Advocating for Defence families

Toddlers, tweens and teens: How to help your kids navigate Defence life

Thank you to Defence Member and Family Support for contributing this article.

Life as a Defence family can be challenging – including for the kids! Even the most resilient of children can find the Defence lifestyle tricky at times. Defence offer a range of supports for all members of your family to build resilience through parental absences, moving schools and connecting with peers.

There are many Defence wellbeing supports and assistance on offer to our families and members, including through schools or childcare.

The options below are designed to be a starting point to help you find the right solution for your unique situation.

If you need further assistance or to find out more about the programs offered, contact the Defence Member and Family Support (DMFS) Helpline on 1800 624 608.

Wellbeing and resilience building programs for childrenEducation and childcare assistanceAdditional  resources and support
Children aged 0-5Defence funds community centres/groups around Australia who provide playgroup opportunities for parent-led creative and social play for children 0-5.

DMFS has Army, Navy and Air Force plush teddy bears that can be used to support your child during absences, to help them understand Defence life and set foundational resilience skills.
Defence offers childcare and early childhood education centres in 16 locations around Australia, comprising long day care and out of school hours centres operated by One Tree Community Services.   DMFS also provide an individual case management (ICM) service for childcare placement to support ADF families when they move to a new area or change their work or care arrangements.  Lecturer and researcher in early childhood education at the University of New England, Dr Marg Rogers, has developed 2 e-books for children. Dr Rogers’ book, Waiting for Daddy, is aimed at children aged 0-5. The story features two year old Rose and the things she thinks and does while waiting for her Daddy to return home.  
Children aged 5-12Children in this age group can attend an ADF Equip Program. This Program delivers tailor-made sessions to support resilience and wellbeing of children aged 5-8 and 9-12 experiencing the effects of parental absence and frequent relocations.  

If you are interested in accessing the program, please submit an Expression of Interest form at  
Defence School Mentors (DSMs) assist in the smooth transition for Defence children when changing primary schools and to provide them with support as needed. Mentors provide support through on-site, direct and flexible assistance to students, parents, teachers and other support services. A list of schools with Defence School Mentors is available on the DMFS website.

Education Liaison Officers, (EDLOs), are specialists who can advise about local education systems, schools, education issues and support available for Defence students.   Officers link families with education providers, resources or support agencies to meet their children’s individual needs (including students with special needs) and work with schools to ensure a supportive educational environment. Families can also get information about Defence support services from Education Liaison Officers including financial assistance entitlements for tutoring under the Education Assistance Scheme.  
Dr Rogers’ book, Now that I am big, is aimed at children 5-12 and explores the challenges of an absent parent deployment from a young child’s point of view.

DMFS’ book series, featuring Sapper Pat and Pepper Penguin help children understand the military lifestyle and develop coping strategies for parental absence.   Children can follow the adventures of Sapper Pat and Able Seaman Pepper Penguin as they travel the world. The books give young children an easy-to-understand picture of life in the military, and what their parent might be experiencing while they are away from the family on deployments or postings.

The School Posting Passport is available for children when moving between schools. The Passport captures and scrapbooks their experiences, achievements, friends and memories from each school and take them on to the next.
Children aged 13-18The ADF Equip Program also supports children aged 13-18 experiencing of parental absence and frequent relocations.  Defence School Mentors and support from Educational Liaison Officers are also available to support children in secondary schools   Education Assistance Scheme provides a range of financial support is available to help minimise disruption to schooling, with interim assistance to help overcome any immediate difficulties with the child’s education that occurs as a direct result of posting such as tutoring, boarding costs and students with special needs.The Family Support Funding Program provides grants to organisations to deliver programs targeted for Defence teens and children across Australia.   DMFS’ network of regional offices host events for Defence families.   These events foster connections between children and help them develop and maintain peer-support networks. Peer networks are especially important in the tween and teen to maintain resilience.   Events have included cartoon workshops; resin pouring and special movie screenings. A list of events near you is available on the DMFS website.

DMFS also has a range of supports to assist parents to ensure their children’s needs are met when adjusting to the ADF lifestyle. These include tutoring support to help children navigate different educational expectations when moving schools, and the FamilySMART suite of programs to support parents and children.

For more information on the supports and programs outlined above, and to order resources, go to the DMFS website or call 1800 624 608.

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