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Celebrating the military child

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Parents join their children for breakfast at the Main Child Development Center to kick off the Month of the Military Child, April 3, 2017, on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The Month of the Military Child was established to highlight the important role children play in the Armed Forces community. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Parents join their children for breakfast at the Main Child Development Center to kick off the Month of the Military Child, April 3, 2017, on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The Month of the Military Child was established to highlight the important role children play in the Armed Forces community. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Families and child development center staff gather together to kick off the Month of the Military Child at the Main CDC, April 3, 2017, on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The Month of the Military Child was established to highlight the important role children play in the Armed Forces community. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Families and child development center staff gather together to kick off the Month of the Military Child at the Main CDC, April 3, 2017, on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The Month of the Military Child was established to highlight the important role children play in the Armed Forces community. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Military children have unique challenges: permanent-change-of-station moves, a parent’s absence due to deployments and training activities, unfamiliar environments, and uncertain schedules.

In 1986, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger established April as Month of the Military Child to highlight the important role children play in the Armed Forces community. It recognizes some 1.9 million U.S. military children ranging in age from infants to 18 years old who have one or both parents serving in the military.

The month-long celebration of military children not only recognizes their sacrifices, but also celebrates their resiliency, talents, strengths and contributions to their military community and their country.

“It’s an opportunity for us to see the child as a vital, contributing member of the military community,” said Karen Kirshenbaum, Ed.D., and Maria Simpson, child development center trainers.

Both trainers have dedicated their careers to early childhood education for military children – Kirshenbaum for 42 years and Simpson for 25 years. Being spouses of military members and parents themselves, they fully understand the challenges military children face, and they’re invaluable resources for teachers and parents.

“The military child learns to be resilient at quite an early age, especially today, because their deployed parent is just as likely to be their mother as their father. Some children have a difficult time with that separation from the mother,” Kirshenbaum said.

They’ll notice and understand when a child might be going through a rough patch and be able to offer helpful suggestions to their teacher and parent on how to help them better cope.

“When my children were small, they exchanged cassette tapes with their deployed dad,” said Simpson, who acknowledged that today’s social media can ease the absence and distance when children can see their parent’s face and have a conversation with them in real time.

A month of recognition and celebration

The National Association for the Education of Young Children, an agency that inspects and accredits early childhood education centers like the CDCs, will celebrate the “Week of the Young Child” April 24-28. In the Armed Forces, we dedicate the entire month of April 2017 as “Month of the Military Child,” celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers and families.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for military children to see themselves as part of the larger community and to learn that they’re an important part of that military family, the military community, and the country,” said Kirshenbaum. “As part of that, we want military children to learn who their community helpers are and what they do. And it’s good for young children to see people filling roles not traditional to their gender.”

In facilitating that learning, Kirshenbaum and Simpson invite parents and other male and female professionals on base to make plans to come to the CDCs throughout the month to educate the kids about what they do. One important suggestion they gave was to remind participants to tailor their presentations to the age of their audience.
Here at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, the child development centers – Main and Pete East – and the R. P. Lee Youth Center will celebrate Month of the Military Child with a rich variety of activities and special events.

The Month of the Military Child celebration began with Col. David Wilson, 21st Force Support Squadron commander, and Dorothy Choate, 21st FSS deputy director, reading aloud the April 2017 Month of the Military Child Proclamation at a breakfast for children and their parents, April 3, in the CDC classrooms.

The CDCs have exciting things planned for the whole month, each week with its own special theme and activities. Each Friday at 3 p.m., parents are invited to join their child in music, dance, an outdoor obstacle course, cardboard rally and art fest.

If you would like to educate our military youth in April about your role in our community or for more information about Child and Youth Programs, please call the CDC Main at 719-554-9577, the Pete East CDC at 719-556-7460 or the Youth Center at 719-556-7220. Ask to speak to the trainer on staff. For more information on special events during the Month of the Military Child, visit https://www.21fss.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/April-2017-MOMC-Calendar-black-lettering.pdf

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