Tag Archives: military parents

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


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.

Calling All Bloggers! Share Your Story on Branching Out!


It’s no secret—military families have collected their fair share of stories, experiences, and traditions throughout their military journeys. We know you’ve got plenty of tips, tricks, pictures, and laughable moments up your sleeve. That’s why we want you to be a guest blogger!

Our blog covers all areas of military life, including PCS moves, raising military kids, spouse employment, military marriage, and the tough stuff—like transition, being a caregiver, and even divorce.

Think you’ve got awesome blogging skills and want to share your journey with other military families? We’d love to hear from you!

What works:
Inspirational stories – we want readers to jump out of their seats because they were moved by your journey. Sharing personal stories, hardships, or humor can be just what someone needs to relate to you. Don’t be afraid to amaze and inspire!
Original content – We will not publish content that has already been published elsewhere on the web. We aim for authentic and unique content!
Well-written content –Your writing should reflect your individual voice! So if you feel excited, let us know! Had a hard time with a recent PCS? Express that in your writing. Great blog posts will grab the reader and keep their attention through awesome details!
Topics about military families or military life – We are 100% military family focused, so make sure your submission is, too! Are you a company looking to share a resource? Great! Use your original content to tie back to the military community, and keep in mind: our subject matter experts will review any resource prior to posting.
Sending your own photos – Pictures are the best! And we want to share yours! Make sure images are appropriate, clear, and don’t violate OPSEC or PERSEC.

What doesn’t work:
Incomplete, unedited articles – Always be sure to proof read your work before submitting it. If you’re unsure if something is well-written, have a friend or family member read over it and give their thoughts!
Inappropriate content – No profanity, graphic, obscene, explicit or racial comments will be accepted. Make sure you aren’t oversharing, or violating OPSEC or PERSEC! If you’re submitting photos, please be sure they are tasteful.
Advertisements – We don’t promote any business or organization we are not in direct partnership with, and we do not offer advertisements on our blog; however, we do have advertising opportunities through our mobile app, MyMilitaryLife. Please email App [at] MyMilitaryLife [dot] org. Please keep external links to a maximum 3 links.

How to Submit:
Email your completed article to Blog [at] MilitaryFamily [dot] org. Because Branching Out is 100% military family focused, we will review each submission to ensure it aligns with our content strategy. If it does, you’ll receive an email from us to let you know your article will be published. Please allow us some time to respond – our little fingers type as fast as possible!

Blog submissions must include:
First and last name
Contact email
Service affiliation and location
250-700 words per post
Headshot or clear photo of yourself

The Fine Print:
Sharing is caring – We want your original content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share the link on your own website after we’ve published your submission! Share like crazy!
Editing and adapting – We reserve the right to edit and adapt your guest blog content as we see fit.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

The Quiet Holiday: Gold Star Mother’s Day

justin-sissonEach year, countless holidays pass with celebration and joy. We look forward to cook outs, costumes, and even gift-giving. Then there are the days, like Gold Star Mother’s Day, occurring on the fourth Sunday in September, which we remember solemnly as a sobering reminder of the ones left behind after the ultimate sacrifice is paid.

For Phyllis Sisson, today marks her second Gold Star Mother’s Day. A day, among many, spent remembering her son, 2nd Lt. Justin Sisson, who died from injuries sustained when an IED exploded during his foot patrol in Afghanistan on June 3, 2013.

To most, Gold Star Mother’s Day passes without notice. For those who have lost, it’s another heartbreaking day that passes without their child.

“As a Gold Star Mother, I know what has been lost. I know what might have been. I hope that sharing my story will let another grieving mother know she is not alone. Others have stood in her shoes. We want to be there to support and keep the memory of our children alive.”

In the time since Justin’s death, communities, families, friends, and even strangers, have joined together in Justin’s memory to remember and honor the precious life behind the uniform.

At Justin’s alma mater, Florida State University (FSU), Students for America’s Military, a registered student organization, created a 5k race in Justin’s honor, with proceeds from the race going to fund an ROTC scholarship set up in his name, to be awarded to an exemplary FSU ROTC cadet.


“He is also being honored by his school district in Overland Park, Kansas, with a Battlefield Cross statue and memorial at his high school. This will be unveiled on Veterans’ Day, November 11, 2014,” Phyllis shared. “We are also working on a stretch of highway in Kansas to be named in his memory.”

Though Gold Star Mother’s Day is a somber one, for Phyllis, it’s a special day to talk about her son.

“We talk about [Justin] all the time. The fear for us all, and that includes all Gold Star families, is that our loved ones will be forgotten. That is unbearable.”

On such a bitter sweet day for our Nation’s Gold Star Mothers, we encourage you to reach out to those who have lost children to war. Even simply sharing gratitude and thanks can bring joy to a quiet day.

“Hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear from someone, reaching out to tell us how Justin inspired and touched their life. That is a great legacy and testament to him.”

Even though Gold Star Mother’s Day is not filled with the type of celebration and joy associated with most holidays; the remembrance, honor, and the occasional funny anecdote shared among friends allows this day to become a celebration of life, honor, and memories that will live in the hearts of loving mothers forever.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

10 Things To Do With Your MilKid Before Their 10th Birthday

What’s more awesome than living for an entire decade? Most military kids might say, “Getting my own ID card!” And they’re right. Nothing is more awesome than getting to buy your own Skittles from the commissary, and flashing that new piece of plastic around like you’re king. So why not make your child’s first 10 years of life even more out-of-this-world by trying this ultimate MilKid bucket list? Here are 10 things to do with your MilKid before their 10th birthday:

1. White House Easter Egg Roll, Washington, D.C.


Join more than 30,000 guests on the White House South Lawn for this annual event, which includes live music, storytelling, and food. Wear your Sunday best and do some egg rolling!

2. Blue Angels flight demonstration, Pensacola, FL


Executing maneuvers with just 18” of separation and reaching speeds of nearly 700 mph, and just under Mach 1, the Blue Angels flight demonstration is a thrilling peek at some of the Nation’s best Sailors and Marines in action. Bring your earplugs!

3. San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA


From koala feedings, to zoo tours, and even family sleepovers (for real!), the San Diego Zoo offers an up close and personal experience that will leave your MilKid dreaming of lions, tigers, and bears…oh my!

4. Attend an Operation Purple Camp, Nationwide


Because what awesome MilKid would want to miss out on the camp adventure of a lifetime?! Our Operation Purple Camps offer a special place for MilKids to connect with others in their same situation. And the S’MORES….come on!

5. Tiger Cruise Aboard a Carrier Ship, Where Available


This is an awesome opportunity for immediate family and friends to see day-to-day operations up close, while a ship is at sea. You’ll get to eat at the chow hall, sleep in racks, and participate in tours around an amazing “floating city.” Check with your service member’s command to see if they are participating.

6. United States Silent Drill Platoon, Washington, DC


Taking place in the back yard of the Commandant of the Marine Corps at Marine Barracks 8th and I, you’ll see a performance like no other. These highly trained, carefully selected Marines execute precision drill movements and rifle handling in unbelievable synchronicity…oh yeah, and in complete silence!

7. Shimoda Salmon Festival, near Misawa, Japan


If you love a good fun-filled festival, the Shimoda Salmon Festival is for you. But there’s a catch…literally. Try your luck hand-catching salmon swimming around in shallow pools! An Airman who’d experienced the festival before described the salmon catching as “very much like trying to catch a greased pig, but fun!”

8. Meteor Crater, Winslow, AZ


Does your MilKid love dinosaurs, space, or awesome sci-fi movies? Seeing the Meteor Crater in all its glory is a must-do! Created more than 50,000 years ago when an asteroid traveling 26,000 mph collided with Earth, the Meteor Crater is the world’s best preserved impact site, spanning nearing 2.5 mi in circumference!

9. Whale Watching Boat Tours, near New England, or the Pacific Northwest


Take advantage of the beautiful ocean scenery and see our endangered friends in their natural habitat. New England and the Pacific Northwest boast some of the best coves and viewing areas in the country, and a whale watching tour is sure to bring out the marine biologist in your MilKid!

10. Get a Military Identification (ID) Card!


By age 10, it’s mandatory for your MilKid to have his or her own military ID card. While having your own ID card is a rite of passage for any MilKid, not having one by his or her 10th birthday can present issues when trying to be seen in Military Treatment Facilities. Make sure you schedule a time to get your child’s ID card when your service member is home!

Have you checked anything off on this MilKid bucket list? What else would you add for other kids to try? Let us know and share your pictures with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Deployment Monster: 5 Ways to be a Superhero for Your Kids

boy-on-dads-shoulders-with-kiteMilitary life is difficult. But if you can add parenting into the mix, you’re my hero. Not all military spouses were born to be mothers or fathers. Me? I’m somewhere in between. Even those of us who don’t have kids know it takes a special set of superhero skills to raise a resilient military kid. Any military spouse can learn some tricks of the trade!

Harder still, is the nasty deployment monster – seeming to lurk around every set of orders, ready to attack. Maybe you know when the deployments are coming? Sometimes it’s those little trips, trainings, and exercises leading up to the ‘big D’ that really stink.

So how do you superhero parents do it? I asked Meredith Moore, our Association’s Volunteer Services Coordinator for the National Capitol Region, what advice she could offer to help ease the stress and transition during a deployment. Meredith, a seasoned Navy spouse and mother of three, has five great tips parents need to know:

  1. Different ages respond differently to the separation. The young child who doesn’t understand time increments and travel distances needs concrete reassurance the deployed parent thinks about them and still exists somewhere else. School-age children, who listen to the news and adults talking, tend to fear for their parent’s safety (not just in war zone deployments). Preteens and teens will often take on the role of ‘spouse’ to the parent at home, and sometimes resent the deployed parent because the child has become the stand-in.
  2. Keep kids on the same schedule they were on before the deployment started. But be willing to break the routine in an instant if the child is having a hard day. If you always eat dinner at the table at 6:00, don’t stop just because the deployed parent isn’t there. Kids need to accept that deployment is a normal part of military life.
  3. Make sure you put your best attitude forward in front of the kids. Be honest with them when you are struggling but don’t put your burdens on them. Set the example of being resilient. They will follow your lead.
  4. Try not to use phrases like, “you’re the man of the house when your father is gone.” Can you imagine the amount of pressure that puts on a child? You and your spouse chose this lifestyle, the child did not.
  5. Join your command’s family group. Contact your Ombudsman, Family Readiness Group, or Key Spouse. Put the stigma away if you have heard bad things about it. They provide family programming and other great events during deployments. Chances are, you’ll meet someone you have something in common with, and the kids will benefit, too!

Though most parents don’t consider themselves a superhero, many feel even stronger as each deployment comes to an end. Now, can we figure out how to get time to speed up during the the ‘big D?’

What superhero skills did you use to get through a deployment with kids?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

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