I’m a parent of a new student in your district and wanted to take just a moment of your time to introduce my student and myself, as well as to draw your attention to the calendar of events in the local schools.
My family is new to your district this year because we have recently relocated to the area. No, not just from across town, but many, many miles away. We are here alone, far from home and family members because my spouse answered the call to serve our country.
We are a military family. Therefore, your new student is a military child. On the military child fact sheet on the AASA, The School Superintendents Association website, I discovered that he is just one of the 1.2 military children of active duty members worldwide, of which 80% attend public schools throughout the United States. Seems like a lot, right? I thought so too!
Military kids are often described as resilient because of the obstacles they face throughout their lives with frequent moves and dealing with a parent (or in some families both parents) being gone for extended periods of time due to deployments. It truly is a blessing to have military kids at the schools in your district as they bring a wide range of experiences from around the world into your classrooms.
Our family is delighted to be a contributing part of the school community. I can see by the school calendar of events that the administrators and staff across all of the schools in the district work hard to encourage families to be a part of the school and the student’s education.
I did want to take just a moment of your time to draw your attention to some of the events on the school calendar that bring heartache to the children in your school that are in military families:
Muffins with Mom
Donuts with Dad
Goodies with Grandparents
I have no doubt that these school family events are all scheduled with good intentions. It is clear that for traditional families who are local to the community this can be a great time and a way to build lasting memories.
Unfortunately for many military families, these events are a harsh reminder of the sacrifice our family pays for serving our country.
School events that promote bringing a specific family member are hard on military children. As a military spouse, these school celebrations are a magnifying glass on the person that is missing.
What I have also noticed in just the first week of school is how diverse our community is. The number of families that fall into a “traditional” category seem to be the minority as many kids are coming from nontraditional homes.
I am certain there are other students in your schools who have an emotional response to these events because they do not have family members who can participate. Foster children or kids from single parent homes are also included in the group for whom these days bring heartbreak and create a feeling of isolation from their peers.
So what can be done?
As a military spouse I am not unfamiliar with standing in to fill the roll of both parents, but being a mom in a room full of dads eating donuts, the heartache is all the more highlighted.
The other suggestion provided by schools is to have another male figure stand-in for a father who is unavailable. For the uncle, grandfather or family friend who steps-in to this event there are then a plethora of questions for both the child and the visitor by unassuming classmates, parents and staff. It is a constant reminder throughout the event that someone is missing.
While it would be easy to keep my child home on these days, that does not solve the exclusionary problem at large.
Military families face problems head-on, so that is why I am calling your attention to this issue and asking for a different solution.
My solution is not to dissolve the events. Asking for these days to be eliminated from the school calendar to shield the kids who feel the hurt of the missing family pieces only takes away the opportunity to make memories for others.
Inviting family members to participate in school events is wonderful.
My solution: rename the events and drop the specified family member. A simple renaming of these events to allow room for the dual working parent family, the same-gendered parent homes, the homes where grandparents have stepped in to fill the parent roll, the family of the foster child, and the military family to participate without the label, the questions, and the heartache.
I’ll leave the naming up to you, but I think you will quickly see how easy it can be. If you need some inspiration, School Leaders Now has wonderful list suggestions, such as
- Sharing Day with Someone We Love
- Goodies with Grownups
- Special Treats with Special Guests
- Muffins in the Morning
If your invitation is not exclusive and isolating, your event will more successfully foster community for all of your students. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the goal?
Our family looks forwarding to the widening of the event names and to a great year ahead.
All the best,
Your Newest Military Family