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Military Parenting — From Family Leave to Child Care Options and Beyond

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Military kids are special — and so are their parents. Raising a child amid the pace of military life can be a challenge at times. As an extended family member or friend, you may wonder how your service member and their family manages it all. Like anyone with children, military parents need a strong support system. In addition to friends and family, military parents have the entire military community on their side.

Learn about parenting resources available to service members and military spouses and how taking advantage of these benefits can help them and their child thrive.

Resources for military parents

The Defense Department offers support for every stage of parenting, from preparing for a baby through their child’s teenage years. Here are just a few:

  • Parental leave. Active-duty birth mothers may take six weeks of maternity leave and an additional six weeks if they are the child’s primary caregiver. Service members who are new parents but not the child’s primary caregiver may be eligible for 21 days of leave. This does not count against your service member’s leave balance.
  • Support for new parents. Your service member may be eligible for the New Parent Support Program, which offers home visits, prenatal and parenting classes and playgroups. Military OneSource’s New MilParent Specialty Consultation offers individualized, confidential support for parents who are expecting or who have children up to age 5.
  • Specialty consultations can help with sleep issues, developing a routine, finding child care and more. Your service member can contact Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to learn about these and other free programs for service members who are new parents.
  • Child care options. These range from child development centers to school-age and after-school programs. Learn more about child care and activities for older kids, such as 4-H Military Partnerships and installation youth centers.
  • Quality education. The Department of Defense Education Activity operates schools both overseas and within the U.S. These schools are ranked above the national average according to standardized test scores. If your service member’s child attends school in their community, the School Liaison Program can help smooth transitions and more.

Self-care for military parents

Anyone who has ever witnessed a toddler tantrum or dealt with a sullen teenager knows that parenting can be stressful. Your service member may be far from family who can step in to help.

If you don’t live close by, you can still offer a listening ear. Encourage your loved one to be kind to themselves. That means eating healthy, getting regular physical exercise and taking a break when they feel overwhelmed. Know that when your service member is feeling stressed, they have free access to resources such as non-medical counseling so they can talk out their parenting challenges.

If your service member becomes a single parent while in the military or is part of a dual-military couple, they are required to create a family care plan. This document details arrangements for child care during deployment and other absences due to military duty. This ensures the child is taken care of and their parent can focus on their mission.

While service members and military spouses navigate their parenting journeys, Military OneSource is on standby to connect them with resources, information and support. Check out more articles and information on parenting and children.

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