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The Top 10 Things You Shouldn't Say To A Military Kid

Updated: Mar 14, 2022

And What To Do When People Actually Say Them

10. Where are you from?

I get this question a lot, mostly from people who don't know I'm an Army brat. I usually just say something like, "Everywhere; my dad is in the military," or "I moved here from *insert state/country." The second one is usually best if you don't want to explain your entire lifestyle to a random civilian.

9. Where are you moving next?/Are you going to be at [event near the perceived moving date]?

These questions are annoying, because we don't know the answers yet. I usually just end up saying "I don't know," and changing the subject.

8. I'm so sorry.

I've never understood why people say this when I tell them my dad is in the Army and was/is deployed. Why would they be sorry? He left to protect our country, they don't need to be sorry for that. I have to remind myself that they probably don't know how to deal with things like deployment, and I've had my whole life to acclimate myself. So instead of telling them not to be sorry, I find it best to just nod my head, change the subject, and not talk to that person about the military side of my life.

7. I wish I could move around like you do, this place is so boring.

When people say this, they usually don't realize that the fun parts of our lifestyle--like trying new foods, having friends everywhere we go, and being around different cultures--come with not-fun parts, too. So with this, you have two options: 1) nod, smile, and change the subject, or 2) educate them. Either will work, but if you decide to tell them why moving around isn't awesome all the time, do it with the intention of informing them, not bursting their bubble.

6. Your parent is deployed? You must miss them so much.

This statement always seemed so unnecessary to me, because yes, of course I miss my dad when he's deployed. I've learned that it's usually said so that the person feels like they've helped me in some way, so I don't see the point in calling them out for stating the obvious. This is another "nod and smile" response for me.

5. My great-great-grandfather was in the military, so I know exactly how you feel.

It's annoying to me when people, especially my civilian friends, try to relate their experiences to mine. Especially one as far-fetched as this. It's almost like #6, because they're saying it to try and form a connection with you, and probably don't realize that it's kind of insulting. Most of the time they mean well, so I just nod and smile.

4. Does your parent have PTSD?

I really hate the "damaged soldier with PTSD" cliché, so anyone who asks me this does not get a "nod and smile" response. I tell them that most soldiers I know are actually perfectly healthy people, they aren't all irreparably broken by war. They have families, hobbies, and goals for their future just like everyone else. Movies aren't the only source of information about the military.

3. Don't worry, your deployed parent will be home soon. I'm sure they're fine.

I really hate when people say this, because they don't know if my dad will be home soon, or if he's okay. This is another one of those times when I'm sorely tempted to yell at them for saying something they don't know to be true, so I tend to lean towards "educate them," on this one, because if they say it to me, they're going to say it to someone else. If I don't tell them why it's not a good thing to say, who will?

2. Has your parent ever killed anyone?

This is a completely inappropriate question to ask. It's never been said to me, but I've known people who it has been. I don't see anything wrong with telling that person, point blank, that they shouldn't be asking. It's natural for civilians to be curious about our lifestyle, but this is out of line and they deserve to know before they offend anyone else.

1. We should defund the military, all they do is start pointless, expensive conflict.

Someone in my class actually said this once, or something very close to it. It hurt--a lot--especially because everyone else seemed to agree. I think it's disrespectful to bring that kind of politics into a conversation with a military kid anyway, but what's mind blowing is that this kid had no idea what he was talking about. I hadn't said anything to contribute to the conversation up until that point, but I jumped in after he finished. I told everyone in my class what I know to be true: that everyone in the American military makes a conscious decision to protect our country, and usually have very little to do with war politics. I didn't bother telling him not to say what he did--the kind of person who gets up in front of a class to say something like that has already made up their mind. But I know I made some of the people in that room think a little bit.

Something I noticed as I made this list was that as I worked my way from "not as bad" to "really, really bad," my responses started going from "nod and smile," to "tell them why they shouldn't say that" very quickly. Every single one of these is tough to hear, some more than others. It can be hard to remember that the person saying them doesn't really know what they're talking about, or hasn't quite gotten the memo on what to say and not say to military kids.


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