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Why Every Child Needs Structure

Melissa Roja Lawlor
March 27, 2012

Semper Fi Momma shares how to help your military child thrive in tough times as part of the Care.com Interview Series

Change is a way of life - especially in the military. Semper Fi Momma Laura Crawford works hard to support feelings of safety and security for her family, who has changed zip codes twice in five years. Semper Fi, short for Semper Fidelis, the iconic motto of the U.S Marine Corps, means Always Faithful -- the perfect words to describe Crawford's military family.With a little help from hot cocoa, Crawford shares the secrets of her success in helping her children cope with the ups and downs of life in the service.

Please tell us a little about your military family.

My husband is a United States Marine, and has been in for 14 years. We have three kids (a preschooler and toddler twins) but have never added any pets to our family other than fish.

How do you feel being a military family has influenced your children's perspectives and experiences, if at all?

My oldest is only 4, soon to be 5, so it's hard to tell what about this life has influenced his perspectives. He has gone through two PCS's [Permanent Change of Station] with us so far, and did really well adapting to the changes and new surroundings. That alone is always going to be one of the key experiences that is unique to every military child.

Do you believe military kids have differing needs as compared to their civilian peers? If so, what might those be and why?

Whether civilian or military, all children need stability. I think this is imperative for military children. You have to give them some sort of rock that is always there for them to lean on and trust. Something they can always count on [i.e. consistent schedules, daily routine]. There is a great deal of change and variables in our life, and although I think it's great for children to experience this so they learn how to adapt to diversity, it is also just as important for them to have a solid form of structure in their lives.

How do you support your children through moves and what are their reactions?

For us, the greatest challenge is trying to explain why we can't just hop over to Auntie's house anymore, but it's never been a major issue. We have always been open and explained things clearly, which I think is what I can attribute most of the success in our transitions to.

How might your children describe life in a military family?

I asked my son what he loves the most about Daddy being a Marine, and living on base:
"I love the Cobras (helicopters) and watching them fly around our house!"

What's the "darndest thing" you've ever heard your children say regarding military life?

"When I grow up big like Daddy, I want to be a Marine just like Daddy is and I'm going to fly Cobras and Ospreys."

What pointers would you give/have you offered to other families entering into military life?

I say the same thing every time: wait to have children. In this life, there are many ups and downs. In order to raise a family successfully, you need to make sure you're on solid ground first. Have time together. Know each other. Experience life together. Once you have children, the majority of your focus is always going to be them. If you've started with a solid foundation, you're raising them on a solid foundation, and you still have that solid ground to stand on when they leave the nest.

What would/do your children say is the best part of being a military family?

Right now my son seems to be the most impressed with his surroundings. He loves the helicopters and vehicles that drive around (if you can't already tell!).

If you had to write the book on thriving as a military child, what would be the top tips you would include?

  1. Structure!!!
  2. Pay attention to your children. Know them. Talk with them often.
  3. Support their friendships, including the long distance ones.

What would you say is the overall greatest challenge your children have faced as being part of a military family? How did you support each other through the challenges?

I'd definitely have to say that the biggest challenge is when their Daddy is at training for an extended period of time. I'm a firm believer in structure, which doesn't always leave me with a lot of flexibility in my personal life, but I swear by it for helping children get through the various transitional periods such as deployment and separation. Other than that, we read some of our favorite books explaining Daddy's job, and why he has to be gone, we talk about how we're feeling and write special ‘Share with Daddy' notes, and when all else fails, a cup of hot cocoa usually does the trick to bring smiles back to faces.

Check out the rest of our Care.com Interview Series: Making the Most of Military Childhood »

Laura Crawford is a USMC wife and SAHMommy to her son and twin girls. While being a mom and a military wife keeps her on her toes, she loves moving every 3 years and the many adventures military life has to offer. Laura is also a freelance writer, coffee connoisseur, and maker of kid-friendly sushi. You can also find Laura on Twitter and Facebook.

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