As our kids get older, they start processing Ryan’s frequent military absences differently. I mentioned during Ryan’s last deployment that Spencer erred on the side of anger, and he actually had a lot of random night terrors. Porter, at the time, was still too young to really understand it and, instead, regressed in other ways – like slower potty training, etc. With each TDY and deployment, I’ve seen a shift in the kids in some capacity, and we make a point of trying to stay connected and make sense of those challenging emotions, even if Ryan’s not gone too long. For us, one of the best ways to explain those big emotions and share a little bit about what Daddy is doing and why he’s doing it is to read together, which is something we do together every night. So today, I want to share 8 of the best books for military children.
While most of these touch on deployment or familial absence, the underlying theme in each of them is one of strength and resilience, both of which are so important to me and to my children. I’ve said it time and time again. Military children are incredible. They’re called dandelions for a reason; they go wherever the wind (or the military, in this case) sends them, weathering the storm and putting down roots time and time again. These books emphasize that collective and shared journey in a way they’ll likely understand and process it better. Best of all though, they’ll likely get them talking about those big feelings, which I feel is most important of all.
8 of the Best Books for Military Children
Night Catch by Brenda Ehrmantrout – Written to connect military families during their time apart, this book shares the story of a boy and his father while he’s gone. He uses the North Star to play a game of catch with his son while he’s gone, maintaining that connection and keeping that bond strong and alive during a challenging time.
My Letter to Daddy by Renee Walker – Narrated by littles missing their dads and feeling alone, this book emphasizes the importance of daddy’s mission, all the while reminding them that distance means nothing when love exists. Sharing struggles, desires, and support, this book features beautiful illustrations kids can understand, all the while helping them communicate and navigate big, scary feelings.
Love, Lizzie: Letters to a Military Mom by Lisa Tucker McElroy – While a lot of books for military kids focus on fathers being away, this is one of the best books featuring a mom serving overseas. Featuring Lizzie’s letters to her mom while she serves in the military, this book emphasizes how children can maintain that connection with their parent like Lizzie did – sharing the big and little moments, drawing pictures, and closing that gap.
A is for Honor: A Military Family Alphabet by Devin Scillian – Written by the son of a career officer, this is one of those books that really dives deep into the heart of honor and sacrifice, sharing the meaning of toughness and why we need the military. By emphasizing the importance of courage, commitment, and strength, the meaning transcends the words and will resonate with all military children.
Mikey and the Dragons by Jocko Willink – While not overtly about military life and resilience, this is an incredibly powerful book for young readers. Ryan actually bought this for Spencer during his last deployment. Sharing the story of Mikey, a boy afraid of everything, we watch as Mikey learns the meaning of inner strength, embracing one’s fears, overcoming challenges. Ultimately, it’s an empowering, actionable book kids will love.
My Mommy Wears Combat Boots by Sharon McBride – Ideal for younger children navigating the challenges of military life, this is another book focusing on women who serve and the children they leave behind. It’s a great book for mother and child to read before a departure, or together while gone, explaining the emotions surrounding a deployment and how to best channel those emotions into something good.
I’ll Lend You My Daddy by Becky King – Perfect for kids ages 4-8, this book is the ideal read-together book that both rhymes and shares great illustrations. This book is both reflective and interactive, making it the ideal book to spark discussions, share big feelings, and inspire pride. Simple but sweet, it’s a great book to build upon those connections and overall understanding of challenging times.
Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops by Jill Biden – Navigating the challenges of a young girl watching her father leave for a year-long tour, this young-reader book is perfect for those looking for a way to share and build upon connections while apart. It teaches children and parents to validate their feelings, all the while encouraging love and support for their servicemember while eagerly anticipating their homecoming.
When Ryan and I embarked on our first deployment with children, I found that there seemed to be a general lack of good, heartfelt books that encompassed the struggles and resilience of military children, but I’m so glad to see that’s changing. More and more books are being released that share great messages of strength and courage, all in ways that children and readers of all ages can understand. I hope that you, too, can find the right book for your children!
Tell me – have you read any of these books? What books have you used to explain challenges (military or otherwise) to your children?