More than 12 years of war has certainly taken its toll on the military community, and a new report from the nonprofit group Child Trends reveals how significant an impact it has had on children of servicemembers. Researchers found the nearly 500,000 military kids experience significant mental and physical effects if one or both of their parents has been deployed.
The study revealed that children up to 6 years old are particularly susceptible to stress from having a parent deployed overseas. This risk is often inflated if their parent returns home with emotional wounds of their own. Experts say that young children often draw emotional cues from their parents, so if their mother or father is exhibiting combat-related stress, youngsters may also experience similar feelings.
"Young children in our military families face increased risks to their social, emotional and physical development," said Carol Emig, president of Child Trends. "If we can successfully address these risks, we will improve outcomes for these children, learn lessons that can be applied to other families encountering similar difficulties, and strengthen our military."
There are several ways to address the emotional needs of young military children, experts say. Specifically, they call for an expansion of high-quality child care for military families living off bases. Currently, many of the Department of Defense-offered services are available primarily to those on base.