Resources for Military Parents As COVID-19 Continues

Child writing on whiteboard with mom looking on

Current as of Oct. 1, 2020


Parents are facing a variety of new and ongoing challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Virus conditions keep changing, and work and school schedules vary. It’s easy to feel stressed about making the best choices for your family, and bogged down by decision fatigue.

Military OneSource is committed to helping families thrive during these challenging times. Whether you are looking for official updates from government agencies, information about virtual learning, flexible child care, or tips for taking care of yourself and your family, we’ve got you covered. Check out the following resources.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources

The CDC offers extensive resources for keeping families healthy as COVID-19 continues. The latest CDC guidance includes everything from school planning to preparing for daily activities such as running errands, playing sports, social gatherings and much more. Check out the CDC’s:

Department of Education resources

The Department of Education also offers a variety of resources to ensure students can continue to pursue their educational goals during the pandemic:

  • Resources for learning at home with links for activities from the Library of Congress, NASA, the Kennedy Space Center, the Smithsonian Institution and more
  • Pandemic relief measures in place through Dec. 31, 2020, for those who currently have Department of Education-held federal student loans

Distance learning and general wellness resources

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry provides a wide variety of resources for helping kids and parents. Links include guidelines for talking to kids about COVID-19, stress management for teens, support for parents of children with disabilities, online educational activities for kids and more.

The Department of Defense Education Activity also offers a comprehensive list of parent resources including:

  • Guidance on returning to school, with information on virtual learning options, health and safety, and frequently asked questions and answers
  • Extensive links for activities for students at home for children in prekindergarten through fifth grade, such as:
    • DODEA activities in math, science, social studies and language arts­­
    • Ideas for indoor and outdoor physical activities
    • Recipes and experiments from America’s Test Kitchen Kids
    • Programs such as EarSketch and ScratchJr that teach computer coding skills
    • Best Virtual Events with concerts, story times and classes to stream from home
    • SciShow and Sick Science! for fun science activities
    • Online museum tours, field trips, jigsaw puzzles and much more

Military OneSource resources

Learn about more COVID-19 resources on the Military OneSource COVID-19 page. Find information about a wide range of military family topics, including:

If you have questions about COVID-19 issues or any other aspect of military life, Military OneSource consultants are available to help 24/7/365. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options or schedule a live chat.

Understanding of COVID-19 continues to change, so check our Coronavirus Updates for Our Military Community page. Want to find the phone number for your installation’s housing office or Military and Family Support Center? Find those and more on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS, an online information directory for military installations worldwide. For updates and information specific to your location, visit your installation’s official website. You can also follow your installation’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram platforms.

For Department of Defense updates for the military community:

Staying Financially Fit With Financial Assistance, Counseling and Resources

Hands taking notes holding phone

Current as of Nov. 24, 2020


Your military member is trained to stay focused on the mission at hand. But personal and family concerns can make that hard to do. And financial hardship is one common stressor that is on the rise.

If your service member has seen a drop in family income due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, is struggling with managing a paycheck for the first time, or is facing money troubles for other reasons, help is available. This includes service members and their immediate family having access to free resources such as financial counseling and emergency financial assistance.

Emergency relief for service members

When money is already tight, a job loss, costly car repair or other unexpected expense can increase debt quickly. But service members who are struggling to pay the rent or utilities may qualify for short-term help.

Each branch of the service has an emergency relief organization. Depending on the circumstances, these organizations provide interest-free loans, grants or a combination of both:

Financial counseling can help now and for the future

Free financial counseling is available virtually through Military OneSource, and in person through installation programs. Financial counselors are experts in money management and are familiar with the issues that service members face. They can help your service member:

  • Come up with a plan to pay back debt
  • Take steps to resolve credit problems through referrals to appropriate military and civilian resources
  • Create a budget and control spending
  • Save for short- and long-term goals such as buying a car or home, or saving for college

Learn more about free financial management counseling options through Military OneSource.

Your service member can schedule one-on-one financial counseling through:

Free financial education builds knowledge

Military OneSource and installations offer free financial management classes, seminars, online tools and more. Your service member can check the installation’s Financial Readiness Management Programs to see what’s available. There are virtual options, too, including:

  • Money Matter courses. These 45-minute courses were developed by financial experts who understand military life. Topics cover car-buying strategies, consumer credit, developing a spending plan, investing in your future and moving in the military.
  • Consumer, business and financial publications are free for your service member through the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library. Publications include Consumer Reports, Business Plan Builder, Entrepreneurship, Morningstar Investment Research Center and Weiss Financial Ratings.

Financial protections for service members

Your service member makes many sacrifices to serve our country. Financial hardships due to the demands of active duty or unethical lenders should not be among them. That’s why the federal government has added a layer of financial protection specifically for military members.

  • The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides service members with financial and legal protections for financial hardships brought on by the demands of active duty. These range from interest rate reductions to eviction protection.
  • The Military Lending Act protects service members and their families from predatory lenders who charge high interest rates and fees.

Help your service member stay mission ready and financially fit with the help of these free resources. Your service member can find more financial tools, information and resources, including military pay charts and calculators, on Military OneSource’s Personal Finances in the Military page.

Your service member doesn’t have to face financial hardship alone. Free information, resources and counseling are available.

Creating New Holiday Traditions When Your Service Member Is Away

A service member watches her children open presents via video chat.

With your service member away and people around the world avoiding travel and large gatherings because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the holidays may feel different this year.

There are things you can do to help make the holiday special for yourself and those you love, whether your service member is stationed far from home or deployed. Sharing old traditions and creating new ones can keep the holidays fun and meaningful, and help you stay connected.

You are an important influence in your service member’s life. Sharing traditions or creating new ones during this time of year shows that you are thinking about and supporting your loved ones. This is meaningful, as they – and you – may be feeling a lot of emotions, whether they express it or not.

Creating new virtual traditions

With video get-togethers more common since the pandemic started, your service member and other loved ones are probably comfortable with online visits. Think about scheduling one or more virtual get-togethers this season. Add in some holiday fun to make them even more memorable.

Hold a virtual “potluck.” No need to bring food to this get-together, just something else to share – a toast, joke, poem or favorite holiday memory.

Create a slideshow of holidays past. Collect photos and short videos from family and friends in plenty of time to create a slideshow or video presentation of seasons past. Use screen-sharing during an online gathering to show the presentation. Half the fun will be seeing each other’s reactions and sharing memories.

Schedule a holiday game night. Create and email bingo cards for guests to print out for a holiday bingo night. Or hold a trivia night of random facts, family history or a combination of both. Look into multiplayer online games that everyone will enjoy and that will create the feeling of being there with each other.

Open presents together. Get together virtually to share the experience of opening presents. If your service member has children, read a holiday story.

Watch your favorite holiday movie at the same time. If possible, watch while using video chat or social media to comment on the best parts in real time. If holiday movies are not your thing, you could choose a television series to stream and talk about.

Other new traditions to try

Here are some more ideas to bridge the distance gap and celebrate with loved ones. See if they work for you, and share them with others in your service member’s network of support.

Design family T-shirts or hats for family members to wear one day around the holidays. Put something meaningful or fun on them and then video chat or text pictures of yourselves wearing them. Send your service member one of the T-shirts or hats ahead of time, so they can wear it on the designated day.

Send a care package or even an experience. Sending a care package is a great way to brighten your service member’s holiday season, especially if they are deployed. Or you might consider sending an experience they may remember over time. Think about giving your service member a round of golf or a gift certificate to a local restaurant.

Create a photo book. Include images of you and your service member, together and apart, from throughout the years. Make a copy for you and send a copy to them as a holiday gift to share and look through together.

Encourage your service member to get together with friends. Missing home may put a damper on wanting to celebrate, but suggesting that your loved one get together safely with buddies and newfound friends can help. Remind them to embrace the local culture whether they are in North Dakota, the Pacific region or somewhere else.

Adopt a foreign holiday tradition. If your service member is stationed abroad, research the country’s holiday traditions and incorporate one or a few into your own.

Volunteer or send a donation on behalf of your service member to a favorite charity. Your service member is serving our nation. Take their lead and volunteer over the holiday season in your local community. Or donate to an organization on behalf of your service member, something that is close to his or her heart.

Send several holiday cards in the same package. Write a different note of appreciation and love in each one. Your service member can open one card a day leading up to the holiday. See these guidelines from the Postal Service to make sure your cards get there on time.

Send a homemade ornament with pictures of you, children or cherished pets on it.

Check out these other holiday resources from Military OneSource for ideas to help spark new holiday traditions for your family and alert your service member of available resources for the holidays and beyond.

Whatever your holiday plans, make sure you and your service member set realistic expectations ahead of time. Are you expecting to talk over the holidays? Do you want to send presents? Discuss what you want, and make sure it’s doable based on your loved one’s location and operational situation. And don’t forget the postal deadlines.

Military Separation: What to Expect When Your Service Member Transitions to Civilian Life

A technician works on an electrical system

Your service member’s military career is winding down and civilian life awaits. As with all endings and new beginnings, this next stage may bring a mix of sadness, optimism, unease and excitement.

Learning what to expect during military separation and planning for what comes next can help ease anxiety, clarify goals and set your service member up for success.

How your service member may be feeling

Separating from the military isn’t merely trading one career for another; it’s a significant change that may affect nearly every aspect of life. It’s helpful to be aware of some of the ways your service member may be feeling before, during and after the transition. Your service member may be:

  • Excited about new possibilities outside of the military.
  • Overwhelmed by the number of choices ahead, including where to live and how to earn an income.
  • Mourning the loss of community, a reliable support system and the deep sense of purpose and camaraderie that comes with being in the military.

You can support your service member just by being available to listen as they sort through their feelings and work their way through the transition.

Supporting your service member during the transition to civilian life

Your service member may have clear goals for civilian life and a plan to meet each one. Or, your loved one may have little idea what to do next. There’s a lot to think about when separating from the service, so the earlier your service member begins planning, the smoother the transition will be. Some considerations include:

  • Where to live. For the first time since entering the military, your service member has unlimited choices of where to live. Will your service member return home to family? Settle in another part of the country? Rent or buy a home?You might help your service member think through the pros and cons of different areas, including employment opportunities and housing costs. Veterans may qualify for a home loan from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which may influence the decision about whether to rent or buy.
  • Whether to continue their education or enter the workforce. Some separating service members enroll in college full time, while others start their careers, launch a business or enter a training program or apprenticeship. Your service member may qualify for benefits to help with the cost of education, as well as services to help with the decision.
  • Which career field to enter. You can help your service member with this choice by talking about ways their military training, skills and experiences translate to the civilian workforce. You might ask about long-term goals, the education or training required to achieve them and which education and training benefits are available to help with the cost. With goals set, your service member can then research education or training programs and begin the application process.Or, if the plan is going directly into the workforce, the discussion points might include beginning to network, preparing a resume and identifying potential employers.

The Transition Assistance Program, or DODTAP

The Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs offer many resources to help transitioning service members clarify their goals and understand which benefits they qualify for. Among these is the Transition Assistance Program, which is mandatory for separating service members who have served 180 continuous days or more on active duty. DODTAP offers a comprehensive curriculum designed to equip service members with the tools and resources to succeed in their civilian lives. It includes:

  • Individualized initial counseling during which your service member will complete a self-assessment and begin developing a transition plan.
  • Pre-separation counseling to learn about benefits, entitlements and resources.
  • A series of briefings focusing on managing the transition, translating military skills to the civilian world, financial planning, benefits and services from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and finding a career.
  • Instruction on finding employment, vocational training, higher education or entrepreneurship.

Service members must complete TAP no later than a year before leaving the military. Retiring service members should begin the process at least two years before retirement.

Transitioning to Civilian Life

View this webinar, which discusses steps to make the shift easier.

Other resources to help with the transition

  • The Transitioning Veterans Specialty Consultation from Military OneSource is tailored to your service member’s unique needs. The series of 45-minute consultations cover goal setting, benefits review, VA assistance, exploring education opportunities, workforce preparation and becoming familiar with online resources.
  • The Military Spouse Transition Program helps military spouses throughout their military journey, including the transition to civilian life.
  • Military OneSource is available to veterans and their families for 365 days post separation from the military. Military OneSource offers non-medical counseling, as well as help with career planning, relocation and housing, personal finances, tax filing and accessing benefits for veterans.
  • The Credential Opportunities On-Line program is offered by each service branch to help service members translate their training into civilian credentials.
  • The Veterans Benefits Administration website lists VA benefits available to veterans.

The military equips service members with skills, abilities and experiences that serve them well in the civilian world. These inner resources, along with the support of loved ones like you and the benefits and services available, will help your service member transition smoothly into this exciting next phase of life.

Deployment Basics By Service Branch

Service members walk towards their next location.

At some point in your loved one’s military service, you’ll probably hear the words, “I’m deploying.” What does that really mean, and how can you support your service member?

The word deployment can mean different things, depending on your service member’s job, and their unit and service branch, but it generally means a scheduled time away from the usual duty station, and usually outside of the United States. It may mean seven months on a Navy ship, 12 months at a forward operating base or three months in a town with restaurants and shops you’d recognize back home. Sometimes, your service member may serve in dangerous situations, but they have intense training and are well prepared for the challenges they may face in their specific mission.

The deployment cycle is the period of time from the notification of a deployment, through predeployment training, through the deployment and immediately after deployment. Every deployment cycle is different, but here are some general things to know:

Army deployment

Soldiers can deploy in large or small groups, or even individually. Many soldiers will do predeployment training at large training centers such as the National Training Center, the Joint Readiness Training Center, or at specific training centers located at bases across the country. An average deployment cycle will include months of training at their home base and at these specialized courses.

Soldiers with specific skills may go individually or in smaller units. They will have different types of training requirements based on the job, their prior preparation and the location of the deployment.

Learn more about Army deployments »

Marine Corps deployment

Many Marine Corps deployments happen on Navy ships, or they may fly to their deployment location. The majority of Marine Corps deployments include approximately one year of training followed by six to seven months of actual deployment time. However, a significant number of Marine Corps deployments may be scheduled for one year or more.

The Marine Corps prepares to support a wide variety of missions, often on short notice. Deployment types include training exercises, force readiness, supporting ongoing missions and humanitarian support.

Learn more about Marine Corps deployments »

Navy deployment

Many Navy deployments are on ships or submarines. Whether your service member is permanently assigned to the ship or sub, or joining the vessel as part of a separate unit such as an aircraft squadron, they’ll spend many months before the deployment participating in a wide variety of training both on and off the ship or sub. Ship or sub-based deployments typically last six or seven months, though occasionally, they will go longer. The time at sea may be broken up by port calls, where the ship pulls into a town and the sailors are permitted to go ashore and enjoy some time off.

Sailors who deploy without a ship or sub may go to a variety of locations to perform a wide range of jobs. Their predeployment training may be part of their regular job, so there may not be much disruption to their regular schedule, or they may need to learn entirely new skills for the deployment. These deployments may be with Navy units, joint units or they may be assigned to a unit of a different branch of the military. The latter is usually called an individual augmentee job. Sailors deployed without a ship or a sub may go for as little as 30 days or for more than a year.

Learn more about Navy deployments »

Air Force deployment

Airmen participate in many different types of deployments. Most Air Force deployments involve flying to another location, often an overseas Air Force base, a joint base or the base of another service. Airmen may live on those bases or stay in hotels.

Some Air Force units have a faster deployment cycle, with shorter deployments and shorter times between deployments. While they still may follow the six to 12-month average of the other branches, they may also do a series of two to three-month deployments in quick succession. Differences in deployment tempo are usually based upon job and unit.

Learn more about Air Force deployments »

How You Can Support Your Service Member

Deployment can bring about a wide range of emotions for both the service member and the family at home. They may be excited to do the job for which they’ve trained, sad to be apart from their family and perhaps nervous about how the deployment will unfold. It’s natural to feel all these things, sometimes all at the same time.

Realistic expectations are an important part of making it through the deployment cycle. Three key things to remember throughout the process:

  1. Your service member has been training to use their skills during a deployment. They are well prepared to do this job and may be very focused on the mission they’re doing.
  2. Things can, and will, change frequently. Trainings and deployments can be moved up, delayed or cancelled altogether. Departure and return dates will shift. Communication may be limited. The more understanding you are, the more your service member will feel supported.
  3. Your service member will not be able to answer all your questions. Your loved one may not know the answer to your question, or they may not be able to tell you the things they do know.

You can help your service member by asking what they want and how you can help. For example, they may want you to come to homecoming for one deployment but not for another, based upon a wide variety of factors including location, likelihood of date changes and post-deployment requirements. They may need help with things like paying bills or storing their car.

It’s also smart to talk through a couple of “what-if” scenarios and to get some basic information. Be sure you know the specific name of their unit and at least one phone number to call if there is an emergency back home.

Whether you are a parent, sibling or friend, you probably have a lot of questions about your loved one’s deployment. Feel more prepared with Military OneSource’s Plan My Deployment and the predeployment checklist.

VISIT PLAN MY DEPLOYMENT

Check out the rest of the Friends & Extended Family content on Military OneSource to keep connected with your service member’s military life.

Understanding the Roles of Military Officers and Enlisted Service Members

an officer is saluted by enlisted service members

More than 80% of the U.S. military is made up of enlisted members, with officers making up the rest of the military population of the armed forces. Officers are trained to be managers and leaders. They plan missions, provide orders and assign tasks, while enlisted members are technical experts and leaders that hold the specific skills necessary to complete the mission.

Both of these roles are essential to the military and offer rewarding careers. A first step toward becoming an enlisted service member or an officer is to work with a military recruiter. Your recruiter will help you determine which path is best given your level of education, goals and qualifications.

Joining the military as an enlisted member

To enlist in the armed forces, you must:

  • Have a high school diploma. In some cases, a general equivalency diploma will be accepted.
  • Be at least 17 years old. The maximum age to enlist in the military varies according to branch of service, from 28 years old for the Marine Corps, to 39 for the Navy and the Air Force. The maximum age to enlist in the Army is 34. But these are subject to change so check with your recruiter.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.
  • Speak, read and write English fluently.
  • Achieve the minimum score on the Armed Forces Qualification Test for your branch of service.
  • Pass a physical and meet weight requirements. Fitness standards vary by service.

After meeting with a recruiter, you will report to a military entrance processing station. There you will:

  • Take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Your overall score on the ASVAB’s 10 subtests will help determine what jobs you are qualified for in the armed forces. You may be required to take additional special purpose tests to help determine the best career for you.
  • Undergo a complete physical exam, which includes hearing and vision tests as well as drug and alcohol testing.
  • Meet with a service liaison to learn about available jobs in your service. Some services assign a job at this time while others wait until after basic training or later. Your job will depend on your preferences and where your skills are most needed at the time of your enlistment.
  • Be fingerprinted for background checks and security clearances.
  • Take the Oath of Enlistment in which you vow to defend the U.S. Constitution and obey the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Serving as an enlisted member

As a recruit, you will attend basic training to prepare physically and mentally to become a member of your branch of service. Basic training typically spans seven to 12 weeks depending on your branch of service. After graduation from basic training, you will attend advanced training and in some cases, additional training to learn your job.

Enlisted members start their careers as junior enlisted personnel, called privates in the Army and Marine Corps, airman basic in the Air Force and seaman recruit in the Navy. Though military titles and rank can differ by service, pay grade rankings are standardized across the military. These are designated as E-1 through E-9. Pay and responsibilities increase as you rise through the enlisted ranks. An enlistee may rise through the lower ranks fairly quickly, although promotions tend to happen less frequently after the rank of E-4 because the number of these positions are limited by Congress.

Becoming a noncommissioned officer

A service member reaches the rank of noncommissioned officer at the rank of E-4 or E-5, depending on their branch of service and military title. Noncommissioned officers are high-ranking enlisted members who have been given leadership authority.

Becoming a commissioned officer in the military

A commissioned military officer holds a four-year college degree or higher and has undergone officer training. There are several paths to earning an officer commission in the armed forces.

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps

Some 1,700 colleges and universities nationwide offer ROTC. This military training program grants scholarships to help pay for college in exchange for military service after graduation. Students enrolled in ROTC attend training and take specialized classes alongside their regular academic classes.

Learn more about the ROTC program at each service branch:

Military service academies

Each service branch has its own undergraduate institution that educates and trains its future leaders. Admission to military academies is highly competitive. Students should begin preparing during high school to ensure they meet the high standards and strict requirements for acceptance. Military academies offer free tuition and room and board in exchange for a commitment to serve as an active- duty officer for a period of time after graduation, usually at least five years.

Learn more about each military academy:

Officer school

College graduates who want to serve as military officers can apply to Officer Candidate School (called Officer Training School in the Air Force). This intensive program spans between 9 1/2 to 12 weeks, depending on the service, and prepares candidates to become officers.

Learn more about Officer Training School and Officer Candidate School by service branch.

Direct commission

Direct commissions may be available to civilians with certain highly-specialized professional degrees that are in demand in the services. Doctors, lawyers, clergy and engineers are among the professionals who are most in demand and therefore most likely to receive a direct commission. Professionals who receive a direct commission receive officer training to help them transition from civilian to military life and learn leadership skills.

Transitioning from enlisted to commissioned officer

Though less common, enlisted members may apply to become a commissioned officer. If you are well-qualified and hold a bachelor’s degree, you may be nominated by a commanding officer to attend officer candidate or officer training school. Some branches of service offer programs in which an enlistee earns a college degree and attends officer school while serving in the military.

Warrant officers

It is also possible to become a warrant officer — a technical and tactical leader — without holding a four-year college degree. Warrant officer pay grades are designated W-1 through W-5 (W-2 through W-4 in the Navy). The Air Force is the only service that does not have the rank of warrant officer.

Serving as a commissioned officer in the military

Officers have significant responsibility as managers and leaders. A newly minted officer typically starts their career as a second lieutenant (ensign in the Navy). Officer grades are designated O-1 through O-10. Promotions bring an increase in pay and responsibility, but happen only if there is a requirement. That’s because, as with enlisted ranks E-5 and above, the number of officer positions is limited by Congress. Officers may spend several years at each rank before rising to the next, though promotions tends to happen faster in the lower ranks.

Whichever path you choose, a career in the military as either an enlisted service member or as an officer offers both tangible benefits, such as a steady income, paid leave and health care benefits; and intangible benefits, such as the pride of service, being part of a community like no other and knowing that you are serving a vital role in protecting your country.

To learn more about being a part of the military, contact your service branch recruiter or call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.

Military OneSource Virtual Resources Offer Personalized Support and Tools for Overall Well-Being

Military male jogging outside

Current as of October 2, 2020

Military life has great rewards – and some challenges. Deployments, moves and the uncertainty of current travel restrictions are stressful. In times of change, it’s reassuring to have a trusted source of information, resources and support. For service members, that’s Military OneSource — available 24/7 to help service members and their families thrive.

Financial counseling, career guidance and tax help

The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has caused global financial worries. Military OneSource offers free financial and career resources including:

Resources for physical, mental and emotional well-being

Military OneSource has tools for service members and families to care for body and mind. A few of the available resources include:

  • Health and wellness coaching can help teens and adults get on track. Start with healthy eating, physical fitness and managing stress.
  • Online tutoring and homework help from Tutor.com. This free service has temporarily expanded. It now covers any adult or child member of a Department of Defense civilian, National Guard and reserve. It also applies to wounded warrior military families. Even adults enrolled in a college or professional development course may be eligible. As always, the service is available to military children in grades K-12. Access Tutor.com through the MWR Digital Library.
  • Chill Drills are audio tracks developed to help service members relax and de-stress.
  • Wellness apps can help your service member regroup and reboot. Learn deep-breathing techniques to relax and unwind. Find personalized tools to handle stress and anxiety during self-care breaks. All apps were developed by the DOD, Veterans Affairs and other partners.
  • Military OneSource non-medical counseling can help with stress management. Counselors work with you to resolve marital and communication issues, parenting skills, grief and more. Military OneSource counselors know military life. They understand your challenges. Sessions are confidential.
  • Video non-medical counseling for children and youth offer children and teenagers tools to develop healthy coping skills to manage life’s stressors.

Personalized support to strengthen relationships

Even the strongest relationship can bend under the pressure of life changes. Learn to deal with deployment, permanent change of station and living through a pandemic. Military OneSource services can strengthen important connections:

Determining eligibility and getting started with Military OneSource virtual support

Military OneSource support is available to active duty, National Guard and reserve, their partners and their children. For eligibility, see Military OneSource Confidential Help Eligibility.

Service members and family members can access services by creating a free account on Military OneSource. They can start a live chat or call 800-342-9647. If outside of the country, use international calling options.

Stay up to date on information to help your service member navigate the coronavirus 2019 pandemic.

In times of change, it’s reassuring to have a trusted source of information, resources and support. For service members, that’s Military OneSource — available 24/7 to help service members and their families thrive.

Supporting Military Children During the New School Year

schoolgirl with backpack wearing mask

Current as of September 11, 2020

The start of a new school year can be both exciting and a little scary for kids. They may wonder if the work will be hard, if their teacher will be nice and if they will make new friends. With the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic adding a new layer of unknowns, children – and their parents – may be feeling more nervous than usual.

Although military families are known for being resilient, they are not immune to stress. Frequent moves mean children must leave old friends behind and start all over again in a new school or settle in for home learning. A parent’s deployment can effect a child’s ability to focus on school. That’s why a strong community of support is so important. As a friend or family member, you can help the military family in your life rise to the challenges of schooling during COVID-19 by letting them know you are there to listen to their concerns and to help in any way you can.

A new school year during COVID-19

If anything is certain during the pandemic, it’s that nothing is certain. Some schools are fully open but could shut down if COVID-19 cases spike. Others offer remote instruction only, while still others have implemented a hybrid of in-classroom and virtual learning.

You may have strong feelings about the best learning environment for the MilKid in your life, but what your loved ones really need now is your support. Try to understand that everyone’s decision is different and there is no one right answer. The decision to send a child to school is a deeply personal one that each family must make on their own.

  • Ask your loved one what schooling looks like for their child this year. Try to listen without judgement.
  • Ask for specific ways you can help. Remind your service member and their spouse that you are there to support them and their family.
  • Respect the family’s decision even if you don’t agree with it. There is no clear right or wrong response during this time.

Talking with the MilKid in your life about school

Children will react differently to the changes depending on their personality and individual circumstances. A home-schooled child will likely be less affected by school district decisions than one who recently moved to the area and is enrolled in a local private or public school. Some children have trouble focusing on lessons in a remote environment, while others do better without the distractions of a busy classroom. Through simple conversations, you can get a sense of how the military child in your life is coping with the changes.

  • Ask your MilKid about their typical day at school, wherever the schooling happens.
  • Be reassuring and positive, even if you’re worried. Children can pick up on negativity or concern.
  • Ask about favorite subjects and activities, classmates and teachers.
  • Let your MilKid freely express any concerns, fears or sadness. Sometimes children just need someone to talk to.

Ways to support your MilKid’s learning and emotional health during COVID-19

No matter how well children do in school, having adults who are engaged with their education can improve their confidence and help them excel. Here are ways to stay involved with your MilKid’s schooling, whether they live nearby or are adjusting to life overseas:

  • Send gifts that encourage learning and creativity, like puzzles and art supplies.
  • Make or buy masks in prints that your MilKid will enjoy wearing.
  • Offer to be your MilKid’s homework buddy and help with studying. Use video chat and screen-sharing if you aren’t able to be there in person.
  • Give your military child a special photo in a frame for their school desk or a funny sticker to place next to their webcam if learning remotely.

Video chats are also a fun way to spend time together on activities that help with learning and growth. Schedule sessions to:

  • Try new recipes together. Follow the same recipe and compare results. Or coach your student through the steps.
  • Exercise together. This can be as simple as dancing to silly songs if your MilKid is very young. Older kids might enjoy pushup contests or yoga.
  • Work on art projects. Show each other your progress as you go along.
  • Conduct simple science experiments together.

Educational resources for military families

Military OneSource offers online resources that can supplement your MilKid’s learning. Military installations also have a number of offices and programs that can help. Your service member and their family have access to these resources:

  • The Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library offers an amazing variety of education and entertainment resources for all ages. Programs include BookFlix, Explora Primary, Mango Languages, Tutor.com and many more. The Teachables program offers printable activities for children pre-K through grade 6.
  • Sesame Street for Military Families offers many different resources including activities, games, videos and the Breathe, Think, Do wellness app.
  • Military OneSource education consultants can assist you with questions about your child’s education. These one-on-one sessions are free, confidential and can provide you with referrals to in-home tutors and tutoring centers in your area as well as public and private school information. Call 800-342-9647 at any time to schedule an appointment. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.
  • Home-schooling resources can be found on installations. Available to help are installation school liaisons; child, youth and teen programs; and activities through the installation’s Department of Defense Education Activity school. Your service member can find these programs and resources on their installation at MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic is uncharted territory so expect that your loved ones may feel unsure along the way. Make it a point to celebrate all the milestones and achievements, big and small. Your MilKid may be the student, but everybody is learning and deserves recognition.