How to Talk to Your Kids About Joining the Military

Today, I want to educate you about how to talk to your kids about joining the military.

The majority of parents want the best for their kids. Proper parenthood means talking with our kids about difficult subjects.

Even when we don’t want to discuss certain subjects with our kids, they ask us those questions that force us into a corner where we have to find the proper wording. Here are a few examples:

  • “Dad, where do babies come from?”
  • “Mom, why are you bleeding there?” (Did I just say that?)
  • “Dad, why did Grandma die, and where is she now?”
  • “Mom, if there is a God, why is there so many bad things happening in the world?”

And, these are just a small sample. If you have kids, you know what I mean.

In today’s post, I am going to delve into what could turn into a controversial subject: How to talk with your kids about joining the military.

In the biggest percentage of cases, this talk normally will come when a child is 16 or 17-years old. The talk could come because your child mentioned the possibility, or because you may be dwelling on how to pay college expenses.

Maybe you or your spouse are currently in the military and you know how much it can help your child. Or maybe you are strongly opposed to your child serving in the military and you want to attack the issue before it arises.

Guess what?

I can understand both sides of that fence. The idea of our children joining the United States military can bring a variety of emotions:

Parent, Mentor and Friend

Many people who have kids seem to get the order wrong.

  1. Parent – We are the parent. As long as the child lives under our roof, they must follow our rules. As long as they eat the food we buy them and sleep in the bed we supply them, what we say should be obeyed, or consequences will result from disobeying.

  2. Mentor – Our kids watch us and imitate us. They listen to what we say and watch what we do, even if we think they don’t. Our job is to set a good personal example at all times.

  3. Friend – There is nothing wrong with being a friend with our kids. That is, as long as it takes 3rd place. My kids loved it when I fell on my ass from the skateboard, and when I screamed like a little girl on the roller-coaster. I was their friend, but I was their parent and mentor first.

It all comes down to a balance. And, no parent will get it 100% right 100% of the time. We will make mistakes; count on it! And, at a certain point, our kids will be at the point of making their own choices.

We can choose to support those choices or not. But do know that there will be consequences in that decision too.

Whether you oppose your kid joining the military or you want your child in the United States military, it is a talk you need to have. Please do not try skirt around it.

What to Discuss with Your Child

The discussion about joining the military should be completely honest and full of facts whether you oppose or support the military.

That is my opinion, because if you try to tell any lies, your kid will discover them and will question your motives.

Your child will listen to others about military life. They will probably be confronted with a recruiter at some point, and we must always know that recruiters are salespeople.

They will tell your child what they want to hear. (Sorry recruiters, but I have to be honest.) Friends may paint a picture of greatness or the opposite when talking about the military.

No matter who they hear it from, if a parent tells them in the proper way, the child is more apt to trust the parent’s words over all others. But they will still make what they feel is the best decision, and proper parenting says that we should allow them to do so.

This is also where I have to add one more thing that could make a few of you reading this angry, but if you are the parent who is so fearful that your child will be the next casualty from some war we do not belong in, but you are handing that child the keys to the car to go out for the night with their friends, you are being a hypocrite.

Yes, I said it. The odds of your child dying in that car are much higher than them dying by joining the military. And that goes, even if they are Special Forces in the middle of the craziness in places like Afghanistan, Iraq or one of those combat zones.

Those cars kill more kids than war will.

Some Things That Should be Said

I distinctly remember my father talking with me about this subject. Dad was retired from the United States Air Force, but he hoped I would not join the military, but would go to college and become a lawyer.

But, he supported me no matter what, and some of these facts were presented to me from him, and others are facts other people have told their kids.

  • The military says you will see the world by traveling. This is true, but the majority of it will be with other soldiers in a leaky barracks with homesickness.

  • You will have to follow orders no matter what you think.

  • You will be told when to get out of bed.

  • You will be told when to go to bed.

  • Eat it or go hungry. (Dad said that at home too.)

  • Your mom won’t be there to iron your clothes, but they do need to be pressed and your boots shined.

  • Also, you will have to be in, and stay in top physical condition.

  • You can get your college education paid for.

  • You can get great experience to help you in your future civilian career.

  • Many soldiers experience high stress and loneliness, not to mention PTSD.

  • Military life can be difficult on families.

And, this is just a start.

Some Extra Thoughts

There has been a wide-spread thought pattern that the military is focusing on enlisting the poor and minorities.

Personally, I disagree with that thought pattern, but to escape the economic conditions among other inner city nightmares, many poor and minority kids do look at military life as a strong alternative.

But is joining the military for economic reasons the right approach? Isn’t it supposed to be about patriotism?

Just to clear some of this thought pattern, even many soldiers in the Revolutionary War and all wars after have joined for economic reasons.

Did that make them bad soldiers? By no means!

In some cases they fought even harder because they sought promotions and raises.

It is no different than the person who has loved Harley Davidson motorcycles all their life, but they gain employment at the Yamaha dealership. They still love the Harley, but they are making money from Yamaha. I see nothing wrong in that.

Love and Support Your Kid

I was reading a forum in which a father asked how he could talk his son from joining the military.

And, I understood slightly until the father stated that they were a well off family, and if his son decided to join the military, he would disown him and cut off his inheritance. My heart sunk.

I had so many things I wanted to say, but when I read the comments, I noticed that nearly every comment said what I wanted to say.

Sometimes we drive our kids to do things that we don’t want them to do because of the methods we use.

No matter whether you support or oppose your kid joining the military, my best advice is to tell them facts like I showed you above, tell them your true feeling with a strong BUT…

But, I will accept your choice and support it no matter what.

I will do that because I love you and I know you were raised to make the decisions you believe are right for you.

Trust me, your kid will hear you, and they will take your opinion into deep thought before they decide if you use that method.

I will also add that you may want to point out that becoming an Army officer may be a better avenue than enlistment. You could point out the various ways of doing so, and you can find information on that all throughout this website.

Final Thoughts

I really help that today’s post helps you have that talk with your child about joining the military.

Just so you know, as a prior enlisted Army soldier, I believed that the military just might be a great avenue for my children.

My wife was opposed. We sat down with each of our children and gave them the pros and cons from both sides.

None of our three children chose to join the military. That was fine with me, even though I believed it would have been a good choice. They are all hard-working kids that are doing fine with their choice.

That is what parenting is all about… I support and love them no matter what.

What are your thoughts on this difficult subject? Do you think your kids should join, or are you opposed? You can give your opinions in the comment section below. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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