So, Your Kid is Joining the Military

For some parents, it comes as something of a surprise. For others, it's expected, or even planned as family tradition. But, any way it goes down, having a son or daughter join the military is a big deal.

The most important thing you can do is be supportive. This is obviously a huge decision for your child, and a time of massive change with a fair bit of uncertainty. Alleviating your fears, should you have them, and standing by your child's side will mean the world to them. Your steadfast nature is likely to inspire them, and fill them with maximum confidence as they take this massive next step into their own adult life.

That's doesn't mean you should stand idly. On the contrary, it's important to be involved and educated on your child’s decision and all that it entails. Ask questions. All the questions. Discuss things thoroughly with your child and your child's recruiter. Learn all you can about the branch he or she is going in to. Familiarize yourself with any signing incentives involved in the contract, such as potential signing bonuses, and tuition reimbursement and the G.I. Bill, if applicable.

Be sure to stay in touch. This might go without saying. Odds are you're already eager to do exactly that. Just know that letters and packages are absolute gold to a solider, marine, sailor or airman away from home. There's simply no understating this. Encourage other family members and friends to do the same.

Should you feel the need to seek outside support, there are groups out there such as, Blue Star Mothers. Research to see if there's a chapter near you if you'd like to get involved. You may also find guidance and peace-of-mind in the book, "Be Safe, Love Mom." Written by a former "Army brat" turned mother of four military kids, it's described as, "stories of courage, comfort, and surviving life on the home front."

So yes, this is a year of endings and "last times" — but it can also be a year of beginnings and "next times." Opportunities to take the kindles of high school activities and fan them into flames of lifelong interest.

This is a new beginning for you and your child. Embrace it the best you can, and walk bravely into this next phase together as the proud parent you are.