According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, about half of all American soldiers have children younger than 18. Being a parent in military service can be an enormous gift for your family. As you learn meaningful life lessons, you can pass them on to your children and grandchildren. This helps you connect with your kids and leave behind a strong legacy.
Take Care Of Your Body
In many areas of the military, you have to be agile, strong and fit. Veterans know the importance of physical fitness. They also know that honing their physical health can help them get through mental obstacles.
Kids often take the easy way out when it comes to physical fitness. They tire easily, especially if they’re bored or excessively challenged. Encourage your kids to get plenty of physical activity every day, and cheer them on when they want to quit.
Persevering in the face of physical discomfort can be a great way to strengthen your mental resolve too.
Get Back Up Again
Basic training is similar to learning how to ride a bike. You’re going to fall and fail over and over again. Each time, someone is there to incite you to get back up.
In the military, you’re tested over and over again. You see yourself grow and gain confidence every time you pass one of those tests.
Give your child challenges, and support his pride when he succeeds. This will reassure him that it’s ok to fall short as long as you try your best and get back on the horse again.
Take A Moment To Focus
In the military, focus can save your life. You must be able to tune out distractions and keep your bearings in chaotic situations. Teaching your children how to focus can help them ease their way through life even when things get rocky.
Encouraging a young child to focus is easier said than done, however. The Muse explains that a simple military trick can help you teach someone how to focus. Tell your child to stop and observe the environment. Look at it, listen to it and smell it.
This technique can help kids stop reacting to triggering stimuli, be present with what’s in front of them and block distractions.
You Have To Adapt To Survive
When you show up to basic training, you’re thrown into a foreign environment, and you have to make it work. You do that by being flexible and adapting.
In an article published by American Express, veteran Tim Best explains that life doesn’t feel right in the military if things stay the same for too long. You’re obligated to adapt to changing environments, such as moving to a different base, taking on a new role or deploying to a different location. Life is like that too, except that many people have enough control to keep themselves in a stagnant environment to stay comfortable.
Get Comfortable With Discomfort
Speaking of which, many people never do what they really want to do because change is uncomfortable. One thing that a veteran can teach a child is that the biggest achievements can come from pushing through discomfort and coming out the other side.
When you join the armed forces, you’re not given a chance to get comfortable. You’re thrown in, and you have to adapt to survive. That transformation happens whether or not it feels challenging. To experience the greatest joys, you often have to confront your fears.
If you shy away from discomfort, you might not feel the deepest lows, but you might also never experience the extreme highs that life can offer. Even Forbes reports that feeling uncomfortable is the key to success.
How can you teach a child to be comfortable with discomfort? Expose him or her to new things. Routine is important, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Remember how much you have gained from immersing yourself in new experiences, and draw upon those recollections when your child asks to do something new.
Kids don’t like to take the blame for a misdeed, especially when they made a mistake or did something wrong by accident. If a child hurts another one unintentionally, the first words out of her mouth might be, “I didn’t do it.”
In the military, this doesn’t fly. Veterans can teach their children to own up to their behavior. One way to tell a child to respond if she makes a mistake is to say, “I did it, and I’m sorry.”
Etiquette Matters, And Discipline Is Crucial
Manners and etiquette are important in the military. You’re taught to be well-groomed and keep a tidy environment. You’re also expected to be punctual, show respect for your superiors, make eye contact when speaking with others and conduct yourself appropriately for the situation.
You can pass along all of these values to your children. Etiquette is essential for your personal discipline as well as the health of an organization as a whole.
The armed forces wouldn’t be able to operate without discipline. There are too many people and too many moving parts to allow loose cogs in the machine. A certain protocol must be followed to maintain order.
Just as in life, there are plenty of chances to deal with spontaneity. If you establish routines and follow guidelines when you can, you’ll bounce back when life throws you a curve ball.
Rituals Are Important
If a military colors ceremony takes place while a Marine is outside, that individual must stop everything, turn toward the sound of the music and salute. Rituals breed unity and connection. They also bring familiarity to potentially unfamiliar circumstances.
Veterans can teach children about the importance of rituals by setting up their own family customs. This may be especially important while you’re deployed because that can upset the routine. Rituals can help give children a sense of security when things around them are changing.
Some rituals that military personnel can start while they’re still on active duty is to mark the spot on the globe where they’re being deployed next, have your kids help you pack and make recordings of yourself reading their favorite books.
If you’re a veteran, you can highlight the importance of rituals by setting aside times that you do certain things with the family. You might eat dinner together or spend 10 minutes chatting with your child before he goes to sleep at night.
Listen As Much As You Lead
You learn a lot about leadership in the military, especially as you climb up the ranks. However, it’s just important for a leader to be able to respond quickly to orders as it is for her to give them.
If you’re a good listener, you will know how to lead the people for whom you’re responsible. You’ll be able to use motivation and inspiration instead of scare tactics to get your followers to respond.
Teamwork is also a big part of leadership. Working as part of a team doesn’t mean that you have to give up your identity, values or goals. However, it does mean that you have to set aside your personal interests if they don’t contribute to the team mentality. Sometimes, you have to make sacrifices for the collective to grow.
You can help your children learn leadership and teamwork by encouraging them to become involved in extracurricular activities or sports. They’ll realize that they can work on their personal ambitions at the same time as they acquire the skills that will help them become successful in just about any setting for the rest of their lives.
Loyalty Always Pays You Back
Loyalty to your country, supervisors and unit is imperative in the military. It helps you commit even when you feel like quitting. Loyalty also creates a supportive relationship. When you’re loyal to others, you can count on them to have your back when you need them.
Going through hard times with others can improve your bond. Veterans learn a lot about unconditional loyalty through their experiences.
You can talk to your kids about the importance of loyalty. Children can practice this when they’re dealing with social situations in which they might turn on a close friend or fail to support someone who has been there for them in the past. You can also help your kids be loyal to their values by being open and approachable when they need to work through certain issues.
Freedom Shouldn’t Be Taken For Granted
Many American children don’t realize that they have many more rights and privileges than other children across the globe. As a veteran, you can explain to your kids that you have devoted yourself to protecting their freedom. This can help kids show gratitude for the opportunities that they have instead of complaining about the little things.
Veterans know that every day is important because you never know what will happen tomorrow. If you teach your kids nothing else, communicate the importance of appreciating every moment. Life is precious.