With approximately 1.7 million dependent military children across all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, experts who support military children must understand the unique experiences and diverse needs that require a specialized counseling approach.

This topic will be the focus of the upcoming Magellan Federal webinar on Thursday, May 16, “Connecting with Military Children: Counseling Techniques for Success.” Expert panelists for this webinar will include:

  • Keionna Baker, LPC, LMHC, LCMHC, clinical project manager, Military & Family Life Counseling Program
  • Paul Taraborelli LICSW, IMH-E®, child youth behavioral director, Military & Family Life Counseling Program
  • Susan Trotman, LCSW, regional supervisor, Military & Family Life Counseling Program

The webinar will focus on trends, concerns, and intervention techniques that create a sense of connectedness and belonging for military-connected children and youth. To attend, register here.

In this Q&A, expert panelist Paul Taraborelli LICSW, IMH-E® shares a preview of information that will be shared in the webinar and why it is critical for counselors and other professionals who work with military children to invest time into enhancing their skills by attending.

Q: What are some key challenges that military children commonly face?

Paul Taraborelli: There are more than 1.7 million military children who face many challenges and unique experiences because of their parents’ service. Military families move on average every two to three years, impacting military children through changing schools and support networks. Military families often experience changes in parents’ access in terms of regular face-to-face contact, changes in caregivers, and changes in family routines due to a military parent being called away from their family to serve and support their mission. To manage these changes during their overall growth and development as a child, military children often rely on resilience skills they develop over time. By acknowledging and celebrating the many unique aspects of military culture and being a military-connected child, we can help these children be equipped to emotionally adjust to challenges throughout their lives.

Q: How do these challenges impact their emotional well-being?

Taraborelli: Due to changes in locations, fluctuations in daily schedules and routines, and the temporary absence of a primary caregiver/parent can lead to short-term and possibly long-term effects on a child’s overall wellbeing and the development of age appropriate social emotional skills.

Q: What are ways that counselors can help military children navigate these transitions and build resilience?


Focus topics when working with military children to support and enhance social emotion skill development and reduce stress, including:

  • Resiliency skill-building
  • Development and use of age-appropriate problem-solving skills
  • Development of healthy relationships skill building, including ways to express and manage their emotions

Q: What are some common misconceptions or stereotypes about military children, and how can counselors work to challenge and overcome these misconceptions?

Taraborelli: A common misconception is that military children are used to moving a lot, changing schools, making new friends, and can adjust easily to changes in their lives. Counselors can engage military children in conversations about how they are coping with and adjusting to these changes both in the past and presently. Counselors can explore, identify, and develop age-appropriate coping skills while working with military-connected children. If possible, provide opportunities for peer support through group meetings and activities with other military-connected peers.

Another misconception is that due to attending different schools in different locations, military children are not as academically prepared as their nonmilitary peers. Counselors can explore with military children their learning journey and what they have learned both academically and outside of school during their life as a military child. Counselors can focus on, celebrate, and acknowledge the experiences they have had compared to their nonmilitary peers and how those experiences contribute to their overall sense of self and the skills they have developed academically, socially, and emotionally.

Q: Lastly, what advice would you give to counselors who are looking to enhance their skills and effectiveness in working with military children and their families?

Taraborelli: Make a conscious effort to better understand the unique aspects of military culture and what military children experience in their lives as military children. Use this knowledge to provide additional information and insight when assessing presenting issues or concerns a military child may be facing and develop tailored goals for counseling and support for the child.