This guest blog is brought to you by Vivian Greentree of Blue Star Families
In our Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Surveys, concern for our military children consistently ranks in the top five issues for our military families. This concern stems from the inherent lifestyle of our community – the moves, the deployments, the increased stress – and their inevitable effect on our children’s educational, social, and emotional development. Military parents constantly seek ways in which to alleviate these obstacles and strive to turn their children’s life experiences, and the challenges they face, into learning opportunities, occasions for personal growth, and possibilities for the development of imagination and the critical thinking skills that will benefit them over the long term. Thankfully, there are lots of chances for these kinds of moments in our community. I’m grateful that my children see acts of heroism as the norm, that they see diversity, community service, and flexibility as the standard. I believe that exposure to our culture of service is one of the best lessons I can give them as a parent seeking to instill in them a sense of purpose, of intention, and of principled behavior.
But, I also want them to have fun and revel in the wonder of the world. We know that play therapy has many benefits for young children and that creating and maintaining coping and resiliency skills can be done in innovative and creative ways. That is why Blue Star Families is so excited to be partnering with The Sierra Club to focus on using the outdoors as a medium with which to engage our military families in wellness and healing. The upcoming April 1st event near Quantico, “The Celebration of The Military Child Outside,” is just the first opportunity for our organizations to work together to support our military children. We also hope to develop many more events aimed at empowering and healing our military families, producing nuanced events for spouses, children, couples, families, wounded warriors, service members, and veterans through a variety of outdoor-centric programming which incorporates the healing power of nature and promotes the development of personal strength, trust, and leadership skills. There are also constructive elements of teamwork, relationship building, and good old-fashioned exercise to recommend this unique approach to maintaining healthy military families.
We are at a place, after ten years of war, where there is finally an overwhelming recognition that we must look at our all-volunteer force holistically. It isn’t just the service members who serve, but also their families. And, healthy military families equal mission readiness. Our national leadership, federal agencies, the private and non-profit sectors, and local communities all have vital roles to play in this area. Issues like financial literacy, civic engagement, education, mental health, and yes, physical fitness, are all the basic building blocks to comprehensive wellness. So, nurturing the relationships of our military families in creative ways, utilizing all of nature’s glory, allowing them time away from computers, classrooms, and paved streets to emphasize active, engaged participation and authentic connection with others is something we eagerly look forward to sharing with our members. Let’s all get outside!
Vivian Greentree, Ph.D., is the Director of Research and Policy for Blue Star Families. She lives with her husband and little two boys in Norfolk, VA, where they are currently stationed. Please register for the Celebration of the Military Child here.