Archived Story

Children in military families often face special challenges

Published 6:30am Sunday, April 14, 2013

Column: Families First, by Maryanne Law

Question: Most of us understand the sacrifice that our military men and women make for all of us, but what is being done to support the children in our military families?

Answer: The University of Minnesota Extension Military Youth and Family Program is encouraging everyone across the state of Minnesota to wear purple on Monday. Purple symbolizes all the branches of the military, as it is the combination of Army green, Marine red, and Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force blue. Purple Up! is a visible way to show support and thank military youth for their own strength and sacrifices made when their parents are in the military service.

Maryanne Law
Maryanne Law

Military children face family changes during pre-deployment, deployment and post-deployment. Every phase of deployment has its own stressors on the family. It’s not surprising that youth experiencing multiple stressors are more vulnerable to high-risk behaviors. The University of Iowa analyzed statewide survey data from Iowa students in 2010, when 1.2 million American children had a parent in the active duty military. They compared data from 1,700 kids of deployed parents and 57,000 kids from non-military families, including sixth-, eighth- and 11th-graders.

The study primarily included Army Reserve and National Guard families in Iowa, with parents who would have worked civilian jobs before deployment and whose families didn’t live on military bases. The results showed:

1. 12 percent of sixth-graders with a deployed parent had tried alcohol and 7 percent had consumed five or more drinks in one sitting, compared to 4 percent and 2 percent of children of non-military parents, respectively.

2. Among 11th-graders, 29 percent of military children had binge drank in the past month and 15 percent had smoked pot, compared to 22 percent and 10 percent of non-military kids.

3. A total of 15 percent of teens in the deployed-parent group compared to 7 percent of other teens had misused prescription drugs in the past month.

Being sure that we recognize the sacrifices that the kids, as well as their parents, are making for us is one way of increasing the protective factors our military kids deserve. So put on purple on Monday, tell others what wearing the color means and express your appreciation for the service the entire military family makes for our country.

To talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out


Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.