, the British Regiment Attached Travelers (BRAT) were families who traveled overseas with a soldier. Over time, the name referred only to military children. The name was catchy and was adopted elsewhere, including the US.
There are more than 1.6 million BRATS today. They face many unique experiences and challenges. One major trial is always being on the move! Military families move on an average of every two to three years. Each move includes changes in a new installation, environment, house, school, and friends. Military moves can be a stressful time on the families of our service members.
Often times, military moves can include a deployed parent. Research has found that BRATS of deployed parents have a higher rate of mental health issues, compared to civilian children. Worrying about the safety of a parent can lead to anxiety and depression.
"We have seen the importance of impacting military kids in our own children's lives as my husband served in the military and deployed as an Army Chaplain. In reality, the whole family serves and experiences the hardships and stressors of the military life," says military wife and mom, Teree Solomon.
It's not just the kids who experience extra stressors with military life. Military marriages are also affected by those same struggles and stresses, including low wage earnings. Considerable time apart from a spouse can make it even more difficult for military couples to work through marriage troubles. US service men and women are even more likely to divorce than married couples without one member serving in the military. In fact, the divorce rate among active duty service members is close to double the average national divorce rate.
So what can you and your church do to help our nation's military families? How can you help them connect with your community, help invest in their family and strengthen their marriages?
How about hosting a "Parents Night Out"? These fun events have benefits for kids and parents: Kids get an opportunity to join other kids with tons of engaging games and activities centered around a fun theme... all in a safe, fun environment, surrounded by dedicated and caring volunteers from your church! For parents, it's a few hours away from the kids for a rare date night, to run errands or work on projects around the house without interruption, or even relax and take a much needed nap.
No matter what parents choose to do with their night "off", your church will be demonstrating your church's love for their family in a tangible way. Remember, the tempo of military life can be stressful on a military family through time away, extended work days, stress, moves, deployments, etc. A quarterly Parents Night Out can help to be a constant in an everchanging environment. This can lead to other weekly programs to minister to the military family.
IMPACT Military KiDS! is here to help you as reach out to minister to military children. We would love to connect and help you brainstorm how to effectively impact this group of children!