Being a parent of a newborn or toddler can be stressful — you want to do everything possible as early as possible to give your child the best start in life.
But being a military family can add layers of complications: deployments, uprooting every few years, adjusting to post-deployment reunions and, possibly, adjusting to leaving the military. On top of that, military families usually are far away from relatives who can offer advice and support.
Plenty of military families are in this category. In 2013, more than 340,000 military children were ages 3 and under, according to the latest Defense Department data.
Now there's a new, free parenting app that could help. Babies on the Homefront is offered by Zero To Three, a nonprofit group that develops research-based tools and resources for those who influence the lives of young children. For years, the organization (www.zerotothree.org) has had a Military Family Projects component, and has developed board books for toddlers and information booklets for parents and professionals in the military and civilian communities.
Parents can personalize the Babies on the Homefront app with their child's picture, sort information by their child's age and by their family's situation: at home, leaving soon, deployed, home again, a veteran or visiting a hospital. The app is designed to give parents tips for enhancing their interaction with their baby or toddler. For example, the Behavior SOP topic provides tips for everyday behavior challenges; PT (Play Time) gives ideas for creating activities; At Ease gives information and ideas on self-care.
The app's development was led by Zero to Three Military Family Project's Dorinda Silver Williams and Julia Yeary, both spouses of retired Marines. Focus groups of military and veteran parents provided input that went into development of the app, said Kathleen McEnerny, Zero to Three's director of development.
Speaking of resources, here's a reminder about DoD's new child care portal, MilitaryChildCare.com. It's up and running at 13 installations on top of the five locations that were part of the pilot program.
DoD plans to roll it out worldwide by September 2016, with more installations coming online each quarter. Check it out periodically, especially as you prepare to make a permanent change-of-station move.
The goal is to make it easier for families to search for, apply for, and get on the waiting list for military-operated or military-approved child care.
Surveys have made clear that most families love the quality and nurturing atmosphere of military child care. But they also say there just isn't enough of it.
This is one way DoD is helping you find the spots that are available.