Are you a military "brat"? Do you make friends easily because you have to, or have a hard time even making the effort because you know you'll need to leave again soon? There are pros and cons to being a military brat. One on hand you might be really great at blending in quickly, but on another, perhaps you never get the opportunity to grow friendships on a deeper level.
According to the Williamsburg Military Insider, the word brat is actually an acronym for "British Regiment Attached Traveler." It started with the British Army and referred to military members who were able to take their family abroad. Eventually, the term was applied to just the children, and soon it was adopted all over the world.
One estimate suggests that there are between 9-12 million military brats in the world today, and others believe this figure could be even higher. Some famous brats include Christina Aguilera, LeVar Burton, and General Norman Schwarzkopf, who of course went into military service himself.
Here's some advice on making and keeping friends when your family travels a lot.
Military Brats and New Friendships
Many military brats learn to adjust quickly to a new setting, and as a result grow up to be people who seem to naturally make friends easily. Others, especially introverts, might find it more difficult to develop the deeper friendship bonds that they crave. Since military families move around frequently, kids don't have the time to get to know friends and build a connection like they would if their family didn't travel.
The point is to become part of the activity so you'll have something in common with people right away. You'll feel less pressure trying to "fit in" and it will give you a shared mission in which to build a connection.
One of the most difficult things for people to do, regardless of their age, is to find acceptance into an already established group of friends. Military brats learn to do this early on in life, often turning to humor to lighten the mood and find common ground when meeting other kids. One former military brat says "I learned that if you make people laugh, you're one step closer to becoming their friend."
One of the benefits of brat life is that you'll be exposed to a lot of different cultures and personalities, and as a result you'll probably end up with a variety of friends, especially if you're good at making small talk and taking the first step in asking people about themselves.
Developing Deep Connections as a Military Brat
Brats that can make friends very easily sometimes find that the flip side is they don't have the deep connections they crave. They might struggle with becoming better friends with people, choosing instead to leave their friendships on more of a superficial level. This undoubtedly comes from their experience in picking up and moving when they were kids, just as their friendships were beginning to form.
Another issue is failing to work through conflict when things become heated. Some brats are good at getting along with people but when an argument develops they choose to let some time pass without discussion rather than talking it out right away.
If you're a military brat who suspects his or her friendships are more surface than you'd like, take some time to:
- Get to know people on a deeper level. Ask them questions about their life and look for opportunities to share your experience.
- Don't fear conflict. It's okay to argue in a healthy way with a friend, and can often mean that the two of you become closer and maintain a high level of respect for one another.
- Understand that even if you need to pick up and leave a friendship now, you can still maintain a close relationship with things like Facebook, phone calls, and texts. You can "take friendships with you" more easily than brats used to be able to do before social media. While it's still hard to say goodbye to a friend, things like Facebook and texting make it easier.
Where Are You From?
A common question that comes up during small talk is "Where are you from?" This is a question that many brats struggle with. One site says a common response from brats is "I'm not from anywhere. I'm from everywhere." Since most people expect a single answer to this question, brats are uncomfortable with what to say at times.
A good response could be whatever you like. "I was born in X, and have lived in X countries." While this might seem awkward admitting to someone you've just met, it will actually open up the dialog and allow you to talk about your experience, the places you've seen, and the types of people you've met. This will kick start a conversation with a potential new friend that wouldn't have existed before.
Were you a military brat? Share your experience.