Messages Home: ‘Kiddos’ face tough transitions

March 10, 2010 by

Loretta Jasper, csj

Sisters, Agregees, Associates, Candidates and CSJ Friends,

Come, March 11, I will be completing a 13-week assignment in Junction City (Kan.) High School supporting and assisting the military affiliated kiddos within JCHS. Honestly, I believe that I have the very best ministry on this planet.

I continue to spend time with kiddos as they move into JCHS/Ft. Riley at any point in the school year. I listen and encourage them in the making of new friends, in getting adjusted to a new school environment, in seeking out their interests and hobbies in their new venue. Many kiddos have moved to and are adjusting to being with the other parent and step family. Many are also preparing to relocate due to the soldier’s upcoming assignment. It is not uncommon that my intent with a kiddo is to merely be with the child: to pose options which will boost the adjustment into a new school and locale.  Oftentimes, I offer encouragement which will help the child stay in school vs. drop-out or transfer to the alternative school. Such encouragement includes providing resources: who to ask for help with academics. I call this support with smooth moves.

Of course, there are then the unending issues related to having a parent leave the home to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan for the first to fifth time; and/or, having the soldier return home with a whole new set of dynamics either within the home, or within the emotional or physical system of the individual soldier. I call these reintegration and deployment issues.

Pre-teens experience and feel the effects of being a part of military moves, adjustments; deployments and re-integrations; but teens seem to be impacted with an increased level of intensity. Teens have more difficulty changing friends and schools and activities.  Teens are often tasked with replacing the absent parent with care of younger siblings and increased responsibilities within the home in the midst of the deployment. Teens are highly attuned to the physical and emotional dangers of war; the experience of the soldier’s trauma upon returning from war, and the effect of the trauma upon the family.  It is not uncommon for a teen to intercept physical aggression between a family member and the soldier during re-integration.  The aggression may be triggered by quick movements; sharp sounds; the re-arrangement of the home during deployment; the family activity within the home, and/or the soldier’s shift of power from being deployed and in charge, to being a partner in a marriage and family.

Yes, for one such as I to support and assist a teen–a military kiddo during war time–is very special for me.  I do not have the much tougher job in the high school of tending to discipline, academics, or accuracy.  I try to support and assist the teachers and the staff in re-directing some of the “stuff” which wrangles the heart of a teen in the midst of the deployments, the relocations, and the new starts.

More often than not, my office is a hallway floor in the school where a kiddo and I sit for a few minutes to build trust and share heart.

  • Jon, in time, lets me know that he is feeling more at ease in the new school with new friends and he is trying to stay in school and strengthen his focus on academics.  He was recently taken aback when his soldier-Dad, who literally rescued him over Christmas from the street life in another State, gave him a big hug and kiss in the recent week.  Jon wasn’t sure he could handle such tenderness from his Dad.
  • Bree’s mom died unexpectedly over Christmas.  She is the oldest of four children. Soldier-Dad needs her to care for her siblings before and after school, and to tend to transporting them to activities.  Her grief, increased responsibilities in the home, and now being three months pregnant… Bree just wants to transfer to alternative school, graduate, and be done with her education.
  • Zack is furious because each time his dad returns from Iraq; Dad is “crazier” than the prior deployment.  He is physically aggressive with his mom and him; he throws and breaks household furnishings; he likes to spend time with the persons with whom he was deployed. Zack’s own anger has resulted in him being transferred for a short time to the alternative school, in-school suspension because of his own acting out in school, and anger management classes.
  • Lizzy deplores the emotional trauma her dad has tried to sustain upon his multiple returns from Iraq.  Her brother has recently returned from Iraq.  She has also lost her brother, emotionally, to the effect of war. Both Dad and brother are living at home with Mom and Lizzy.
  • I tap on the classroom door of a kiddo, greet the teacher and ask if this is a good time to “say hello” to Mari.  As Mari and I head for my office on the hallway floor one of the students chime: “You’re in trouble.”

“No,” Mari says back. “This is the Brat Chat (in school support group) lady. Persons who meet with her are not in trouble.”

Thanks, Mari!  Well stated!


Loretta Jasper, csj

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