Fifth-grader JD Schutter says that his Red Cross resiliency class for military kids posed a simple question — do I want to be a bottle of water or a can of Red Bull?
When the instructor shook a can of Red Bull in front of the class at Camp Humphrey South Korea, the students jumped back in shock. “Everyone gasped when they thought she was going to open it,” he said. She then took out a water bottle and shook it and asked the class if they experienced the same feeling. The class chimed in with a resounding “no.”
For his mom, Crystal Schutter, the lesson showed these military kids that they get to make the choice — do they want their feelings to explode like Red Bull or remain calm like water. “My son tells me he visualizes that every day when he gets upset over something,” she said. “It’s a fun coping skill that really resonated for him.”
Schutter says that life as a military kid isn’t easy but American Red Cross programs for military kids can help. After assignments in Texas, Kentucky, Maryland and South Korea, their family is gearing up to move yet again later this year — this time to Colorado.
“Military kids say goodbye to more significant people in their lives than most do in their entire lifetime. Our kids are resilient, constantly making new friends and new connections while figuring out how to keep their old connections alive,” she said.
U.S. Department of Defense statistics estimate that there are more than 1.6 million military children worldwide and on average they move three times more than non-military children. Extended parental separation causes additional stress for military families. Without focused support and resources, military children may face social and emotional challenges. They may experience difficulty understanding policies and adjusting to curriculum and school climate, difficulty qualifying for or continuing with special education services. Military kids report elevated stressors and often experience depression and anxiety.
Red Cross workshops for military families are designed to provide service members, spouses and military kids the tools they need to navigate the challenges unique to military life. These classes are broken out by age, offered to children from ages 5 to 17, and are always free
Offerings include child reconnection workshops specifically designed to ease the challenges of family reintegration after deployments. Two other popular workshops are “Roger That! Communication Counts,” which focuses on self-confidence and communication strategies, and “Operation 10-4: Confident Coping,” a session that includes hands-on activities designed to combat stress.
“Our workshops offer a safe environment for children to share their thoughts and feelings about being part of a military family,” said Kristen Routh, LMFT, Senior Program Manager, Service to the Armed Forces.
According to Routh, these workshops are facilitated by independently licensed and highly trained mental health professionals. “They have extensive experience working with children and have received additional training on military life and culture,” she said.
“Reconnection workshops allow military children to connect with peers in fun ways while learning useful skills to promote individual and family resiliency.”
Once JD turns 13, he’ll join the Red Cross Club at Humprey’s High School to learn about emergency preparedness, resiliency and the importance of serving others as his older brother and sister did. Schutter says the Red Cross provides great resources military families need in their day-to-day lives.
“These Red Cross workshops are important for these kids to show them that it's ok to get upset over things, it all boils down to how we handle these situations. So many kids don't have the support system they need at home, and then they come to school and they have so much to deal with and the pressure just becomes too much. Our children need these coping skills to remind them that they are in control of their bodies and they can handle these things better than they thought.”
Schutter says that military kids have many things going for them and are often dedicated to helping others overcome the challenges of military life. “It becomes second nature because of the challenges we face. We understand what each other goes through and we are willing to help in any way we can,” she said.
Visit here to find out more about our resiliency programs. To learn more about other Red Cross SAF programs to support members of the military and our veterans, contact your local Red Cross chapter.