20 Tips for your daughters and sons at the Military Academies and other Colleges
You might remember That I came from a…
Military, Alcoholic, Dysfunctional (MAD) family. That MAD environment polluted my life, especially my years at the Air Force Academy.
A couple years ago I whipped up the following advice for daughters and sons, long before the Judge Kavanaugh hearings, and even before the “Me, Too” movement.
So don’t imagine there are connections, hidden agendas or political opinions between these tips and current events. On the other hand, these sure seem timely!
Finally, I believe more parenting is “hands on” than in my youth, so these tips might be obvious to you; however, on the off-chance there’s some Dysfunction or even Very Busy families out there, I offer these suggestions, from One Who Survived, But Not Thrived, at an academy. In a few days I’ll present the Christian-ized version, for you who lean that way.
NOTE: Please substitute his/her, she/he, him/her, etc. as appropriate. Both are valid and true.
1 First, I hope you prepared your daughters and sons. If not, there’s still time. Perhaps remembering what they learned or saw in high school can jumpstart some conversations.
2 Don’t just tell her she’s pretty, or smart, or talented. Tell her she’s valuable. Teach her how to protect her heart, and that her body’s worth protecting. That you’ll be there for her. She can call anytime.
3 Tell her you’re proud of her, and not just for her grades, or something she’s accomplished. You love her for her, not her performance.
4 Tell your kid you love him, and you always will, no matter what, even if he changes his major, doesn’t follow in your esteemed footsteps, or doesn’t graduate from the academy. Look him in the eyes; spell it out.
5 I hope you had sons/boys in your home so your daughter has a realistic view of them. And I hope sons saw enough girls to know that some are trouble or troubled, and they are not responsible for “fixing” or “saving.” (Apart from being a decent human during emergencies, of course.)
6 If you simply tell her (the lie that All) “Boys only want one thing,” don’t leave her thinking that’s all she has to offer. Be sure to add words that help her understand she is and has so much more of value, and that her heart and body are worth safe-guarding for someone who loves and values her.
7 Remind her that the boys at school are smart, too, and talented, and ‘hot,’ and lonely. She may be attracted to someone but wisdom lies in restraint. There’s no rush.
8 Tell him he’s going to be lonely, and need connection. Know and remind him of groups or clubs he might enjoy. Tell her if she messes up, you won’t judge her.
9 If your daughter is sociable and friendly, she will be noticed and talked about. Some things she does or says will be repeated and/or distorted, even things said in private.
10 Explain to her that if she’s overly friendly, some guys will take it the wrong way. If she teases them, even friendly teasing can be misunderstood.
11 And warn her that embarrassing someone, especially in public, might ignite something in their egos that has to get even. One remark can make an “enemy” of someone who doesn’t know boundaries or won’t show restraint.
12 Teach him how to walk away, what to say or do, to diffuse a bad verbal situation. Can they push a button to make their phone ring and pretend it’s a call they gotta take? Give them words they would use, even if it’s, “I got homework to do. Later.”
13 Praise your kid for their courage, even if costs him/her. The focus should be character, not career.
14 Tell her not to let anyone treat her disrespectfully. This is hard because there’s not a lot she can do about day- to- day ‘upperclass hazing’. But if she hangs around someone who shows poor character in front of her, chances are his/her character is worse when he’s not around her. That will affect her reputation. Tell her to be stingy with ‘second chances.’
15 Make sure your kid knows how to recognize and treat the Good Ones. Not all students are scoundrels out to use them. True friendships can be built.
16 Does your kid know how to spot bad situations, and how to get out of them? Run some scenarios of things that can go wrong (running out of gas, spiking drinks, distracted drivers, etc). Sometimes the kids’ limited free time and transportation, and friends with dissimilar values, can lead to poor decisions.
17 Tell your kid not everyone there is honorable, wants to be their friend, or is looking out for them or their best interests. Sometimes other kids are just trying to survive. Sometimes they’re just truly mean.
18 Be careful what your kid writes and posts, especially pictures and videos that are so easily shared. This includes all social media avenues, and is especially important in military academies where your kid’s career can begin the day they enter the door/gate or place.
19 End on an up-beat note: they’re all young and learning and in a highly stressful environment, and it’s going to be okay.
20 Tell her she can call anytime, and mean it. Say you always want to hear from her. She can count on your prayers and good heart toward her. Tell your sons you’ll love to hear from them. You’re sure they won’t need to call, but “Please call for my sake.”
Then pray. Contact your kid regularly, in positive and encouraging ways. They can do this!
Do you have anything to add?
Today there’s probably parents’, academy/college groups or local alumni groups, especially on Facebook, that can help keep you informed. They may offer lifelines for your child’s safety and success. Thanks for reading!
For more tips, specifically about gals (but useful for guys) at Virginia Military Institute (VMI):