A military lifestyle comes with many challenges for military families. The most common struggle is family separation due to deployment and training. Nothing hurts more than seeing a parent and child being separated. Deployed service members leave behind a partner and a family, which includes children in many cases. Young children need the care of their parents to grow and thrive.
Sometimes, a service member is separated from their child, leaving the child in the care of another parent or a designated caregiver. The real challenge comes when the military member is a single parent. In this blog, we’ll talk about the struggles of single parents in the military, what they face, and how we can help them cope better.
Single Parents in the Military – Facts
Around 8% of the entire military population accounts for single military parents. Although the U.S. Army does not allow single parents to enlist, there are approximately 37,000 single parents in the military, and about 8,300 of them are deployed far away from their children. Most of these soldiers have become single after they enlisted in the Army due to divorce, separation, or death of their partner. In many cases, if a single parent wants to join the Army, they need to renounce their child’s custody before joining.
The U.S. Army does accommodate the needs of single military parents, but only to some extent. Many still try hard to make ends meet for themselves and their children. When a single military parent is deployed, Army regulations mandate all single parents or dual-military parents to have a Family Care Plan, designating another responsible adult to become the caregiver of the child/ren while the Soldier is deployed. Sometimes caregivers could be non-blood relations or strangers and in an environment completely new to the child. Leaving your child under someone else’s care and missing watching them grow up is heartbreaking for any parent.
Challenges faced by a Single Military Parent
There is an incredible burden on the shoulders of a single military parent to be an excellent service member and a dependable parent. Some of the challenges that single military parents face include but are not limited to:
- Being separated from children: Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment for a single military parent is when they have to say goodbye to their children, not knowing when they will see them again. Single military parents have to entrust their children’s care to a co-parent, grandparent(s), or another person of their choice, hoping their child will get the love and attention they deserve.
- Dual responsibility of a service member and a parent: Military parents always have to juggle between being good parents and providing good Service. Many supplemental issues like financial problems and food insecurity make it even harder for single parents in the military to battle through life. Since they are the sole earners, it is harder for them to provide for their children, especially for those with multiple children.
- Custody rights issues: When single parents return from deployment, their child might prefer staying with the new custodial parent or the custodial parent may not want the child to return to the Service Member. When these situations occur, the single military parent may face custody battles. This isn’t fair to the single military parent having to choose between their job to protect and serve or lose their children. Depending on the custody outcome, it can also mean that they might never get the chance to reconnect with their children.
- Mental health problems: The frequent moves, separation anxiety, financial burden, career demands, and added loneliness can take a toll on a single military parent’s mental health. Although optimism and perseverance can help single military parents ease their hardships, many might still need professional help from therapists and mental health counselors. Being mentally unfit can also lead to poor military performance and discharge from the military.
Effects of Separation on Children with Single Military Parents
A parent-child relationship is one of the most critical factors that influence a child’s upbringing. Children need their parents to grow up healthy and live a normal life. This is particularly true for younger children. Having a secure attachment to a responsible father or mother figure at home gives a child the confidence to do well at school, live a good social life, and grow up around people who provide the utmost love and affection. Even though caregivers might try to love and support the child in the same manner as the parent would, children tend to remind themselves that their birth parents left them behind. Thus, they may feel neglected and lonely, which can cause mental health disorders like anxiety, overpowering fears, and PTSD.
Support Networks for Single Military Parents
As a single parent, you need to have a group of peers, colleagues, or family members that you can rely on to help you combat all the challenges you face every day. Single military parents can contact their Family Resource Center (FRC), Army Community Service, or Military One Source. FRCs have programs specially designed to help single parents in the military provide for their children and lead a good life.
How You Can Help Single Military Parents
We Are One! Incorporation is committed to helping single parents in the military. We invite you to join us in our mission to help us reach our goals for this year. Our goal is to collect $3,000 in financial assistance, $4,000 worth of deployment care packages, $3,000 worth of clothing gift certificates, and $3,000 worth of food gift certificates by December 15, 2020, which will be distributed amongst military families, as well as single service members. Our distribution is set to start in August 2020. The theme for our military campaign in August is “Clothing Needs of Military Members,” and we hope that together we can make it a big success like this month’s Food Insecurity campaign.
Please visit our website, weareoneca.org, to learn more and make a donation today!
If you are an individual who can empathize with the pain of single parents in the military or a corporate donor wishing to make a difference in the world, come work with us. Your collaboration can help stabilize their lives and ease their hardships.
We offer our sincerest gratitude for your collaboration and hope that we can thrive in our mission to help our impacted heroes return to the lifestyle they deserve.