There is a field near my house that is full of dandelions. As far as the eye can see their little yellow heads have recently basked in the spring sunshine and stood strong during Storm Noa. To many the dandelion is little more than a weed; for forces families there is a much deeper meaning. Dandelions grow in the most unusual and difficult of locations, with their seeds spreading everywhere as the winds carry them effortlessly through the sky. Their simple beauty masks a desire to thrive in the face of adversity. It is a powerful metaphor. The dandelion is the flower of the military child and as they begin to flourish far and wide, we are also reminded that April is the month of the military child.
I am in awe of forces children. Like their floral counterparts they are strong, resilient, and adaptable. It is estimated that there are around 174,000 forces children in the UK making up 0.5% of the school population. In the grand scheme of things were talking relatively small numbers, yet this does not mean that these children should be overlooked. The Month of the Military Child is designed to celebrate these unique individuals and to make them feel seen, heard, and understood.
It can be difficult to adequately summarise the life of a forces family. I talked with the Toria on a recent episode of the ‘Tiny Voices Talk’ podcast about my own experiences as a forces wife/mum but also from my professional perspective. I could have talked for hours (see the link below).
The main message I would like to share is that life can be so varied for these children and families, sensitivity is key. The opportunities for adventure and the unusual are vast (we’re travelling to mid-Wales with the Royal Navy/Royal Marines off road team next weekend to watch them compete at the DIRT Nationals!) yet conversely the opportunities for separation and sadness are just as prevalent. Forces families can face some unique and challenging circumstances that educators should be sensitive to.
Data from the 2021 UK Tri-Service Families Continuous Attitudes survey highlighted the fact that only a third of forces children had lived in the same home for five years and 42% of children had moved at least twice in the previous five years. As a child I lived in the same house for fourteen years, how about you? Imagine being ‘the new kid’ in class, multiple times. New house, new school, new town. A daunting prospect even as an adult but the fact that forces children do this so regularly is astounding. With the backdrop of deployment also looming large, their resilience leaves me speechless. Again, it can be difficult as an adult to find the words to articulate our thoughts about complex situations. Imagine how much of a challenge this is for a child surrounded by relative strangers, when all they want is someone to trust with this jumble of feelings.
As educators it is our duty to get to know the wonderful students in our classrooms; building strong relationships will enable them to flourish like the humble dandelion. My children are incredibly proud of daddy’s job and have been known to drag him along to school to feature in ‘show and tell’! In the same vein as the premise of ‘Tiny Voices,’ enable the tiny forces voices to be heard in your classrooms. Empower these children and families and celebrate their unique lifestyle in April and beyond!
Tune in to the episode to learn more -
Shelly is one of the Tiny Voices Talk contributors. Order the book here using the code Tiny30. The book has a wealth of information and contains a section on inclusion which includes chapters on forces families, race, LGBTQIA+, disability, neurodiversity and so much more. https://www.independentthinkingpress.com/books/teachingskills/tiny-voices-talk/