Tag Archives: military kids

TRICARE’s Breastfeeding Policy: A New Mom’s Experience

Recently, TRICARE implemented a new breastfeeding support policy including coverage for breast pumps. Our Association is generally pleased with this new policy because it gives families flexibility in terms of when, where, and how to purchase breast pumps and supplies.

But we wondered how this policy is panning out in military communities as families try to use it. So we asked Jaclyn, a Fort Benning Army Spouse, while she was expecting her first baby. Jaclyn had just purchased a breast pump.


I heard about TRICARE’s new breast pump policy from an online moms group.  I called TRICARE even before the policy went into effect and they were able to answer some of my questions.  They were at least aware that the policy would go into effect on July 1.

Back in August, I started to think about buying a pump again, so I needed to learn about the process for getting a pump covered by the new policy. At that point I was only seeing my midwife once a month for appointments.  I wasn’t sure if I would need to get a prescription before buying the pump. I checked my online Army Moms group and saw a post about how to buy a pump at Target so I decided to give that a try.

I called the 800 number for the Target breast pump program. They collected some basic information about me and my TRICARE coverage and then they took it from there. They sent me an email with three choices of pumps that would be fully covered by TRICARE. They also provided some options where I would have to pay part of the cost out of pocket. I chose the Medela In Style Advance (retail price approximately $200 at Target.)

It turns out that I didn’t even need a hardcopy prescription – Target followed up with my midwife directly to get the prescription. Target emailed me with a list of locations where I could pick up the Medela pump. I chose one and went to the store. I stopped by the Target customer service desk and the pump was there waiting for me.  I didn’t have to pay anything given the pump I selected!

My experience was pretty easy, but my friends on TRICARE Prime seem to be having a more difficult time. Some of them are having trouble getting a prescription from their OBs. It seems like Pediatricians are more aware of the policy and will provide a prescription without a problem. 

How does Jaclyn’s experience compare to yours? What worked well and what did not? Share your story with us in the comments section below.

And don’t forget about lactation counseling! We talked with Jaclyn while she was still expecting, so her story doesn’t touch on breastfeeding counseling. Have you tried to use TRICARE’s new coverage for lactation counseling?

Your stories will help us understand if TRICARE’S new breastfeeding supplies and support policy is working as intended.  Thank you for helping us advocate for military families!

karenPosted by Karen Ruedisueli, Government Relations Deputy Director

Setting Our Kids Up For Success: Are We Pushing Too Hard?

On our way to my daughter’s hockey practice, my 12 year old son boldly states that he is going to take a year of ‘self-exploration’ after high school, instead of heading straight to college.

My heart starts pounding and my vision becomes blurry. I think to myself, is this what it’s like before you pass out? Pull yourself together, woman…you are driving!


I took a deep breath and made sure I heard him correctly, “What did you say?”

He slowly repeats his statement with a distinct pause in between his words to ensure I was fully aware of his annoyance. Now my blood is boiling, “Um, no…YOU, my son, are NOT taking a year off after high school. YOU are getting a scholarship, playing your favorite sport, and most definitely going to college IMMEDIATELY following high school.”

My head is spinning. Did that really just happen? Is my 7th grader stressing about college and what he is going to do in his adult years, or am I the one stressing? Do I place too much pressure on him? Are my expectations too high? Of course, the answer to these questions is not simple. At times, I do feel like my expectations are too high. He’s only 12. We rush from this to that, and that to this, and before I know it he’s going to be driving and getting his first job with real responsibilities!

All I want is to raise well-rounded, happy human beings that will make a positive contribution to society.

I’m not alone in my concern for my kids. We all want them to grow up happy, healthy, and successful. I know I can’t always protect him, and I can’t make decisions for him, but I want to do everything in my power to set him up for success.

How do you know if you are helping them, or pushing too hard?


First, when it comes to sports and extracurricular activities, ask yourself: is  this for you, or your child?

Did they ask to participate or did you have to convince them? Do they complain about it constantly, and is it affecting their overall mood? Reevaluate your schedules and stress levels every once in a while. Let them be a kid and allow for “free” time.

Second, give them a chance to share their thoughts.

Are the lines of communication open? Are you approachable? Do you make time for one on one conversations? Are you asking questions other than “How was school today? When is your science fair project due again?” Do you listen when they ask questions? Make your home a safe place to express their emotions. Find ways to reach them. They are more likely to open up and engage in conversation when there is less pressure and they can relax.

Third, support them no matter what.

Be their biggest fan! You are their number one cheerleader. Let them know you love them unconditionally. Offer positive encouragement. They are receiving plenty of instruction and criticism from their teachers and coaches.

I don’t always succeed at being a laid back mom, but I strive to be understanding and supportive by taking the time to listen, providing positive encouragement, and most of all, being available when he does need me.

As for that year off? Maybe he can convince me when the time comes.

What are some important ways you support your kids? Share them with us!

Lyndy-RohePosted by Lyndy Rohe, Communications Assistant


Unchained: Being a Military Kid Taught Me Something Amazing…

As I began to grow up, I truly started to realize how different each person’s life can be. Our childhoods, our experiences, and, most importantly, our definition of “normal” vary considerably. In many respects, I had what many would consider a “normal” childhood: two loving parents, a sibling, a cycle of various different pets, and a family that was able to put food on the table, buy school supplies, and take an annual vacation. However, there was one aspect of my life that separated it from many, and that was being a military “brat.”


Being the son of a father who is active duty Air Force, my life came with everything you would expect from a military household. Every time my dad had a permanent change of station, it was time to move again. This meant new schools, new friends, new surroundings, and even new social norms and subcultures. These moves were not even consistent, although most happened after a period of one to three years. Many occurred during the summer months, although a few occurred in the middle of the school year. Some occurred with more warnings than others. Most significantly, many of these moves brought with them a new way of life. Constant transitions occurred, including living on base versus living in the city, atmospheres changing from being surrounded by many children my age to living in a house that almost felt isolated, to even the simple changes of climate, which required changes to everything from your clothing to your daily routine. And, worst of all, this is all in addition to having to build new friendships, new social circles, and essentially, a new way of life. Nearly every day I would read a book or see a TV show where a character would reference being “friends with somebody since kindergarten,” something I was never able to have.

From my experience, this comes across as sounding virtually unbearable to somebody who has never lived through this kind of life. Many of my friends have lived in the same house since they were born, and have had the same or a similar circle of friends for nearly as long as they have been alive. Their extended family lives within an almost trivial driving distance, and their family has lived in the same area for generations. What they consider to be “far away” is no greater than my daily commute to work. They look at me with awe, as if they could never imagine any good from coming out of this life.

However, as I grew older, went to school, entered the workforce, and started to build a life for myself, I started to realize how thankful I am for this, as some would say, “abnormal” childhood.

Being a military brat came with its number of benefits. For example, living on a military base provided a level of safety, and it was normal as a young, elementary aged kid to grab your friends, grab your bikes, and ride around the area with relatively little worry. Military amenities, such as shoppettes, pools, and the BX food court were all within short biking distance. I got to experience F-15’s flying over my house as a normal daily occurrence. And, to top it off, I even received my own unique ID card at age 10, which, for some reason, was the coolest thing ever back then.


However, the greatest benefits came as a byproduct to what many people consider to have been the most difficult obstacle of all: moving. As you move around, you have the opportunity to see different subcultures, different ways of life, and different geographical areas. Small towns? Been there. Large suburbs? Been there. Each coast? Been there. I’ve seen the canned, carbonated drink that I refer to as “soda” be called by more different names than I knew existed. You can tell fascinating stories, and be told, affectionately, that you have an interesting life. For some of us, the constant moving develops a very outgoing nature, a de facto requirement for constantly making new friends. I credit this trait with finding success in my first sales job during college, and ultimately leading to securing a job as an account executive with a multi-billion dollar firm.

Ultimately, though, I thank my military brat childhood for leaving me with what I consider to be my most important trait: feeling unchained. I have lived in six different states, moved regularly, and on average, see my extended family twice per year. To me, this is “normal.” There was no hesitation in my mind with going to college hundreds of miles away from my family. When people ask me if I miss my family, I tend to look at them rather dumbfounded, and reply with, “Well obviously. I definitely miss my family. But it’s 2015. I can call them anytime, and Skype and Facetime are always an option.”

When I look at where I would potentially want to move, important factors tend to include anything from climate to job markets to local recreation. Factors such as, “How far away are my parents/sister/grandparents?” or “Do I know anybody here? Have I lived here before?” are essentially just added bonuses if you will. In fact, in my personal opinion, living in the same place as to which I grew up would almost drive me crazy.

To this day, it still surprises me how many people are unwilling to relocate or pursue new opportunities due to fear of losing everything they are attached to. To be honest, I find this completely understandable. However, when you grow up with a very mobile life, seeking new opportunities and pursuing passions in a new area becomes attractive. You feel a sense of freedom, and have a unique ability to be able to dive headfirst into something new. This mentality is ultimately to what I credit my education, experiences (such as receiving a skydiving license this past summer), and virtually everything on my resume. I have found myself applying for jobs anywhere from Washington D.C. to Atlanta to San Mateo, California. When you hate the concept of feeling “stuck,” your only other option is to move forward. Moving creates a sense of self-confidence, proving to you that you can overcome obstacles and build things up for yourself.

You realize what is truly important, and manage to hold it dear to yourself. The house I spent a few years in before moving off to college? It’s just a house. The school I went to for 7th grade? It’s just another one of many. However, the experiences you gain, the friendships you build, and the family you go through hardships with are things that you realize can never be taken away from you. A good friendship doesn’t get destroyed by you living somewhere else, and I have friends that I have seen on and off for years. Being able to see every corner of the country, gain a wealth of knowledge regarding many different ways of life, and developing the ability to adapt to ever-changing situations are things that very, very few people are fortunate enough to share in.

At 22 years old, I have lived across the country, built up lasting friendships nationwide, and have nurtured an adaptable, ambitious character capable of handling change and overcoming obstacles. I am a military brat.

Are you a military kid? What do you think is the most meaningful thing you learned?

Posted by Matt Jackson, Air Force military kid

The World is Your Military Kid’s Classroom…Take Advantage!

Military life can give kids amazing educational opportunities. In fact, these experiences can often offset the challenges that, all too often, get much more airtime when it comes to schooling.

Yes, there are difficulties. Since it’s common for military kids to move six to nine times during their school years, this lack of continuity due to Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves is probably the biggest challenge. When your education is interrupted up to three times more than your civilian peer’s, can you still get a quality education?

For many children, the answer is “yes,” especially if we stop viewing education as just what happens inside of the classroom and start viewing ‘changes’ as positives, rather than negatives. It’s about time we turn the tables on how we view a military child’s education.


Here are a few ways we can re-frame some of the issues common to a military kid’s education:

Stop with the labels
Issue: Moving away from a ‘great’ school.

We are moving to a ‘worse’ school; you are getting the ‘best’ teacher. All too often, we set a child’s mind (and our own) to what is ahead before we even arrive at a new duty station. A child should be given the chance to explore and figure out where they fit in without a preconceived notion of what the educational experience will provide.

Maybe your quiet child will blossom in a small-town school. Or your high school athlete will finally make the football team at his new school and get straight A’s. Both will boost their confidence more than feeling like a ‘mediocre’ student at a great school.

Takeaway: Change your focus from one of searching out the negatives, and instead, point out the good in the situation to your kids. This change in mindset can go a long way in not only helping them seek out opportunities in school, but also in life!

Focus on quality versus stability
Issue: Frequently changing schools.

Moving. Yes, it’s hard, but remember that quality and stability are not necessarily the same thing. Stability does not necessarily equate to a quality education. While a move from a school with a super teacher and great program that fits a child’s needs might feel discouraging, the opposite can also happen; you just might be moving into a better situation.

The chances of keeping a stable level of quality through many moves are slim; however, the chances of finding different pockets of quality educational opportunities at every duty station are very high.

Takeaway: Parents play a large part in becoming the stabilizing force of quality in their child’s education. They must seek out the best opportunities at each duty station. And advocate for change in the places where there aren’t programs in place that meet the needs of their children. Because stability is not an option for a mobile military kid, the next best option is to find the best situation possible where you land.

Use moving as a chance to reevaluate
Issue: Having a child with special concerns.

Moving forces reevaluation. Children change and so do their needs. While it is burdensome to have to re-do the same help you have sought at other duty stations, you also have to seek out the opportunity in each situation.

Here’s one family’s take on it: “When our family moved to Kansas for just one year, it proved to be very unsettling for many of those months. But if we hadn’t moved, we might not have met the specialist who recommended the eye doctor who diagnosed our son’s vision disorder, which was having a huge effect on him academically and emotionally. When therapy improved his vision, his grades and his behavior improved too.”

Takeaway: A new set of eyes on an old issue can mean an opportunity for your child. Yes, repeating the same laundry list can be tiresome, but so is running up against the same walls at a school you go to for years.


Recognize the possibilities
Issue: Feeling limited in what a new school can offer.

Each military base brings together people from all walks of life, diverse cultures, and distinct groups. Everyone your child meets could have a story to share or something to teach. This is part of your child’s education.

Assigned to another country? Go beyond the social studies book with family field trips that will enhance the lessons your kids learn in the classroom. The Eiffel Tower, Kilauea Volcano, the Matterhorn; military kids are the ones who read about these places and then casually say, “Yeah, I’ve been there.”

With proactive parents as their tour guide, a military child’s education can be full of opportunities a civilian child might only dream about. The world truly is a military kid’s school. What an education!

Takeaway: Education isn’t just something that happens in the classroom. Military life means an opportunity to explore different areas of our country, or world, without having to pay for a hotel or airplane ride for a vacation. Apply what your child has learned in the classroom to life around them in the world.

Remember, learning doesn’t stop when you leave a ‘good school’ or move to a ‘small town.’ Learning also happens when we have to rise above our adversity, meet people from diverse backgrounds, and adjust to a new way of learning at our fifth school in five years.

We need to start looking at things differently…

Military kids are doing some pretty awesome things in this world! They have grown up to be Olympic athletes, astronauts, teachers, soldiers, and so much more. They managed to succeed, even with all of the moving..or maybe all of that moving allowed them to succeed!

Let’s keep our military kids on the road to feeling empowered to succeed by focusing on the opportunity for education as a military child. Yes, we need to continue to build up a system that gives them opportunities no matter where they move. But we also need to re-frame challenges so they don’t become roadblocks to success.

How do you make the best of your child’s education, regardless of where your family is stationed?

Posted by Amy Crispino, Army spouse, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Chameleon Kids, publishers of MILITARY KIDS’ LIFE magazine

Our International School Experience: “Mom, Can I Visit My Friends in Norway?”

When most people think of a child’s first day of school, they think of a huge school, a yellow school bus, and most people speaking the same language. But this wasn’t the experience my family had when my oldest son, Justus, went off for his first day of school.

Like most military families, we’ve traveled and moved A LOT! In the 8 years of my son’s life, he’s lived in four different places; one of those places is a small town called Pápa, Hungary.


After years of military service, my husband decided to take the knowledge he got during his service, and become a military contractor with the Boeing Company. In 2011, he took a job that moved us to Pápa Air Base in the small country of Hungary. There, my husband helped maintain the C-17 Globemasters for the Strategic Air Command, which consists of our Air Force, and also countries such as Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Bulgaria.

Justus was five when we moved to Hungary, and adjusted better than I did. At first, I decided homeschooling was the best option for us. But I quickly learned Justus was much too energetic for my homebody ways. So, for his first grade year, I enrolled him at a school called Quality Schools International (QSI) Pápa, a small, private school made up of only the children of Boeing and the Strategic Air Commands.

On his first day of school, he came home and told me about all the kids he was going to school with, a total of seven nations in one class of children! Can you imagine? My son learned to love, not only the English language, but the German one, as well. The school didn’t offer Spanish, like here in the US, instead, they offer one hour of German every day. His love for reading and writing began to come through, and his love for diverse culture had him soaring.


The school put on many events where each nation could show case their traditions; I can still remember him coming home talking about wooden shoe races, and the beauty of the Dutch tulips in spring time. The school made sure to incorporate a little bit of ‘home’ into each class. These teachers, from all over the world, made a lasting impression on my child–something I know will last through his time and memories.

If I can leave you with any advice about a child going to school overseas, it’s to embrace the culture and get your hands dirty. Go out and visit the local shops, try to learn the language, try the food, and travel. Our three years in Hungary were brief, but in those years, we made lasting memories. We also made lasting friendships that will go with us through all our years.

Justus is already asking to go to Norway & Bulgaria to visit some of his friends–how many children can ask that? In some ways, being a military child puts a huge burden on our children, but in other ways, it opens up their lives to opportunities only most people could dream of.

So, if your next assignment happens to be Japan, Germany, or somewhere else outside of the United States, don’t dread it… embrace it. Your memories are awaiting you!

krystal-adamsPosted by Krystal Adams, veteran military spouse and mother

Smooth Moves: How to PCS with Your MilKid’s IEP or 504 Plan

Moving with the military is always extremely fun. It’s like a game: what will they break this time? I bet $100 it’s your great-grandmother’s irreplaceable antique tea set.

The other part of moving that is always especially wonderful is finding a new school for the kids. I know you just can’t wait to do this! And for those who are traveling with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan, this process is just super smooth, right?!

All kidding aside, moving is hard and trying to find a district or school that will meet your child’s educational needs is unbelievably challenging. But, armed with a little knowledge, the process doesn’t have to be a battle.


Get the records.
Get all of the records from the school that you are leaving. This is your right under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The law states your school must provide access (copies) to your child’s educational file upon your request. Since we all know you are more likely to get service with a smile if you use a little courtesy, it is best to let your school know about your request a few weeks before you move. And if they give you any pushback, remind them about the law. Lots of school will offer to send those records along for you, but as a teacher and mom, I would always feel better if I have a copy to hand carry in addition to the forwarded copy.

Know the law.
While each district might have its own forms, and each state might tweak the process a little bit, an IEP or 504 Plan is a federally protected legal document and must be adhered to until the new district convenes a meeting, or requests new evaluations. In other words, if a child is getting specific services in District 1 of North Carolina, the new school in California must provide comparable services until a new IEP is agreed to. The word comparable is important, since the law doesn’t require an exact match in services, just similar services.

Bonus: There is new language in the Federal Register that took effect on July 27 that requires DOD schools to comply with federal regulations about accepting IEPs from other school systems.

On the downside, private schools are not required to provide comprehensive services for students who have IEPs. Some schools do go above and beyond. And public school districts may be required to provide equitable services, but these will likely not be an extensive as if your child were placed in a public school setting.


Know your rights.
You have federally protected rights that are mandated in ALL states. You have the right to:

  • understand the procedural safeguards
  • inspect and review educational records
  • participate in all educational meeting
  • request an outside independent educational evaluation or IEE (this is NOT required to be paid for by the school district for 504 Plans)
  • to receive prior written notice about all meetings and proposed changes to the IEP/504 Plan
  • to consent or withhold consent (withholding consent means that the current IEP will continue until a consensus on a new IEP is reached)
  • to use mediation or other means specified in IDEA 2004 to resolves disputes

Make a Friend
This might be the most important thing you can do. Teachers know the system, the laws, and have access to all of the educational options in the district. They know what is available, reasonable, and what is considered best practice. You need your teachers on your side.

I know we can all become a protective ‘Momma Bear’ when it comes to our kids, but pull that bear back to the mouth of cave. Teachers are highly educated and certified professionals, so take every opportunity to listen to their advice. She might be seeing things that you aren’t, or see a different way to approach a difficult situation.

You don’t need to bake her a cake, although teachers do love cake. Just keep her in the loop from the first day of school. Let her know all about your child, and the strengths and weaknesses you see. Advise her about what has, and has not, worked in the past; she will thank you for not letting her go down a dead end street. Above all, treat her like a professional who takes her career seriously, and who loves your child.

With your records in hand, a good grasp on your laws and rights, and with an ally in the classroom, even moving schools with an IEP or 504 Plan can be made slightly easier.

What tips would you add for military families with IEP or 504 Plans?

meg-flanaganPosted by Marguerite Flanagan, M.Ed, founder of MilKids Education Consulting, a blog focusing on military and special needs children offering practical tips, fun ideas, and advice on decoding the very dense special education laws.

Be a Homework Genius! 7 Ways to Help Your Child With Any Subject!

I was a really good student back in the day. I got good grades, and didn’t struggle… but these days, my child asks me for help with his school work, and at least one a week I am losing badly at “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” I don’t think the schoolwork has become more difficult over the last 20 years or so, but I do know that I need help. I don’t remember all the ins and outs of grammar, or all the steps for finding the inverse of I-don’t-even-know-what in math class.

What I do know, is that there is help for parents like me.



Ask the Teacher
Hopefully, your child has a kind, approachable teacher. You don’t need to be embarrassed if you don’t understand how to help your child. Send them a quick email, or write them a note asking for help. Oftentimes, they will be more than willing to work with your child, and you, to be sure everyone understands the work.

Learn Alongside Them
As my child gets older, I am realizing how important it is for me to look over the lesson in the textbook so I can better help him. If he is stuck on something, sitting down with him to review the text often gets us much farther than just trying to work through the problems.

Visit Kahn Academy
Kahn Academy is my favorite website for reviewing how to do math problems. You can search for specific skills, and there will be a video lecture to explain the work. Oftentimes, there is more than one way to do the problem, and the videos will show you all your options until you find one that works for your child.

There’s an App for That
Sometimes, the problem isn’t that I don’t understand how to do the math, it’s just that I am so tired I can’t think straight. PhotoMath allows me to simply hold my phone over the problems, and it will give me the correct answer to make checking my child’s work quick and easy. Be careful though, it’s a tempting tool for kids who are inclined to take the easy way out.


Make an Appointment with Tutor.com
If you need one-on-one support, you can’t beat Tutor.com. It’s free for many military families, and you can make appointments with teachers who will walk you through specific questions and concepts over video chat. If you have children writing essays, they also have a wonderful tool where you can submit an essay for review, and have it back within 24 hours with suggestions to edit it.

Use Games for Extra Practice
If you have a child who “gets it” but just needs extra practice, don’t overlook the huge amount of free resources available online. There are websites for everything from spelling games, to grammar quizzes, math facts practice, and even quizzes to check reading comprehension.

Keep Positive
Whatever you do, reassure your child that everyone needs help from time to time. Model a positive attitude for them, and teach them to be resourceful by showing them where they can go for help when they need it.

Good luck this school year!

How do you help your child when they need it? Share your tips in the comments!

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager