When my husband deployed I had a close friend who’s husband was also living away from their family because of his assignment. We did a lot together that year just for fun and also for survival. It made the time as a temporary single parent easier to manage with a friend who was going through something similar. In the military spouse community when a military service member deploys, the spouses left at home are encouraged to find a “battle buddy” – someone they can trust, confide in, and rely on for support during what can be a potentially challenging time.
In school, we teach kids from preschool on to “find a friend, “pair up”, or “go with a buddy.” This strategy teaches kids to work together, builds social skills, ensures no one is left out, and allows kids to learn how to be responsible alongside their peers. As kids get older encouraging them to “find a friend” – for the bus or lunch – does more than improve their social life, it builds their resiliency. A child or adolescent who knows they have a “battle buddy” – a friend they can trust, rely on, confide in, – will be better at managing life’s challenges because they have someone looking out for them, someone they can turn to in time of need.
Stages of the Battle Buddy
- Preschool: little ones pair up to cross the street, clean up activities, play a game
- Elementary: Kids are paired up to run errands for their teacher, escort kids to the office or nurse
- Middle School: Kids meet their battle buddies for lunch, on the bus, at social events
- High School: Battle Buddies share dreams and life stressors; teens rely on each other to navigate life’s ups and downs
- College: Battle Buddies look out for each other at parties and make sure friends stay safe.
As your kids begin a new school year, they will come home with new friends. Here are some tips for helping them identify who might be a good battle buddy:
- Introduce the idea of a “battle buddy” as one of their friends they would go to if they were having a hard time dealing with something, feeling stressed, or had something good to share.
- Brainstorm characteristics that make a friend a battle buddy: trustworthy, reliable, responsible, good listener.
- Discuss with your child how they can model what a battle buddy is to their friends.
- Create scenarios when going to a battle buddy might help your child work through something challenging.