An Ever-Changing Village: The Importance of Parent Support for Military Families

By Kit Jenkins, Master babywearing educator for Babywearing International, Event Liaison for API and a co-founder of The Carrying On Project (www.carryingonproject.org).

Photo courtesy of The Carrying On Project
Photo courtesy of The Carrying On Project

We are celebrating Attachment Parenting International’s 20th anniversary this year. One of the main reasons people join API groups and stay involved is the sense of community these groups provide. Parents enjoy and come to rely on the parental support of like-minded individuals, who may be going through the same joys and challenges or seeking guidance from those who have been there in the past. While social media has made constant and instantaneous connection easier, there is nothing quite like going to a meeting and interacting with other parents and their children in real time. It is so much more personal than an Internet encounter.

With April being Month of the Military Child, we want to take a moment to talk about how important a sense of community can be to military families and how much of a difference “finding your village” can make. It is not uncommon for military families to move every year or two, and have every child born in a different state or even a different country! As a military spouse myself, one of the first things I do when I find out that we are moving or going somewhere for a lengthy training is look for similar-minded parenting groups. These groups often become our lifeline; they are where we find an extension of our village, which can make transitioning to our new location easier.

However, sometimes it can be hard to break into these groups, since everyone in the group knows each other and has been friends for a while. Especially for families who have recently had their first child, or who have just started to find their groove for leaving the house after a spouse is deployed, the support and comfort to be found in an API group meeting or informal meet-up can make a huge difference in the lives of the parent and children. We know (and love) that everyone practices AP in their own way, but simply having an API group means having  a common thread to help create a safe, still space for a family whose world is constantly in motion.

There are two big move cycles every year in the military, during which many families are moved to new stations, and the summer cycle is coming soon. Having a village to belong to is one of the most vital “survival tactics” of being a military family. You can help ease the transition by making an effort to include military installations and communities in your outreach. If you see parents (military or not) who look like they might benefit from a support system like the one your group has fostered, be the one to reach out and invite them to a meeting. They may not have found you yet, or might not have known exactly what they were looking for. If you are someone who either has their village or is looking to create one, don’t be afraid to say “Hi!” to the new mom with her baby in the sling at the grocery store or the new family at story time. Membership in API is free, but the benefits are priceless.

 

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