School-age Children (ages 6 to 12) Summary

The following is a summary of different reactions School-age Children may have during a parent's deployment. You'll also find parenting ideas for the deployed parent and the remaining at-home caregiver. For more in-depth information, check out our Typical Children's Behaviors and Helping Children Cope sections.

Anytime During the Deployment Cycle

Typical School-Age Children Behaviors

  • A return to outgrown 'old' behaviors.
  • An increase in somatic symptoms (i.e., headaches, stomachaches, etc.)
  • More emotional overall, less able to control emotions periodically.

Parenting Ideas

  • Maintain a consistent routine for your child as much as possible during a deployment.
  • Talk with your children, ask them what they are thinking and help children put their feelings into words.
  • Focus on staying in control of your feelings when with your children.

Before Deployment

Typical School-Age Children Behaviors

  • Child will clearly understand the meaning of "leaving" and will be more aware of time frames.
  • Sad, worried and sometimes angry with parent for leaving; child may believe that they are at fault in some way for parent leaving.
  • Understands the concept of "the mission" and will take pride in parent's service and sacrifice.

Parenting Ideas

  • Talk to your child about the upcoming deployment and discuss any concerns or worries they may have.
  • Reassure children about their own safety and well-being.
  • Help identify those adults child may contact when looking for additional support.
  • Create 'comfort' objects or mementoes together.
  • Inform the school or care givers about the upcoming deployment.
  • Devise a plan to stay in touch.
  • Create a family rules or discipline plan; emphasize that school will be child's first priority.
  • Say "goodbye" — don't just disappear.

During Deployment

Typical School-Age Children Behaviors

  • Child will feel sad or 'empty' due to parent's absence; will express much worry or anxiety.
  • May be whine or act out for attention more; mood changes with anger followed by clingy, sad behavior.
  • Very aware of the events and milestones parent is missing.
  • Want to take on new jobs or responsibilities in order to "fill in" for the absent parent.
  • Some fluctuation in grades or interest in school activities.

Parenting Ideas

  • Maintain family routines and traditions as much as possible.
  • Monitor exposure to media coverage, especially if parent is deployed to a war zone.
  • Encourage children to be involved with extra-curricular activities.
  • Make sure children are receiving enough 'down' time; plan special days where you spend quality one-on-one time together.
  • Follow the discipline plan; be consistent with discipline.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to stay connected with the deployed parent.
  • As the deployed parent, focus on positively supporting your child and let the at-home caregiver be the primary disciplinarian.

After Deployment

Typical School-Age Children Behaviors

  • Child will be both anxious and excited with your return.
  • May continue to express much worry about a variety of issues.
  • May be reluctant to reconnect for fear of another deployment and the prospect of 'losing you' again.
  • Some confusion, anger and limit-testing with all the strong emotions around your return and reintegration to the family.

Parenting Ideas

  • Discuss positive aspects of your deployment with your child.
  • Look at pictures, videos, scrapbooks, etc. collected while you were absent and express pride in your child's accomplishments; spend relaxing, fun time together.
  • Reintegrate into your child's life by involving yourself in their new daily routine, helping with homework or working on chores together; go slow in making changes.
  • Get involved in your child's school; ask for a parent-teacher conference.
  • Reassure your child that it's 'not them' when taking down time for yourself; explain that you need to take care of yourself in order to be there for them.
  • If you think that there will be future deployments, reassure your child that you will tell them if you have to leave again.

Red Flags for Possible Concern

School-Age Children Behaviors of Concern

  • High levels of aggression or violence.
  • Significant changes in appetite or sleep patterns.
  • Difficulty coping or remaining calm when encountering typical daily problems.
  • Refusing to participate in typical activities or attend school.
  • Major changes in school grades or friendships.

Parenting Ideas

  • Speak to your child about any challenges they are facing that could be affecting their behavior and express your concern.
  • Devise a plan together that reassures everyone about safety issues.
  • Seek help from a trusted friend, family member or the school.
  • Consult with your doctor.
  • Schedule a behavioral health appointment for your child.
  • Seek help immediately (call 911) with any life-threatening concerns.

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