When your child starts growing up, they start thinking about career options. For most 17-year-old kids, the main path is to go to college. Here, they can study a chosen topic and pursue a career relating to it. However, this isn’t always the case. Some kids have different ideas and aspirations for others. For some, the idea of the military may excite them. 

This takes us to the topic of discussion – what to do if your child wants to join the military. Understandably, you can be quite scared and anxious about this decision. What can you do in this situation? Well, here are some words of advice:

Don’t force your child to do anything

I think the worst thing to do is to force your child into a decision. If you don’t want them to join the military, then tell them. Be open about your concerns and let them know why you’re worried. Talk to them about the things they might be giving up, but also understand their reasons for making this decision. Never tell your child that they can’t follow this dream. If they’re 18, then there’s nothing you can do to stop them. All this will achieve is a rift between you and the child. Be honest about any concerns, but don’t try to force them. 

Ask them why they want to join

This is an important topic as you need to know their reasons for wanting to go to the military. For some, the reasons are better than others. If your child feels really patriotic and they want to help give back to their country, then that’s a good reason. Or, if they produce tons of research and have said they really want to joint because it helps them develop their skills and they want to achieve a certain rank or role, then that’s another good reason. But, if your child says they want to shoot guns and go to war, it’s not an ideal reason to join the military. They clearly don’t understand what they’re getting into, so they need to do more research. It’s a good idea to speak to some sort of career advisor within the military that explains it in more detail. If they hear how life in the military isn’t like films or video games, then it could alter their decision. 

Make sure they focus on their education

It’s common for some teenagers to want to join the military, then give up on school education. They assume that there’s no need for good grades as they aren’t heading off to college. On the contrary, this couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the key requirements for joining the military is that your child has a high school diploma. In fact, some roles within the military demand a degree if you want to train for them. So, by no means should your child give up on their education in school. Ensure they’re aware of how important it is so they don’t stop studying hard. The harder they work, the easier it will be when they join the military. Even though it’s nothing like college, there will still be some lessons and plenty of learning. 

Consider some contingency plans

Contingency planning seems pretty apt when talking about the military. In essence, you need your child to be aware that things don’t always turn out how they expect. Some people join the military and love it, while others leave after a few months. If this happens to your child, they need to have some sort of back-up plan in case. Not only that, but this plan should be in place if they ever get discharged from the military in the future. 

What sort of back up plans can you devise? The most obvious one is to look at their education. Going to the military means you miss out on a college education. Therefore, it leaves you with very few educational qualifications or skills when looking for work. Thankfully, there are military-friendly schools that can be helpful. Now, what does a military-friendly school mean? In simple terms, it’s a school that helps those who have been in the military. Your child could use some of their military training and transfer it into school credits. There’s support specifically for people in the military, and so on. You and your child could plan to go to one of these schools if things don’t turn out for the best in the military. It allows them to keep up with their education and eventually earn a degree. 

Be sure you know the rules

Finally, make sure you know the rules regarding the military. I’ve already mentioned that having a high-school diploma is an essential entry requirement. Well, another is that you must be a US citizen that’s 18 or over. If you aren’t, then you can’t join the military of your own accord. So, if your child fits this description, you technically can’t stop them from going ahead and signing up. 

However, children of 17 years of age can also join the military with parental consent. If this is the case, then be sure you and your child have talked things through thoroughly. Ensure you’ve gone over all the key points and seen the pros and cons of this decision. If they are absolutely determined, then you could sign them up. But, I don’t think that’s the best choice. I believe it’s best to not let your child go off to the military when they’re 17. You’re not forcing them to give up on a dream, you’re just delaying it for a year. Wait until they are 18, then they can make the decision themselves. Who knows, they might have realized this isn’t their ideal career path after all. 

It’s normal to be a bit confused if your child wants to join the military. The important thing is to hear them out and talk about this decision with them. If they feel like it’s what they want to do, and they understand the risks and rewards, then be as supportive as possible.