I've been talking with former military "brats" (here's more on why they're called that) about their experience in making friends growing up. We can learn a lot about from people who were forced to make friends quickly, and then pick up and do it again in another city several months or years later. This is something most of us don't have to do, but it shows us that making friends takes effort, but it's worth it.
Former military brat Becki Nightingale talks about her experience.
Do you feel that being a military "brat" hurt or helped you when it came to making friends?
I do feel like being a military brat helped making friends, because as transitional as our lives were, we knew it. We knew that we may move any time, and so might those around us. We did live on post, and attended the schools on post as well. We all knew our time together was temporary--(whether we acknowledged it or not) so, we did tend to make friends quickly and bond faster. Of course when we eventually left , promising to write, and we did for a while--our friends fell away from us, as we did them. I can't pull up the name of any of my childhood friends...well, maybe one or two. But did I stay in touch over the years? Sadly, no.
Has your experience as a military brat affected the way you approach friendships as an adult?
Being a military brat has definitely changed my approach to making friends as an adult. I am a little more difficult to approach in many respects, because perhaps deep down, I expect a person to leave. I am a bit more cautious when making friends. I now live in an area where folks have known each other all their lives, grown up with them, gone to school with them, been friends, forever! It is a foreign concept to me.
What's one piece of advice you would give a military kid struggling to make friendships?
Make each moment count, and don't take things too personally if your friends don't keep in touch...(now there is Facebook, so, it isn't the challenge for it was for us as kids--what with taking the time to WRITE a letter, ADDRESS an envelope, find a stamp and MAIL it.) We were getting busy finding someone to hang out with again.
I will say that on the occasions I was in a regular school off post, with people who didn't move a lot, it was harder to make friends--just because they didn't seem to understand the almost desperate need to attach quickly and fit in . Their circle of friends was in place, and had been for a while...new people didn't really fit in. I went to three different high schools--tough, you can imagine. The friends I have now, are friends I have made as an adult, and they are few.
I wouldn't trade my life as a military kid for anything! I got to see lots of the U.S., and moving often made me mature faster. We got to see places most kids never get to see.
Becki's experience has reinforced for me the need for us all to accept new people into our groups, and be proactive in welcoming new people. Remember how hard it is to get acclimated to an existing group of friends, so put yourself in their shoes when they try to say hello and get to know you. Be welcoming and open.
I love her advice about making the most of each moment, and also not taking things personally if a friend doesn't keep in touch. In other words, do your best to connect with people, and focus on those who are willing to get to know the real you. Friendship takes some time, but always appreciate life in the moment. Those singular moments are the very ones that shape you.
Do you have experience as a former military brat? Tell us about it.