Family life for children with serving parents
When a member of the armed forces moves for work, their families often move with them. Moves can occur across the UK and in some cases abroad. Postings can last in each area for a few years before the individual moves jobs (and often location) again.
The armed forces provide accommodation for families should they wish to take this. The houses can be located on site where the parent works or within the local area.
The frequent moves experienced by armed forces families can present a number of challenges for school age children, especially if the child is moving around exam time or has been diagnosed with special educational needs or a disability. It can be hard emotionally to say good-bye to friends and begin the process of making new ones, particularly if the family move during a school term.
'Kin and Country – Growing up as an Armed Forces child'
The Children’s Commissioner's report 'Kin and Country – Growing up as an Armed Forces child' June 2018 looks at the lives of children who grow up within military families. Although most children are growing up happy, the report highlights that the lifestyle can be tough, with frequent school moves leaving children feeling unsettled and anxious. Below are some of the children’s quotes from the report:
- "I've moved nearly every two years. I've never finished a school! ... I've just been moving around a lot with my family, I've moved from Germany to Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland to England, so I've moved houses so many times" (12 year old girl)
- "I had so many friends that used to live near me, my next-door neighbour was my best friend, it was really sad" (10 year old boy)
- "For me, when you're older it's not so much about making new friends, it's about the potential for messing up your life... ... will I have to change my [GCSE] options, will I get to go to the 6th form I want?" (15 year old boy)
Herefordshire has a garrison based in the county and there is a good sense of community within the serving families based here. Whilst this means a large number of our families are based here there is a significant element of serving members working away from the county and this in itself brings issues such as children missing parents and parents missing out on significant family events.
- The SCiP Alliance has created a briefing report describing the effects non-operational separation can have on families.
- For further reading, the Naval Families Federation alongside King’s Centre for Military Health Research, have looked into the effect of non-operational family separations or ‘weekending’.
Deployment is another part of military life families have to face. A deployment can occur nationally or internationally and can be for months at a time.
- In some situations a parent may have limited contact with their child due to the sensitivity of their work. This lack of contact can provoke stress and worry for a child, particularly if the parent is going to a high-risk area.
- After longer periods of deployment, service individuals are granted periods of R&R (rest and recuperation), where they have time off to spend with family. This time may not coincide with school holidays which may result in term-time absence requests.
- The Ministry of Defence Directorate Children and Young People (DCYP) has written to head teachers around term time absences.
- The Service Children in State Schools Handbook (PDF) outlines what life can be like as part of a military family.