Tips, tools and video resources for resilient military children

Most military children will show good resilience to changes within their family/whānau when provided with good support from their community and remaining family/services. Positive family outcomes are supported through provision of

  • A supportive and caring community and neighbourhood that is supportive for families
  • A family/whānau that is resilient through having the following factors (these are particularly important to Maori)
    • Whānaungatanga (networks and relationships)
    • Pūkenga (skills and abilities)
    • Tikanga(values and beliefs)
    • Tuariki-ā-Māori (cultural identity)
  • Access to local services
  • Good communication
  • Optimism
  • Strong role models

You can be a positive force in your military community by encouraging whānau to connect with each other. These connections will provide social support not only for you but your children too.

Below are some tips and tools to help support your children with the military lifestyle.

How to support your child during absence from home

Talk about the reason you are going away in a way that makes sense for the age of your child, some examples include:

  • Talk about how and when you are able to connect while you are away.
  • Create some family traditions or special events to support your child while you are away. Examples include:
  • Leaving behind some special items that link them with you while you are away (pre-purchase birthday presents, leave recorded messages or pictures for them)
  • Write letters just to them (snail mail is great).
  • Help them prepare for the duration you are away by using calendars to mark time and display updates about when you will be coming home.
  • Talk about what they have learnt to do while you were away – new chores, responsibilities, skills, talents they have.
  • The NZDF deployment magazine called The Bugle has great ideas for families/whānau, there is a lot of information on the Force 4 Families web pages, we have also included links to other information at the bottom of this page.

How might your children show they are experiencing stress? 

Below are some possible changes in child age groups to lookout for and healthy ways that you can respond-

          Possible negative changes in children resulting from deployment and possible interventions 





1 - 3 yrs Cries, tantrums Irritable, sad Increased attention, holding, hugs.
3 - 6 yrs  Potty accidents, clingy Irritable, sad Increased attention, holding, hugs.
6 - 12 yrs Whines, body aches Irritable, sad Spend time, maintain routines.
12 - 18 yrs Isolates, uses drugs Anger, apathy Patience, limit setting, counselling

How to support your child after return home

  • Allow the child and family time to readjust to the absent parent being home.
  • Children may be overwhelmed with your return and withdraw to cope with this feeling
  • Expect there will be some changes in behaviour or schooling (clinginess, mood, worry, appetite, aches and pains, anger or attention changes).
  • Parents providing a consistent, predictable and loving response to children after the absent parent returns home will assist them to confirm things are okay, and settle down.
  • Even after this, don’t expect things to be exactly the same as when you left—you have changed and your family will have changed too.
  • If you need help to manage family changes get help early – don’t wait until a crisis occurs.

When is a good time to raise hard topics with children?

  • Make a plan. Pick a time that gives the best opportunity for a good talk—such as when they are well-fed, rested, and not with their friends.
  • Give the talk your full attention in a calm way. Make sure you are also well rested, not distracted with other tasks, and are prepared with the information you feel you need.
  • For older children and teens, a good time to be able to have such a talk may be in the context of doing something else together—a long drive, a shared activity or shared job to work on.
  • Think through what is the right amount of information to share?
  • This needs to be guided by the age and development of your child.
  • Use age-appropriate content.
  • Encourage questions.
  • Don’t dwell on the potential for crisis situations.
  • Use examples from their current world to show what you mean.
  • Given them time to ask questions. Their questions may not be what you expect.

How to talk to kids about tough topics | Child Anxiety

If you feel overwhelmed

You may feel overwhelmed at times with managing the wellbeing of your child if your partner is absent. Self-care or looking after your own emotions and wellbeing first will enable you to support your child. This means recognising that at times you may need reinforcements or outside help. We encourage you to find out more about using the ‘Big Four’ tools for managing mental health challenges and being at your best. The ‘Big Four’ are

  1. Flexible thinking
  2. Practice optimism
  3. Tactical breathing
  4. Healthy habits (healthy lifestyle, plan for overcoming barriers)

You can find the Mental Health Pocket book resource at (TBC where).

How to raise emotionally intelligent children | Lael Stone | TEDxDocklands

Spend time with your child on teaching them about their emotions

First it may be helpful for you to learn more about emotions in the Mind toolkit

  • Spend a few minutes each day for a week with your child learning about feelings and how to identify them.
  • For younger children use arts or crafts to learn (list the different kinds on a picture of their body, link this to how they feel in their body with each emotion).
  • Have a game of charades with children getting them to model an emotion
  • create a whānau story on paper about how emotions appear in your whānau and what happens next.
  • For older children you may do this through conversations.
  • Use your emotions work to connect with the thoughts and behaviours that your child shows with each emotion.
  • Then move on to navigating emotions at each age
    • All ages can practice breathing for calmness see the document following.
    • Talk about the emotion in language that your child understands.
    • For young children if tantrums are happening then providing a safe and supportive response while managing the required activity (if there is one) will support minimising this response.
    • Use active or mindful listening for all times when your child is expressing an emotional response – what is the story behind the words? what is the emotion they are showing you when they talk? what are they doing with their body when this is happening?
    • What is your response to them? Are you responding emotionally to them? Are you calm so you can hear what they are saying? Do you need to practice breathing or grounding techniques?

Limiting technology access

With a loved one away from home it may be easy for your children to find negative information on their devices about world events. They can become overwhelmed by this or by too much information.

Encourage them to limit the time on their device or not to read too many news items. It may be important for teens to connect socially online but having this limited will support their mental health.