Tag Archives: military kids

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

Ellen DeGeneres Loves Operation Purple Programs, You Should, Too!

OPC-camp-kidsOur Association is doing something very exciting – we are attempting to reach out to Ellen DeGeneres and The Ellen Show to ask her for help with promotion of our Operation Purple Programs! Crazy, right?! Want to get in on the fun?

Right now, Ellen is asking for military stories from military families, and guess what? We have tons of awesome stories from military kids who have attended our Operation Purple Camps, as well as one-of-a-kind stories from military families who have reconnected at our Family Retreats, and even unique stories from military caregivers at Healing Adventures.

Each month, we will be sending our special purple packages full of these stories, along with information about our Association, to The Ellen Show so they can see our unwavering dedication to military families. More importantly, we want to show Ellen the need for support and promotion in order to continue our Operation Purple Programs.

Here’s where you can join in:

If you have attended an Operation Purple Program, we want your story! Email us at OPC@militaryfamily.org, and we will send your story to Ellen in our special purple packages each month!

And look! Ellen DeGeneres is already showing her support for military families by dancing at our Operation Purple Family Retreat in Jackson, Wyoming!

But what if you haven’t been a part of our Operation Purple Programs? NO PROBLEM! Your chance is here! We are now accepting applications for our 2014 Operation Purple Camp for kids!

If you’d like your child to attend an Operation Purple Camp, now is your time! Does your child have a parent who has recently returned from, preparing for deployment, or is currently deployed? Consider giving your child an awesome opportunity to meet other military kids and spend time having a great summer camp experience. For more information, or to apply, visit our website!

Do you think The Ellen Show will notice us?!

simmonePosted by Simmone Quesnell, Program Manager, Operation Purple Programs, Western Region

How to Prepare Young Kids for a Deployment

deployment-wallHow do you prepare a toddler for deployment? I have learned there is a very simple answer to that question – you don’t.

You can try until you are blue in the face to explain why Daddy (or Mommy) is packing yet again, but I know my 22-month old doesn’t grasp a word of it. He simply sees Daddy leaving. Each time, we have has gone through a period of acting out, a period of nightmares and then finally a settling in to a routine.

My husband and I aren’t new to deployments, however, this is our first time with kids. I have done a lot of searching online, along with talking to other mothers who have been through a deployment with young children.

I have tried to come up with ideas to keep my oldest child from having too much separation anxiety, and ideas to help my youngest, who is just a few months old, know who Daddy is when he gets home.

Here are some ideas we’ve tried:

Take lots of pictures. We have a digital picture frame setup in the nursery, so I can change and update the pictures as much as possible. In my oldest child’s room, we have a photo mobile that hangs with multiple pictures on it.

Have Dad or Mom record themselves on a recordable book. This way, they can record their voice reading the book, and “read” the little ones a book, even when they aren’t home. We decided to also make a video of Daddy reading some of the boys’ favorite books, so they not only hear, but see him too! Another fun thing we did was letting our kids build a bear at the mall, then Dad recorded his voice inside the bear!

Plan for, and have holidays ahead of time. While Daddy is gone, he is going to be missing holidays and birthdays, including my oldest’s second birthday. I started planning his Hot Wheels themed birthday a little early, so Daddy could be a part of it. I made matching pit crew shirts for our family ahead of time so we could get one family picture with my husband’s family. We did the same setup with just our little family. Those pictures will be printed larger and setup during my son’s actual birthday party.

Leave voice messages on your phone. When my husband is gone, my oldest child thinks every time my phone rings, it is Daddy. Not knowing what his ability is going to be like to make phone calls, my husband will call my phone, and left messages for the boys. Instead of it being your standard message, it sounds like he is having a conversation. It allows me to pick up the phone anytime and let him ‘talk’ to daddy.

Make a “deployment wall.” You can really make this your own – whatever you child understands! We have clocks set to our local time, and to Dad’s timezone. We also have two mailboxes – one is for mail to Daddy for upcoming care packages, and the other holds the mail that comes from daddy, so it’s in a safe place. Beside those, we have a memory tree, which is formed by cutting out leaves each time we do something fun, writing the activity on the leaves, and hanging them for Daddy to see when he returns. We also make sure to have a countdown of some kind – so the kids can see how close it’s getting for Dad’s return!

There are a lot of wonderful resources out there to find ideas on keeping your children connected with their soldier. These are just a few of the ideas that I have come up with and it seems like every day there is something new that I add to the list!

What do you do in your household to prepare your toddlers and young children for a parent’s deployment?

mindy-kingGuest Post by Mindy King, military spouse

Geo-Bachelorhood: Six months later

geobachelorEarlier this year, my family and I had a difficult decision to make. My husband had received orders that would take him to an installation about three hours from our home in Virginia. In the past, a new set of orders simply meant a new home town, no questions asked. We packed up the kids, said goodbye to friends and neighbors, and set off on our new adventure.

This time, however, we paused. We worried about the effect of moving the kids now that they are in middle and high school. We wondered if we would be able to sell our house or find a renter. And I asked myself if my career would ever recover if I had to give up yet another job. So after a lot of discussion and a lot of soul-searching, we decided that – for now at least – the kids and I would stay behind and my husband would become a geo-bachelor.

Now, it’s six months later, and while we’ve had our good days and our bad days, on the whole we’re managing. While I would never say that we have everything figured out, we have learned a few lessons over the past few months that have made geo-bachelorhood more bearable.

When we decided the kids and I would not move to the new installation, I worried about how I would manage everything on my own. Surprisingly, though, that hasn’t been our biggest challenge. As an experienced military family, we are accustomed to long separations, the kids and I slid easily back into our old routines. Every weekend, however, those routines were upended when my husband came home. It took a while for all of us to adjust our expectations and learn to enjoy our time together.

The first lesson I had to learn was to give Dad some down time. After a week of holding down the fort single-handedly, it’s tempting to meet him at the door with a honey-do list in one hand and the carpool schedule in the other. In fact, my husband jokes that I seem to think he comes home just to walk the dog and take out the garbage. And it’s true that when he’s home the kids and I are more than happy to let him handle some of the household chores that we take on in his absence.

But, although it’s easy for me to forget while I’m juggling kids, work, and housework, my husband’s schedule is demanding too and he deserves a chance to relax a little bit on the weekend. Raking the leaves can wait (for a while, at least)!

Another challenge has been fitting in family time. Our kids are busy with friends and activities. Between soccer games, sleepovers, and babysitting gigs, we sometimes found that a weekend had passed and Dad had barely seen one or both of the kids. We’re pleased the kids have so many friends and so much to keep them busy – it’s part of the reason we chose to stay here, after all – but time with Dad is important too.

We try to find time for him to spend one-on-one with each of the kids, even if they’re just riding along with him on a quick trip to the store. It also helps that he makes an effort to stay connected to the kids even when he can’t be here. Regular phone calls and texts throughout the week let the kids know that Dad is still involved in their lives even though he can’t be here every day.

Like so many aspects of life in the military, geo-bachelorhood isn’t easy. We were faced with a difficult choice, and are trying to do what’s right for our family. Some days are easier than others, and there are certainly times when I second guess our decision. So far, we’re making it work. We’ll see where we are this time next year!

Are you navigating geo-bachelorhood? What are your tips?

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

Surviving the Mid-Year School Transition

mid-year-school-transitionA few years ago, I attended a Military Child and Education Coalition (MCEC) seminar held at Fort Drum. “Things are finally getting more manageable,” I thought on my drive to the event. A thought I distinctly remember. After surviving multiple deployments, five moves, an infant with colic, a toddler who resisted the car seat’s five point harness like a ferocious wild animal, my life as a mom finally seemed to be smoothing out. Both kids were sleeping through the night, I was down to one child in diapers. My daughter was approaching kindergarten. I’m a little ashamed to admit, I viewed it as a sort of parole.

I was thinking to the future, confident that I could handle anything now that I was enjoying a solid 6 hours of sleep per night.

Not so fast.

The challenges weren’t ending, they were simply shifting – something the MCEC workshop taught me to recognize. Sure, I would be more well-rested, but with my daughter entering school, each move would present a whole new set of issues. Fortunately, there are a variety of organizations that have worked to facilitate school transitions for military kids.

As I mentioned, MCEC holds workshops to help parents and kids with the challenges of switching schools. The Interstate Compact has addressed many of the academic hurdles that occur when families move from state to state, and School Liaison Officers are available to answer questions about your new school district and its requirements.

Walking away from the MCEC workshop, I was pretty sure I could manage the academic issues related to moving. What really concerned me were the social challenges my kids would face. We were fortunate that our next two moves coincided with summer break and my daughter was just one of many new military kids starting the academic year at her new school. Unfortunately, our last PCS did not, and we were forced to confront the dreaded mid-year school transfer.

Shortly after arriving at our new school this past April, I volunteered to chaperone the kindergarten field trip. I arrived a little early to find my son’s class outside for recess. Kids were running around everywhere and it took me awhile to spot my son. He was sitting on a curb, by himself, making a small pile of dirt. When I approached him and asked what he was doing, he told me he was making a house for his pals, the ants.

My heart broke.

If there is one thing I’ve taken away from the many Army resiliency trainings I’ve dutifully attended, it is that the key to managing this military lifestyle is to optimize the things you have the ability to influence, and try to make the best of everything else.

Leaving old friends and routines is hard. Making new friends and fitting into a new school can be even harder. As much as you’d like, you probably won’t be able to arrange for a new best friend to be waiting at your child’s new school. However, our recent experience showed me the importance of identifying key things to make the experience a little smoother.

I wasn’t always successful, but I want to share my lessons learned in the hope that it might help during your next move:

Contact your child’s teacher before his or her first day of school. Use this opportunity to introduce yourself and make sure the teacher is prepared for your child’s arrival. Your military kid will feel much more welcome if there is a desk, cubby, coat hook and school supply box waiting for him or her.

Ask for any booklets or documents on classroom policy or routines. Most teachers, particularly in the younger grades, distribute something at the beginning of the year. Are there any special folders or a day planner your child will need for homework? Understanding how these systems work will help your military kid get into the new routine.

Learn where to find the most accurate school calendar. I mistakenly assumed the calendar on our school’s website was up to date until I showed up at 11:30am for an early dismissal only to discover that it was a full day. In most cases, you can check with your child’s school administrative office to find an updated calendar.

Make sure your name is added to all school distribution lists. I regularly receive emails from the school’s main office, the teacher, and the PTO. Does your child’s classroom have a room parent? My son’s class has six (yes, that’s 6!) room moms. You need to ensure that each of these volunteers adds you to her distribution list, or you might miss the email to send in items for a craft project or show and tell.

Be sure you understand, and are incorporated into, your new school’s emergency communication system. Okay, that tip isn’t going to smooth your child’s transition, but it may ease your own peace of mind. In the unlikely event that something should happen at your school, or in your neighborhood, you don’t want to be wondering how the school will provide you with updates.

Does your child’s school have any special programs that are unique to it and, if so, how might your military kid be impacted? Our new school’s PTO runs a hot dog lunch fundraiser on Thursdays. I signed up my kids at the front office but, unfortunately, word of the new additions did not travel to the cafeteria. Much confusion ensued when my kindergartener showed up looking for a hot dog. He was sent to the office to eat the “nurse’s lunch” which I eventually learned is a variety of shelf stable snacks she keeps on hand for kids who forget their lunch. I count this as my biggest fail and wish I had taken the time to learn more about Hot Dog Day to ensure it went smoothly.

Consider volunteering at the school as often as you can. For you, it will provide an opportunity to meet other parents. For established families, it allows them to put a face to your name. After spending a day with my daughter’s class and many of their moms, one of them realized that she didn’t see our name on an email list inviting families to a special event for 2nd graders. She tracked down my contact info and called to tell me about it. I was grateful that she thought of us and I’m not sure that would have happened had we not met while volunteering.

Recently, I picked my son up at school for a dental appointment to a chorus of kids shouting his name and asking when he’d be returning. It was such a relief to see that he has been embraced by his new classmates. While I wouldn’t want to repeat it, we seem to have survived our mid-school year move and learned a few things in the process.

Have you experienced a mid-year school transition? What are your lessons learned? What advice would you give to families facing a mid-year PCS?

karen-rPosted by Karen Ruedisueli, Government Relations Deputy Director

Send Holiday Cheer to Service Members!

The holiday season is in full swing, and while most of us are keeping the home front warm and cozy, we remember the brave men and women who are protecting our Nation at home, and abroad. No one wishes for peace on Earth more than military families. While we can’t make every wish come true, we can support the ones who wish. Join us this holiday season, in sending well wishes to our service members.

During the month of December, we’d like to feature you and your service member by allowing you to share a holiday message with them. Do you know someone who could use some holiday cheer? Deployed, or at home, let us help you share your love and gratefulness to a service member! Kids can join in, too!

spc-verlanderDear SPC Verlander,

You know all we want for Christmas is you. Well, Christmas is just going to have to come a little late for us, but that’s OK. We don’t care if it’s December or August. It just won’t be Christmas for us without you, but we’ll be brave while everyone else celebrates. We miss you and cannot wait for you to come home! So proud of you babe! Love you so very much!!

-Mandi

Share your message by emailing it to us at blog@militaryfamily.org. Feel free to send a picture of the service member you’re writing to! ‘Tis the season!

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager