Category Archives: Military kids

5 Ways to Cope With Kids’ Stress During a PCS Move

little-girl-in-boxThe other day I was driving with my two daughters to Walmart for a much needed grocery trip. From the back seat my four-year-old daughter, Whitney, asked for a drink of the diet soda I had sitting in the center console.

“No, you can have some water instead,” I responded.

She flung herself into a full game-on tantrum, sobbing a dramatic performance worthy of an Oscar. It was one of the worst tantrums in a long, long time. We arrived at Walmart and I was relieved to get out of the confined space. But right there in the middle of the street she firmly, stalwartly, planted her feet, still crying hysterically. In we went, crying, screaming Whitney and all.

When the fit continued inside Walmart, I threw my hands up in surrender. This could not possibly be happening over denying her soda. I say no to soda all the time, only allowing sparing sips. Then it dawned on me. She must be stressed out about our quickly approaching 1500 mile permanent change of duty station (PCS) to Fort Bliss, Texas.

And it makes sense, really. A few days after talking to her about moving to Texas, she had a bed-wetting accident twice in one night; the first and only time she has ever done that. Plus, my husband and I have been stressed and emotionally strung-out lately. I know now that she is feeling the trickledown effect with our pending move.

I knew that I needed to create a strategy of keeping a happier home. After some careful thought, I came up with this short list of five ways we deal with child stress during our PCS.

Stick to the routine.
Kids thrive on routine. It’s often hard for me to stop what I’m doing to pick up a book and look into my daughters’ eyes for longer than a nanosecond knowing that I have a moving to-do list up to my ears. Try. Try to welcome the break the best you can. Do it for the littles.

Recognize the emotion out loud.
Young children do not understand what they are feeling. If you put a word to the emotion, it may help them come down out of the red. When my youngest gets extra loud, I explain, I know you’re angry about Whitney not letting you play in her bedroom. That must make you feel sad. KidsHealth.org says, “putting feelings into words helps kids communicate and develop emotional awareness — the ability to recognize their own emotional states.”

little-girl-packing-PCS-boxListen and move on.
While waiting out the Walmart tantrum, Whitney surprised me by taking a breath between sobs (finally!) by saying, “Mommy, I got so mad when you said no to me drinking your soda.” This made me listen to her frustration, talk about it, and move past the stressful moment. Later that evening, she told my husband about her Oscar-worthy performance.

“That’s right,” we said. “That wasn’t a happy moment, and we know that made you feel upset. Now it’s time for bed. Tomorrow will be a new day to laugh and play.”

Involve them in the process.
Allow your children to pack their special items in their very own box. Place it last on the truck, and unpack it first when you arrive. This demonstrates that all of your things from your last home have arrived at your new home. If you hired movers, bling the box out with stickers so it stands out. Or, keep it in your personal vehicle for easy access.

Dance.
When all else fails, have a living room dance party. Seriously! Who can stay mad or stressed when you’re dancing crazy to your favorite songs?

Do your kids show signs of stress before a pending move? What tips and tricks work for your family? Share it with us in the comments!

erin-bettisPosted by Erin Bettis, Army spouse, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Ft. Bliss, TX

 

6 Things My Military Kids Taught Me

army_mil-2008-08-12-173748-smallFor the past 23 years, I’ve been a military spouse. For 21 of those years, I’ve also been a mother. Over the years I’ve often wondered if I taught my two kids everything they need to know (I’m quite sure there is plenty left to teach).

But as I got to thinking about this, I realized those two military children of mine have taught me some things I’m glad I know now.

Here are six life lessons they’ve taught me.

  1. Home really is where you hang your heart. People are always asking us where we are from. Being a native Kansan (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!), I tell them we are from the Midwest. My children look at me like I’m crazy, and respond, “Right now we are from Northern Virginia.” To my kids, ‘home’ really is where the family resides. I suppose they are right; there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
  2. It’s important to have a pet. When we found out, two weeks before Christmas, we were moving to Alabama, my kids were anything but excited. So I told them they could get a puppy once we got to Maxwell AFB. Some call it bribery; I call it working the situation. Our new puppy Max (short for “Maxwell” – get it?) gave them something to look forward to. Even better, when they’d take Max out for his daily walks, they’d meet all kinds of kids in our new neighborhood. Today, they still have a very lovable companion who reminds them of our great year in Alabama.
  3. It’s important to try, even if you fail. Just after moving to a new school, my son, who was 13, wanted to run for Student Council President. I cautioned him that we had just moved there, and nobody knew who he was. He assured me that it was okay, as he had some really good ideas for his political platform. Inwardly I cringed. He got crushed in a landslide defeat, but afterwards said to me, “Well, a lot more people know who I am now!” Have the courage to try.
  4. All that moving around really DOES build character. My son, who is now 21 and ready to start his senior year in college, took the brunt of our military moves. I shouldn’t have been surprised when he elected to go to an out-of-state college where he knew no one. He dove into the Kent State culture, and has navigated himself beautifully. During his first two years, he lived on campus, where most of the student population went home on long weekends. He stayed on campus by himself, and managed it all quite well. Of course he’d be equipped to deal with things on his own… he’s been doing it his whole life.
  5. You can find humor in any situation. After just moving to Northern Virginia, I started coaching my daughter’s softball team. On one cold rainy fall night, we arrived home after practice, covered in dirt, chilled to the bone, and wanting nothing more than a hot shower. Turns out, the gas company had cut off our gas that day due to a gas leak in the neighborhood. They refused to turn it back on since my name wasn’t on the account – rookie mistake! And guess what? My husband was TDY! There I stood with my daughter, at 9 o’clock at night, filthy and shivering, and no hopes of a hot shower. She just burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, and I soon joined her. What else could we do? I suppose I learned several lessons that night, including that I have very nice neighbors who are willing to open up their showers to us late at night!
  6. It’s okay that my career never flourished. I was talking to my 17 year-old daughter about colleges and careers, encouraging her to pursue something great. She began asking about me, and I embarrassingly told her I never really had a thriving career. For the first 15 years of my children’s lives, I held many part-time jobs, working around their school schedules and finding whatever job I could wherever it was that we lived. I was a jack of all trades, master of none. My daughter couldn’t understand why I would be embarrassed about this. She asked, “If you worked, who would have been there to take care of us while Dad was always gone?” (Ah, she’s a sweet one!) She and her brother will always remember that I was there to see them off to school every day, and I was there when they got home. That’s something. And for me, that’s enough.

What lessons have your military kids taught you?

cindyPosted by Cindy Jackson, Finance Specialist

One Test, Two Test…Here Comes a New Test!

Books---EducationState standardized testing. Those words can make anyone get a little damp under the arm pits. We all took them as kids. But today, they are a BIG deal! When you’re a military kid, who moves from state to state, they are a REALLY BIG deal.

In Florida, our daughter’s first grade class made good luck cards for the fifth graders taking the FCAT (Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test). Another class made signs to post on the walls. There was even a pep rally! My fourth grader was told if they didn’t pass the writing portion they couldn’t go on to the fifth grade. Really? Children can get held back by one exam?

Can that really be true?

In Washington, the teachers didn’t make a sporting event of taking the MSP (Measurements of Student Progress) exam in the early spring, but the test results weren’t available until the next fall. That’s a l-o-n-g wait. And the scores only get released to school districts… not directly to parents. Six months later we found out they all passed. We weren’t even living in the state anymore!

We’re in Virginia this year for the SOL (Standard of Learning) tests. Here, they’ve talked about the SOLs since the first week of school! The pressure to succeed here is massive because Northern Virginia prides itself on its national reputation for superior public schools.

Our eighth grader is most worried about the science exam because his seventh grade science course in Washington was not the same as the science curriculum in Virginia.

As a military kid, he can use Tutor.com for free! We also recently learned about SOAR (Student Online Achievement Resources), a free assessment service that helps kids and parents see whether they are meeting state standards and where they need extra help. But what 14 year old wants to study extra in May… for another exam… in another state… with another standard?

Not mine. And I don’t blame him.

Military families all know the answer to this word problem: another new state + state testing = anxiety!

Our house is a bowl of SOL stress soup right now.

In the near future, one of my three kids has a test, is going to bed early for a test, is celebrating a test being over, or is complaining about the upcoming test. I can’t make their test anxiety go away.

But I gave them this advice, “You’ve gained more life skills and knowledge from 8 moves, 5 states, and Japan than you will ever learn in a classroom. You’ve been tested time and again when your dad has gone on long trips, trainings, and deployments. You’ve passed with flying colors each time. You’ve got this!”

And they do.

How do you help your military kids get ready for school exams?

meredithPosted by Meredith Moore, Volunteer Services Coordinator, National Capital Region

A Different Kind of Warrior: The Military Kid

opc-girlsWhat’s it like to be a military kid – one who worries about the safety of parents who may be living halfway across the world for months at a time?

We can try to understand their situations, but no one really “gets it” except the kids themselves. Most military children do not live on or near an installation, which makes it that much harder for them to connect with other kids who also have a parent serving. Operation Purple® camps were specially designed to help military kids cope while their parents are deployed.

Since 2004, many generous Americans have helped send more than 51,000 military kids to Operation Purple camps.

Getting a break from war, finding friends to confide in, and having some fun to offset the extra responsibilities in their complicated young lives. Operation Purple camps bring amazing experiences to the lives of our military kids.

Although their parents are the ones who are exposed to hostile environments, it’s the kids who bear the stress of uncertainty – wondering when the separation will end, whether mom or dad are safe, and whether they’re going to come home “the same.”

While at camp, kids get to do everything from kayaking and hiking, to archery and horseback riding. They participate in military-based activities, like hide-and-seek while wearing night-vision goggles, or exploring Humvees and helicopters.

But most importantly, they get the opportunity to make friends with kids who know everything they are going through – kids who are just like them.

Here are a few words about the camps from the kids themselves:

“It’s helped me get away from all the stress in my life and be able to make friends who understand me.” –Kaitlin, age 8

“I made amazing friends and was able to talk to other kids about deployment. It truly brings kids closer and helps us understand we are not alone. I love OPC… it makes me feel like people truly care.” – Emma , age 11

“Camp has taught me that I’m not the only child having a hard time while my dad is gone.” –Johnathan, age 7

And one from mom, too:
“Before camp, our children never considered how much they’re appreciated for giving up their dad to serve our country. This program gave them a much needed reward for their sacrifice.” -Suzanne, Mom of camper

Just one camp experience can change a child’s life forever. Please help us make a difference in the life of a military child.

Remember, military kids serve, too. Help support them by donating today!

carolinePosted by Caroline Rasmus, Development and Membership Manager

 

What’s On Your Birthday List? Probably Not This…

chloe-and-miya-megaroKids and gifts seem to go hand in hand, right? From birthdays, to holidays, the lists of gotta-have-its never stop growing. But for nine year old Chloe Megaro, and seven year old Miya Megaro, their gotta-have-its were a little different than most.

Shortly after the attacks on 9/11, the Megaro family felt a strong desire to help support the military, and the families who support our brave men and women. The Megaros were inspired by the many individuals who lost loved ones in the tragedy. Especially how those who lost so much managed to raise awareness, and money, for others who suffered as they did.

At first, the Megaros collected items for charities that prepared care packages to troops overseas.

But then something amazing happened. The idea to give back grew.

Their family decided to dedicate their annual children’s Valentines party, which they called “Open Your Heart to a Soldier,” to our service members and their families.

Chloe and Miya invited friends and family to the party where they provided food, fun, and raffled gift items donated from local vendors. In an effort to continue supporting military families, the family hosted this party for three consecutive years, and collected more than $3,000!

“We feel so proud to have not only raised funds, but also increased awareness and concern for our troops and their families. Many of our guests thanked us for hosting such a thoughtful event.” said Cathy Megaro, Chloe and Miya’s mother.

Due to personal circumstances, the Megaro’s were unable to continue the “Open Your Hearts to a Soldier” Valentines event this year, but that didn’t stop Chloe and Miya from giving. Instead, the girls requested donations to military charities in lieu of gifts at their birthday parties. Their guests donated $200, which the Megaro’s matched, and added an additional $100 to make a minimum total donation of $500!

“[Chloe and Miya] are aware of how blessed they are, and how important it is to help those in need, especially our soldiers and their families.”

Now that’s a gotta-have-it.

What ways do you teach your kids to give back? Share it with us in a comment!

anniePosted by Annie Morgan, Development and Membership Deputy Director

 

And the #MilKidMessages Winner Is….

A few days ago, we announced the winners of our #MilKidMessages contest, which was a great way for military kids everywhere to share their advice with other fellow military kids. And let me tell you, there was some awesome advice!

The winner of four Southwest Airline tickets is……Julia! She is five years old, and had some cheerful advice for other military kids! To see the 2nd place, and Honorable Mention winners, visit our Facebook page!

If your child entered our #MilKidMessages contest, we’d like to say THANK YOU! And while the Month of the Military Child is recognized every April, we know that your military kids are special ALL year round!

Feel free to send us videos and pictures of your military kids every month of the year, and for more info on military kids, check out our website!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

 

 

Raising Military Kids: How Do I Know If I’m Getting It Right?

The-author's-pretty-normal-kidsI chuckle at the saying, “Behind every successful kid is a mother who thinks she is doing everything wrong.” My inner voice is thrilled someone else knows how I feel! Raising kids is a challenge. I know. I have two willful boys who challenge me every day. Raising kids in the military is an even bigger challenge.

Things are just different. As each of my boys reach different milestones and try new things, I’m always wondering, is this normal? Swapping stories with my nonmilitary friends, while often entertaining, doesn’t normally reassure me. Our kids don’t have the same experiences.

That’s why I really like what we’re doing with the MyMilitaryLife app. It’s the What to Expect When Raising Military Kids.

When your spouse is deployed, do you wonder if your child’s meltdown is because of the deployment, or the Xbox? In the app, you are connected with sites that help explain the emotions our kids are feeling. Did you move over the summer and want to plug your kids into some recreational activities? That’s in the app, too. What about getting them engaged in their new school? That’s a big one for me. Fortunately, information about changing schools is in the app!

Additionally, the comments and rating system allows other military spouses to share their experiences with the recommended programs, and help point me in the right direction. For example, an Air Force spouse posted this about Tutor.com, “Tutor.com is EXCELLENT! !! This is definitely a go-to if you, the parent, can’t help your child with school. Best of all, it’s free!!”

My military family is retired now, and the changes are fewer and farther between. These days, I watch my brother’s family cope with the challenges of military parenting as he advances in his Army career. So, I downloaded the app to his phone and said. “Trust me, it’s in there.”

Download the MyMilitaryLife app today and tell us what you think!

michellePosted by Michelle Joyner, Mobile Initiatives Director

Calling All Military Kids! Give Your Best Advice and Win Big!

April is the Month of the Military Child, and if there’s one thing we know already, it’s that military kids really ROCK! And while it’s a pretty unique experience being a military child, we know that sometimes it’s a little tough.

That’s why we are looking for some awesome military kids to share their best advice for other military kids! Anything from tips on making new friends to interesting ways to remember their service member parent while they’re deployed! In a contest we’re calling, #MilKidMessages, we want parents to create a short video – less than 1 minute – of their child sharing some of their tricks of the trade, like this one:

Send your video to us:

  • on our Facebook timeline
  • via Twitter or Instagram (with the hashtag #MilKidMessages)
  • or email it to us at social@militaryfamily.org

1st prize: 4 Southwest Airline tickets
2nd prize: 2 Southwest Airline tickets
Honorable mentions: $25 AMEX gift card

**CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED**

The Bittersweet Truth About Being a Privileged Military Family

muppets-movieLiving in our Nation’s capital and working for a military organization gives me certain opportunities—privileges that other military families don’t have. We all know that as military families, we have little control over circumstance. So when we were recently invited to an advanced screening of “Muppets Most Wanted” with the First Lady, it was a bittersweet feeling. We were no more entitled to that moment than any other military families who weren’t there—but still it was an amazing opportunity.

The Sweet
My children were so excited to see the First Lady and be given the opportunity to do something so exclusive. When Mrs. Obama spoke about how important military kids are and how proud she is of them, my son got a little bit emotional. So did I. To have the First Lady of the United States call out the hardships military kids endure—the circumstances that they go through and don’t even realize are extraordinary—meant the world to my children. As military families, we may tell our kids every day how proud we are of them and how strong they are. But hearing it from someone else, someone who doesn’t even know them, and is the most famous mom in the United States, means it must be true, right?

The Bitter
I was so grateful to have my children experience that moment, but honestly, it made me feel incredibly guilty. Thousands, upon thousands, of military families are just like us. What made us so special? Why did we deserve to feel that moment of recognition? I wanted all of our peers and friends to be there, too. They, too, deserve to see the joy in their child’s eyes. I didn’t feel right being there without them. I felt like I was cheating someone else out of the experience. I wondered if this is what my husband feels like, coming home from war feeling guilty about enjoying life at home while his peers are still sacrificing.

The Plain Truth
The truth is, although there were only about a dozen families there, Mrs. Obama was speaking to all of our military kids—even the ones who weren’t in the room. Every military kid should be told they are strong; that what they do is important; that they are heroes. They need to know that.

Every single one of them.

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

OCONUS Orders: Where Will My Kids Go to School?

Siblings-with-backpacks-on-way-to-schoolOne of the great advantages of military life is the opportunity to live overseas. How many of our civilian friends and neighbors have the chance to pick up and spend two or three years exploring Japan, Germany, or Korea? However, along with the excitement that accompanies overseas Permanent Change of Station (PCS ) orders comes an onslaught of questions. Where will we live? What about the dog? And – most importantly for families with school-age children – where will the kids go to school?

For most families moving overseas, the choice of a school is fairly straightforward. The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) operates elementary and secondary schools at installations in countries all over the world, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey, Bahrain, South Korea, and Japan. For families stationed at these locations, these Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) provide a comprehensive, quality education to children in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

However, what about those families heading to a country not served by a DoDDS school? How can they find an appropriate school for their school-age children? For answers to these and many other questions, families heading overseas can turn to the Non-DoD Schools Program (NDSP). The NDSP provides support and funding for the education of authorized command-sponsored dependents of military members and Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employees assigned to overseas areas where no DoDEA school is available.

The NDSP supports families moving overseas in a variety of ways. First, it helps families identify the different options for educating their children in their new location: local public school, private school, virtual education, or homeschooling. Your new command or overseas location should have an NDSP Liaison who can provide you with information on your choices. You can also find contact information for regional instructional specialists at the NDSP website.

Depending on your child’s grade level and the options available at your new location, the NDSP may be authorized to pay tuition for your child to attend a private school. Allowed tuition amounts vary by location.

It’s important for families to understand that not all the costs associated with attending school in their new location will be covered by NDSP. NDSP is not allowed to pay for uniforms, meals, or personal computers, for example. Families should also be aware that private schools may have a lengthy application process, so it’s important to reach out to NDSP for support and information as soon as possible after receiving orders.

Parents of special needs children may be especially concerned about an overseas move and the ability of the local school system to meet their child’s educational needs. The NDSP can offer guidance about options available in your new location and will work with parents, service providers, and school personnel to make sure your child’s needs can be met.

Moving overseas can be an exciting adventure for your family. Arming yourself with as much information as possible beforehand helps ensure it will be a positive experience for everyone. Bon voyage, travel safe, and be sure to take lots of pictures!

Has your child attend a NDSP school? What advice would you share with military parents?

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director