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Understanding Forces Life

We amplify the voice of young people from armed forces and veteran families.

Young people wanted to have a space on our website to help civilian audiences to better understand what it’s like to be a forces child today.

You might have forces children in your class at school, you might work directly with them or make important decisions about their future.

This space includes lots of information and resources which we have co-produced with young people from forces families to help enhance understanding.

Did you know that there are over 12,500 children and young people from armed forces and veteran families receiving local authority education provision in Scotland. 

Young people will encounter positive and challenging experiences.

What are some of the positives?

These young people are woven into the fabric of a unique global community, which is built upon a strong sense of belonging, lived experience and solidarity.

Compared to civilian peers, they can embrace greater opportunities to travel, absorb different cultures and meet diverse groups of people.

Many will attend local authority schools, whilst others will attend boarding school which enables them to realise their potential and thrive.

What is more, young people can take on greater responsibility and independence at home when a parent is deployed and thrive within that role.

These experiences can go a long way towards developing a unique sense of identity, purpose and confidence to realise potential and thrive.

What are some of the challenges living in an armed forces family?

Deployment and uncertainty concerning loved ones, bereavement, living with a family member with life-changing physical or psychological wounds might be some of the obvious challenges that spring to mind.

Regular relocations, something often described as mobility in the armed forces, can disrupt friendships, activities, and routines and affect things like education and learning, mental health and wellbeing, making friends and much more.

If we look at education for a second, did you know young people from armed forces families will move school around 4-5 times on average?

What is more, young people often need to adapt quickly when they find out their new school might not offer the same subjects, or they have sit different types of exams than what they have prepared for at their previous school.

In some cases, young people have told us that they have given up trying to make new friends and participating in extra-curricular activities because they know they will move sooner or later – all of which can lead to social isolation and loneliness.

What are some of the challenges of living in a veteran family?

When a family member leaves the armed forces, making the change to become a veteran family can present challenges too. Many young people have told us they felt acute sense of loss with regard to belonging, community, relationships, and identity.

The move from military to civilian life can either be planned or sudden; this often proves the case when a parent experiences a life-changing injury whilst deployed on operations, training or carrying out day-to-day routine tasks.

Whether it’s a gradual or rapid transition to civilian life there is a pressure to adapt and maintain day-to-day routines, and it is likely many young people have to leave the familiarity and community of service accommodation which they have grown up around and built upon to establish a strong sense of identity.

For some young people, they may take on caring responsibilities for a parent who has left the armed forces and is now living with a life-changing physical or psychological injury, which can present a number potential challenges to overcome when balancing education and learning, and much more.

In some cases, young people may relocate one final time with their families which means adapting to another new school, and community and starting a new cycle of attempting to make friends, joining sports clubs and much more.


Want to find out more? We have lots of resources to help you.

Month of the Military Child Pack

Our celebration pack which includes lots of activities, podcasts and discussion topics which to help better understand lived experiences of military children.


Forces Life Board Game and Comic

Get together to learn about the lived experience of children and young people from forces families through our board game and comic book.

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Professional Learning Activity

We can help educators and professionals to better understand and enhance practice to meet unique support needs.

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Hear from some of the young people involved in co-developing our Forces Life Board Game and Comic Book.

Learn more about the reasons young people decided to find creative ways to help civilian audiences better understand the lives they lead.