How to Talk to Your Teen About Joining the Military

What Parents Need to Know About Teens Joining the Army

Students taking test in class
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Most teens consider joining the military at some point during their search for what they are going to do after high school. Recruiters have school assemblies on the subject and their peers talk about it. Therefore, it becomes an option that they consider.

Some teens will reject the option right away. Others will weigh it in their mind before rejecting the idea, and some will consider it seriously.

Parents may have their own opinion about their teen joining the military.

It is important to support your children and help them make an informed decision.

Talk About the Options

Start with a supportive statement such as: "I know this is your decision, but I want to make sure you are looking at the broad scope of things." Then don’t do all of the talking. Use your active listening skills and make sure you aren’t using any door slammers.

Even if your teenager feels that the decision to go into the military is final, remind them that there are options within that decision that can be looked at and discussed.

  • Has your teen looked at all of the branches of the military?
  • Is he getting the best benefits within this branch of the military?
  • How many different recruiters has he talked to?

The Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Test

Get your teen some help with the ASVAB. The Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Test is a test that is given through a cooperative program between the Department of Defense and the Department of Education.

The primary purpose of this test is to help school counselors and students discover where a student's basic aptitude lies.

  • If your teen takes this test, it does not mean they have to join the military.
  • If your teen wants to join the military, doing his best on this test will help him get the training he wants. 

    Remember, military service does not have to mean your teen will be in combat service. There are many non-combat specialties available in all branches of the military.

    Be Their Sounding Board

    Make yourself available when he has questions or needs someone to bounce ideas off. Your teenager is becoming a young adult and making some heavy-duty decisions that will impact the rest of his life. You need to be a sounding board.

    The less critical you are during your teenager’s decision-making process, the more he will turn to you for support and answers.

    Ask Your Own Questions

    The US Military does not shut out the family of their soldiers. Most recruiters expect questions from the family, so invite one over for dinner or coffee.

    While you are enjoying a relaxed atmosphere:

    • Ask about the options your teen has and what you can expect to happen when they join.
    • Get information on what support groups there are for parents and family.
    • Write down any questions beforehand and make sure to ask them.

    This is the person to ask, so don’t let your questions go unanswered.

    But, I’m worried. What do I do?

    The main purpose of a country’s military is to protect the country. Unfortunately, this means that a soldier may be hurt or lose his life.

    Of course, you’re worried. Every normal parent of a soldier has this worry.

    • Find support within your family, community, and the military itself.
    • Talk to someone who will allow you to use him or her as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on.
    • Allow yourself to accept this worry, but use prayer and/or affirmations to help yourself take pride in what your teenager has decided to do.
    • If your worry is overcoming you, seek some professional help.

    But, I don’t think he is ready or able. What do I do?

    First and foremost, you will need to get a handle on your feelings. Remember that the decision to join the military is not yours to make.

    Your teen ‘owns’ the right to make this choice.

    If you and your teenager have an open line of communication, by all means, discuss your thoughts. If not, you may want to keep these thoughts to yourself. Trying to talk about them may only push his decision one way or the other and push you away at the same time.

    Many parents often feel that certain traits their teenager has will keep them out of the military. Laziness or defiance are at the top of the list.

    While this may be true, the military has the ability to help a lazy or defiant teen. More often what happens is that the teen matures and grows with the process of becoming part of the armed forces.

    I, myself, had this worry about one of my teenagers. So, I posed the question to his recruiter. He looked me in the eye and said, “They take care of that in basic training, mam.” And then gave me a knowing smile.

    Support your teenager through the process and allow him and the military to decide if he is ready and able.

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