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Military Youth & Teens

Overview

Making sure military children are cared for and ensuring that a variety of programs and services are in place to support the unique needs of military children and youth is a high priority of the Defense Department. Child and Youth programs and initiatives are designed to support military youth as their needs change over time — so that military parents and children thrive every step of the way.

Whether it’s connecting with peers, getting settled in a new home, finding recreational opportunities or expanding on STEM or robotics interests, the DOD understands that it’s important to engage military youth and teens in extracurricular activities and interests in which they feel grounded and understood.

School liaisons can assist with your child’s school transition.

School liaisons are your primary point of contact for all school-related matters, especially a school transition. The school liaison at your current installation can connect you to your new installation school liaison who will help smooth the transition to your child’s new school. Let your school liaison help you and your family navigate school selection, registration and youth sponsorship during this time of change.

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Connect your child to installation youth and teen programs

Youth and teen programs are designed to support military children as they cross the bridge from childhood into adulthood. Child and youth programs provide developmentally appropriate places for your child to socialize and grow, as well as provide space to help young people make friends, stay active and develop new skills. Check out programs exclusive to military families that keep your youth and teen engaged in inspiring activities.

Youth Programs and centers

Active-duty service members, National Guard and reserve members and Defense Department civilians may all take advantage of youth and teen programs, both on and off installations. Your local youth center offers a variety of military youth and teen programs — from computer labs and music rooms to gyms, game rooms and more. Youth centers are available on every installation where families PCS and are staffed with trained professionals who understand how to connect with youth and support them through moves and deployment. The continuity of programming is important to help military-connected youth make smooth transitions between installations and develop meaningful connections in their new communities.

Encourage your youth to engage with their local youth center.

Youth sports and fitness programs are designed to engage youth in fun activities that enhance their emotional, physical, social and educational well-being. They are offered in a variety of settings, including leagues, camps, clinics or instructional formats, and are supervised and organized based on age, developmental level and physical ability.

Open recreation time is available after school and on weekends on a drop-in basis and is also available during the summer and school vacations. Children and teens can drop by and hang out with friends in an environment with caring, professional adults. Open rec times also have scheduled activities, such as cooking lessons and homework and tutoring help. Your local installation youth center also offers a variety of youth development programs that emphasize leadership and service, education and STEM (or science, technology, engineering and math) programs, health and wellness, and the arts.

Installation youth programs offer a variety of instructional programs, including gymnastics, martial arts, dance, music and theater.

Children and youth programs offered through military partnerships

If your closest military installation youth/teen center is not conveniently located near your home or duty station, you can still benefit from other military youth and teen programs in your area. The DOD partners with several organizations to offer additional programming and options for military-connected youth.

Military partnership programs offer children between the ages of 6 and 18 a solid support network that provides a sense of belonging, ongoing relationships with caring adults and a safe and healthy environment to develop lifelong skills. They help military youth build resilience, independence and leadership skills that will serve them throughout their lives.

Explore offerings from Boys & Girls Clubs of America, 4-H, National Military Family Association and more.

The U.S. Armed Forces has partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 30 years to help support children of military families with youth development programs, curriculums and activities. Boys & Girls Clubs of America programming includes education and workforce readiness programs, such as:

  • Mission Youth Outreach — a free membership to local Boys & Girls Clubs for military youth ages 6 to 18 who do not live near or have access to a military youth center
  • Military Youth of the Year — a program honoring for exemplary military teens who have overcome setbacks, demonstrated exceptional character and accomplishments, and are prepared to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood
  • CareerLaunch — a program to help youth ages 13 to 18 to explore careers, assess skills and preparedness for postsecondary education or joining the workforce, and navigate college and job-search resources
  • Money Matters — a program for youth ages 13 to 18 to learn how to manage a checking account, create a budget, start a small business, pay for college, and save and invest
  • diplomas2Degrees — a program designed to prepare high schoolers for college and career success by helping teens develop both short- and long-term goals and prepare for postsecondary education through experiences such as college tours
  • Summer Brain Gain — a program to encourage summer learning and keep youth engaged in reading through one-week themed modules for elementary, middle school and high school students
  • MyFuture — a program that teaches foundational technology skills and develops computer literacy
  • Torch Club — a citizenship and leadership program open to preteens 11-13 years of age that focuses activities on service to the Club and the greater community, health and fitness, education and social recreation
  • BGCA Military Youth of the Year: Inspiring Authenticity, Confidence and Courage Video

4-H Military Partnership brings the resources of land grant universities to military youth programs. These resources include youth development professionals, research-based curricula and high-quality training and technical assistance for installation youth programs staff.

Military youth can join 4-H clubs in their community and also participate in summer camps around the country. 4-H offers a wealth of resources in STEM subjects, healthy living, citizenship, public speaking and other military core program areas providing valuable life skills, curriculum and resources for military youth and teens across the country and around the world.

Military teen adventure camps offer high energy and high adventure experiences across the United States. These camps include excursions like sailing, kayaking and survival experiences and are available to teens ages 13 to 18. Deployment support camps provide a safe space where your youth or teen can build a supportive network of other military youth who may have similar experiences.

The Armed Services YMCA offers a range of programs for military families, including:

  • Operation Hero After-School Program — This free after-school program is designed for military children in grades 2-8 to help students cope and adjust to the unique challenges of military life, such as frequent moves and deployment separation.
  • Operation Camp — These fun and educational day and residential camps encourage healthy living and recreation.

Operation Purple® Camp brings together military children from all services to connect with peers who have similar experiences, like frequent moves, deployed parents and even a parent’s injury. Youth enjoy kayaking, horseback riding and service activities to help the community.

Operation Purple Family Retreats® helps families each year reunite and reintegrate after deployments. Families can unplug and relax and also attend organized activities to help strengthen and renew their relationships.

Operation Purple Healing Adventures® serves families each year through family retreats designed specifically to help families of wounded, ill or injured service members. These long-weekend experiences help families adjust to their “new normal” and rediscover family fun and togetherness.

Service-specific child and youth programs

Every branch of the military service has its own children and youth program which offers instructional, recreational and educational youth programs. The youth programs listed below are provided at most installations. Service-level child and youth programs provide these age-appropriate activities in a structured setting either on or off the installation. Check out your service-specific program.

Visit MyArmyBenefits to review all programs available to Army families.

You can also connect to your local installation youth programs/center through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Visit Marine Corps Community Services child and youth programs for a list of programs offered through MCCS.

You can also connect to your local installation youth programs/center through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Navy child and youth programs offer youth recreational services for children and youth through 18 years.

You can also connect to your local installation youth programs/center through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Learn more about Department of the Air Force child development and youth programs available from birth through age 18.

You can also connect to your local installation youth programs/center through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Visit the Army National Guard Child and Youth Services to learn about youth programs available to National Guard families.

You can also connect to your local installation youth programs/center through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

More National Guard youth resources

The Military Family Readiness System serves National Guard and reserve families. The program educates unit and family members about their benefits and entitlements, including participation in Child and Youth programs. You can find out more about family programs and eligibility for Military OneSource services, as well as learn about your family’s benefits through the Military and Family Support Center nearest you.

Help your child transition

Even though military youth and teens are used to moving, they may still experience some apprehension. Military OneSource and military installations provide information to make the moving process smoother for youth and teens. Check out the many ways you can support all aspects of a move:

Moving support — Military OneSource offers a variety of ways you can make the move easier for your military childrenSchool liaisons can help with all of your educational needs. School liaisons are the main contact for military families, local school systems and installation command for school-related matters pre-K through 12. Local school liaisons help with transition support before and after a PCS and assist military-connected children with Interstate Compact compliance. For more education information and resources, review Changing Schools.

Help your children and teens to make smooth transitions to their new home and school. Military installations offer youth sponsorship to facilitate the integration of military-connected youth and teens into new surroundings when making a PCS to a new installation. The program is primarily directed toward preteens and teens. Most sponsorship programs offer outreach (providing youth/parents information on the local area, schools and activities), newcomer orientation to share programs and services available on installation and in the surrounding community, as well as peer-to-peer connection at the gaining installation.

Your new installation’s youth center can make the referral for youth sponsorship before your move.

Your local school liaison can also assist with youth sponsorship referrals to ensure a smooth transition for your child to new schools and to help connect youth to peers who are already participating in the installation, school or community programs.

Military OneSource offers resources to help your teen land a job and be a reliable employee. Learn more about how to help your MilTeen prep for success. Installation youth centers can also assist teens with employment opportunities

Help your teen stay on track for future plans. Learn more about higher education resources for your children. School liaisons can help connect you with education resources before and after your move to help your teen stay on track.

Help your children learn how to develop healthy ways to deal with stress and life’s curveballs. The Military and Family Life Counseling Program can help with a parent’s deployment, a family move or the general pressures of teen life.

Your military community offers you and your family a broad range of resources and services to help your youth and teens thrive in school and beyond.

Parents and youth can rely on youth centers to be a supportive and consistent place to hang out — no matter where the military takes them. The continuity of programming between installations and connection to community are valuable benefits to help your youth make a smooth transition between installations. Youth programs are just one aspect of benefits available to your military-connected child or teen. Discover more ways you can help your military youth and teens transition and explore the wealth of child and youth education and employment benefits available.

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Resources, benefits and Military OneSource services for Military Youth & Teens

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