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

 

Did You Know? #WayBackWednesday

Did you know, in 1985, the National Military Family Association became the first organization to testify before a Senate subcommittee on the critical issue of health care for military families? But what’s affecting military families in 2014? Find out what pro-military family legislation you should know about.

ted-kennedy-and-margaret-hallgren

Former Association President, Margaret Vinson Hallgren speaks as the late Senator Ted Kennedy listens.

#OurVolunteersRock: Meet Jackie, our “OORAH” Historian!

Jackie-history-projectShe sat in the back of an undesirable office space with her eyes peering through a magnifying glass, garnering clues from an old photo. Minutes later, she ambled down the hall to let me know a water logged ceiling panel had just crashed to the floor, barely missing her head. She wasn’t worried about her safety; she wanted to protect the historical papers and pictures she was investigating! I immediately knew I wasn’t managing the average Volunteer.

Who is this special Volunteer? She is Colonel Marguerite J. Campbell, United States Marine Corps, Retired.

At the National Military Family Association, we call her Jackie!

She was commissioned in 1967 as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Yes, a FEMALE officer in the Marine Corps in the 60’s! It wasn’t an unusual choice for her to make – she had grown up the daughter of a USMC Master Sergeant. Her father was the first to salute her at her commissioning! Jackie never makes a big deal about being a female in what was, and still is, a predominately male world, but she does note that she had to ask the permission of her superiors to become a mother.

Here are some of the highlights of her fascinating career:

Jackie was an Administrative Officer.
She commanded the Women Marines of D-2 in 1974 and 1975.
She spent many years as the Protocol Officer at the United States European Command (EUCOM).
Jackie served two Joint Tours at the Pentagon and was the J2J5 Joint Specialty Officer for Colin Powell.

When you pop into her cubicle in our new office space, she might share some stories of famous military leaders and presidents she has come in contact with during her stellar career.

But that’s not all! She’s also a professional chef! After her retirement from the Corps in 1993, Jackie pursued another passion, and graduated from Johnson and Wales University. She worked as a caterer and chef for 10 years, and last week, she made a glorious 15 pound poached salmon for a special church event!

And if the Marine and chef experiences aren’t fascinating enough, just ask her about her husband (also a retired Marine), her three daughters, six granddaughters, two great grandchildren and seven cats! She beams with pride when speaking about her family.

In 2011, she was asked to sort, organize, and label photos and documents of our Association’s history. Three years later, Jackie has created a filing system for all of our history, and she continues to add to it. Jackie has logged almost 300 volunteer hours with our Association so far this year!

In a time when volunteerism is dwindling, Jackie is a rare gem. She volunteers diligently to preserve the history of the National Military Family Association. She also volunteers for the Armed Forces Hostess Association at the Pentagon.

Oh how I wish we could clone her!

Lets give a big “OORAH” to our retired Colonel, friend, and Volunteer Historian, Jackie Campbell!

Does a Volunteer you know have a special story? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!

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

One Nation evermore.

Thank you to our Nation’s service members and military families, who continue to sacrifice so that we all may experience the freedoms of this great land.

Independence-Day

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

Parent Pride: Being the Parent of a Gay Service Member

american-and-pride-flagI was honored to be asked to part of a panel for the Pentagon Pride event recently. As part of the recognition of cultural diversity, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the Pentagon comes together to speak about what it means to be gay and to work for, or be in, the military.

I was there as the parent of a gay service member; one who loves her child and, who, before the recent changes to Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, worried about her as well.

Her father and I always supported her. We always loved her and welcomed her partner (now wife) into our family with open arms. It broke my heart to listen to one couple on the panel, living the military life with children, who did not have the love and support of other family members.

I listened to the other panel members talk about their experiences as they came out to co-workers and military comrades. For the most part, those folks were welcomed in their military communities, and were gifted with extraordinary kindnesses. I heard them talk about experiences so similar to my family’s as we raised our military kids. Volunteering as a family, experiencing moves, doing all the things families (especially military families) do.

But now they can do them in the open and not worry about adverse impacts on careers.

The most wonderful aspect of the whole panel? How ordinary the lives of these newly minted, and newly recognized, military families seemed to be, and how easily they had been assimilated in the short two years since the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.

I see that in the life of my daughter and her wife. No drama, just everyday life. Work, play, TDYs, caring for their canine child, keeping up their new home…living the military dream.

There are many organizations that members of the military’s LGBT community have created to support their families, and to work to overcome the obstacles that still exist, like recognition of gay marriage by individual states. Dear to my heart is the Military Partners and Families Coalition, who reached out to our Association the day before the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, looking for support for their families. We are a proud member of their coalition.

The American Military Partner Association invited our Association to be sponsors of their first-ever military gala, which we gladly accepted.

And, I can’t forget to salute Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) – the original parent support group for the parents of LGBT children. Their original support book for parents has been replaced by specifically targeted booklets and brochures, but the message is still the same – loving and supporting your children.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Are you a parent of a gay service member? What ways do you support them?

kathyPosted by Kathy Moakler, Government Relations Director

 

Navigating the TRICARE maze: Prime vs. Standard

tricare-prime-vs-standardCo-pays.

Cost-shares.

In-network vs. out-of-network.

I’ll have a whole new vocabulary once I master the TRICARE maze!

For the past 9 years, I’ve used TRICARE Prime. I’ve seen doctors at Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) and in town. I thought I scored big time when I was assigned a Primary Care Manager (PCM) out in town because the base was too full to take new patients. When we were stationed outside of Washington D.C., I navigated between multiple MTFs to get the care I needed.

It’s not a perfect system and there are some glitches. For example, accessing records between an Army hospital and a Navy hospital…let’s just say it doesn’t work as well as it should. The different systems don’t always “talk” to each other, which means you may need to hand-carry records, especially ultrasounds, MRIs, or other digital images between MTFs. And if you do see a civilian provider off the installation you’ll also need to carry records between providers.

With Prime, one thing I never had to worry about was cost. As long as I had referrals and pre-authorizations – I had minimal co-pays, if any at all. In fact, I had our first son while covered under Prime and don’t recall paying anything for my prenatal care, labor, delivery, or post-partum care. I attended child birth classes, met with a lactation consultant, took an infant CPR class, and even left the hospital with a bag full of goodies for our newborn.

Four years later, we are expecting our second and I decided to switch to TRICARE Standard. Why? Because when I got pregnant, I was recalled by the MTF, even though I live more than 30 miles from an MTF and was already seeing a civilian provider in town. And, unfortunately, the MTF I was recalled to doesn’t have the providers I need. I didn’t want to navigate appointments in opposite directions driving 30 miles one way to the MTF and 30 miles in the opposite direction to specialists.

I thought I understood the deductible, co-pays, and cost-shares under TRICARE Standard. Yet, maternity care has its own set of cost-shares, too. I’ve learned to keep copies of my Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) and any bills I receive directly from a provider. I call my regional contractor frequently to review claims and ask questions. I discovered my OB’s billing office isn’t an expert on TRICARE billing, and as a result, I was being overcharged. I had the same problem with overcharges for lab work, too.

And I discovered the hospital education benefits I enjoyed at the MTF with my first pregnancy aren’t covered. There is a fee to take a child birth refresher class or meet with a lactation consultant.

Our second baby is due in a few short weeks and overall I’m happy with the quality of care we are receiving under TRICARE Standard. I’ve learned I have a role to play in keeping costs down by asking questions about coverage, reviewing bills, reading the TRICARE website, and talking to my regional contractor to understand our benefit. TRICARE Standard has given me the flexibility to see the providers I prefer, but it comes at a cost.

What are your experiences with TRICARE Prime vs. TRICARE Standard? What would you recommend to other military families?

katie2Posted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager