Category Archives: Guest Posts

4 Threats to Your Military Marriage and How to Fix Them

As a military spouse and professional counselor, my favorite thing is seeing military couples build a great marriage. In a lifestyle that is constantly changing and stressful, it is difficult to stay connected and thriving. Deployments, long work hours, and other types of separations interfere with family time and couple time. Experiences from deployment can often change the way a couples relate and handle stress.

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Here are some common topics I hear from military couples in my counseling office, and suggestions I offer:

Our schedule makes it difficult to find time for each other.
A healthy marriage needs regular face-to-face time to keep a couple connected.  Over time, the relationship can become more shoulder-to-shoulder, especially when children come along. It is imperative that you are intentional with the limited amount of time that you do have. Plan at least one uninterrupted ‘date’ each week (in advance) where all surface talk will be set aside. Commit to making your time positive. Refrain from resolving major conflict and be protective of these moments. Commit this time to encourage and build each other up rather than fixing problems.

Also, set boundaries at work when possible. Leave when they say you can leave, and set an example for your colleagues on investing in your family. Even if you feel your marriage has become more “back-to-back,” make intentional time to look each other in the eye. You will be surprised how quickly your spark comes back.

We have grown apart after frequent separations.
Needing our spouse often gets a bad rap, as if it somehow makes us actually “needy.” The truth is, couples get married because their spouse adds something of value to their life. Take them away, and something will be missing. You have powerful influence into your spouse’s self-confidence and sense of value. Much of that happens when there is a place for them in the home and the relationship.

After many separations, couples grow used to having separate lives, which causes conflict or a quiet distance between them. Starting a new pattern will be difficult, as the spouse at home relinquishes control and the service member tries to re-engage. It is not an issue of who does it better, but whether you feel you are a team. Although this isn’t true in every case, men typically understand love through feeling respected, while women do through emotional connection. Talk about sharing more responsibilities shoulder-to-shoulder, as well as meeting needs that are more intimate.

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My service member’s traumatic experience in the military has changed us as a couple.
Anytime life hands us something unexpected, it creates an opportunity to grow and change as a couple. If your spouse has been through something traumatic, professional help for one, or both, of you may be necessary. Many spouses struggle with resentment and anger that professional counseling will help with.  Flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance behavior, and irritability makes any couple feel they’ve been robbed of the relationship they had before. There are treatments available that lessen current anxiety and help manage the memories that often surface.

Support in your community will also be important for both of you. Consider looking into groups of other spouses who are in your situation, as well as other veterans or battle buddies, if you are a service member.

My spouse refuses to go to counseling with me.
It takes two to work on a marriage. Having goals and working on them together will set you on a path to grow and mature as a couple. If your spouse is not ready, or is resistant to marriage counseling, consider going on your own. Working on your own personal goals and learning healthy boundaries will ensure that you are making healthy decisions during a difficult time. The hardest part of marriage is having no control over the choices your spouse makes. Sometimes, when your spouse sees you growing and making changes, it will trigger them to want to grow as well.

If the problem is getting your service member help off the installation, make an appointment for marriage counseling as the dependent, and have your service member join you. This helps with avoiding any red tape that could slow the process down for them.

I believe marriage is the greatest asset we have as military couples. It offers stability to a lifestyle of uncertainty. When we invest intentionally, it becomes a “home” that never changes, a safe place when times are difficult. Your marriage should always be growing, with new goals and ways to improve. Commit to creating opportunities for face-to-face time and make it a priority. You have great influence in breathing new hope and life into your spouse.

My motto? Start simply, but simply start.

What ways do you put effort in to your military marriage?

corie-weathers-headshotPosted by Corie Weathers, LPC, 2015 Armed Forces Ins. Military Spouse of the Year and host of Lifegiver Military Spouse Podcast

How the “Talking Doctor” Helped my Military Kids Cope with Deployment

My in-laws have a fantasy with how  they view my family.

Their assumption is we have the perfect family. We only enjoy the benefits that the military offers dependents. We get to travel. We visit exotic cities like Norfolk, VA. Our medical care is almost free and we save money shopping at the commissary. It seems we literally have the best quality of life.

Recently, they visited us. We showed them where the kids go to school and where their ballet studio is located. We showed them our local library, where the girls check out their books and attend story time. We also pointed out their pediatrician’s office, and where they attend sessions with their “talking doctor.”


“What’s a talking doctor?” My in-laws were deeply puzzled.

I explained to them that once a month, my children attend therapy with a licensed child psychologist. My in-laws were horrified to realize their granddaughters attend therapy on a monthly basis, and without reservation.

“Why? What horrible thing has happened to them that they need to see a psychologist?” they demanded to know.

I politely explained that my children have rarely seen their father in the last four years. He’s unwillingly missed four consecutive birthdays of both children. He has missed big holidays like Christmas, Easter and New Year’s Eve. Worst, he was never able to send them to school on their first day, attend parent-teacher conferences, and wasn’t home to congratulate them when they finished the school year. He has been on two consecutive deployments, several underway missions, and works long hours, since he has been on his department-head tour.

I told my in-laws that despite sending them cute pictures of us smiling, we experienced many sleepless nights with the girls crying for their dad. There were many school nights where the girls refused to do their homework because they missed their dad. And there have been many times when we all went to emergency room, spending several hours waiting for medical care because one of us was sick, and I didn’t have a sitter or a friend to help me watch the other.


Life for the military dependent is down right hard, but for many of us, we refuse to give up the mission. And we won’t give up hope and help provided to us.

I tried, on my own, to make our daughters lives a little brighter. After many trials and errors, I built a community where I thought my kids felt welcomed. When my daughters didn’t feel like they fit in at their school, I looked for options to transfer them to an institution where they felt they could learn in a supportive environment.

No matter how many people I forced to visit us, how many friends we forged, or how many expensive places I took the girls, none of it mattered. They still missed their father.

Despite all my efforts, I realized my daughters’ anxieties were multiplying. I finally scheduled an appointment with a therapist. It took a while but we found the right therapist that understood our complicated plight.


Our typical military dependent plight:

“Dad is still married to Mom and loves her. Mom loves Dad. Dad loves the girls and works very hard to support the family financially but Dad is not physically seen or present.”

In the civilian world, at least the breadwinner has some flexibility in his or her working hours, but it’s not the same in the military. My in-laws encouraged us not to tell many people that we see a psychologist. They lectured us that people might take it that something is severely wrong with us. I told them there is no shame in receiving help, especially when it comes to my children’s health.

Since we have seen a therapist, my daughters are much happier. They needed to hear from a medical professional that their daddy is safe. The work he does will not necessarily kill him. We also discussed how to manage situations that are out of our control. We learned to how to effectively communicate as a family. I learned that just because I can handle the deployment, doesn’t mean my kids will follow my lead as their mother.

I thank TRICARE for allowing us to utilize resources, like our therapist, to help us understand each other and how to control our fears and loneliness. The girls learned in therapy that even though “deployment” means Dad might enter a war zone, it doesn’t mean he’s actually going to war or will have to shoot guns at anyone. It was a huge revelation for all of us; I think my girls know about modern-day politics and the constant possible wars we are engaging.

Therapy has been heaven-sent, helping us relieve the heavy burden we were all carrying mentally.

Have you ever done something rewarding for your family that others didn’t agree with? How did you handle it?

Posted by Katie M., Military Spouse and Mother

5 Tips to Fund Your Military Family’s Future

New Years can call for reflection and resolutions to set the next 365 days in the right direction. You resolve to take care of yourself, your military family, and this includes your financial well-being, too. If you’ve decided that this is the year to take charge of your finances, take advantage of these five budget tips to monitor your monthly expenses.


Organize Your Bills Digitally
There are many software programs, online services, and apps available designed to help a person track their monthly bills digitally. Some of these services require paying a few dollars a month. However, others are completely free. Money Stream is a free online service that can alert you when bills are due with a calendar interface.

Track Receipts
Bills are only part of a person’s monthly budget. If you want to get a clear picture of how your finances are being spent, track all of your receipts. But doing this by hand can be a real pain. Thankfully, there are receipt scanners and smart phone apps that can automate the process for you and add totals to a database.

Consider VA Loans
If you are a service member, veterans, or eligible surviving spouse, take advantage of the Veteran Administration’s loan program. A VA loan is a type of mortgage guaranteed by the federal government, but made available to veterans and service members through different lenders, some that even provide loans with an interest rate 2% less than expected. VA loans have some great benefits for many prospective home owners, like not needing a down payment. They also offer interest rates lower than comparable conventional mortgages.

Create an Emergency Expense Account
You should have one savings account that is strictly for emergency expenses. This can include sudden bills, like when your car needs unexpected repairs, or if your plumbing goes awry. You may also have health bills and need to pay off a good portion of your deductible at once. This account should have a few thousand dollars in it and be replenished as the money is spent.

Create Budgets
Create budgets to track your expenses. This should include budgets for particular months, as well as budgets for the week. You can do it on paper, or even in a spreadsheet file. This way, you can add totals and change numbers around as needed.

Fiscal responsibility is something that is important for everyone to manage properly, especially as a military family. Take advantage of the resources available to you, and put some plans in place to make sure you have the ability to accurately track your expenses. Avoiding debt is always worth the effort.

Will you try any of these tips with your military family’s budget? Let us know! 

Posted by Rachelle Wilber, a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. When she isn’t on her porch writing in the sun, you can find her shopping, at the beach, or at the gym. Follow her on twitter: @RachelleWilber

Ready, Set, GO! A New Mom’s Journey to Finish an Olympic Triathlon

After having a baby, many women set goals to eat healthier and walk to lose their baby weight, and are happy if they can get back to their pre-baby weight. Not me. I set a goal to train for my first Olympic Triathlon while at my heaviest weight and least-fit time in my life. Being a military mom means putting your kids before yourself, but finding a balance is the biggest key to staying sane and getting results. I gained a total of 40 pounds during my pregnancy and I’m still working on the last five pounds! More importantly, I want to be stronger–inside and out.


So why sign up for an Olympic Triathlon?

It has been on my bucket list, and I wanted to find something that gave me a reason to train, be disciplined, and take my fitness to the next level. My sister and I have signed up for “Escape the Cape” Olympic Triathlon in Cape May, New Jersey on June 12, 2016. Living in Michigan, many people ask us why we chose that race; the reason: the scenery! If I am going to do this, I want it to be beautiful. What’s better then the ocean, beach, and the glorious vineyards. I have a great support system and a lot of accountability to get me through the winter and across the finish line! My goal is to not only finish, but be in the top 10 of my age group.

As a personal trainer, Coast Guard wife, and avid mountain biker, it was quite the mental battle getting back into a fitness regimen after having a c-section. It took me five weeks to get back on my bike, and that first ride was a scary one! I went for my first run about two weeks later. Swimming? Let’s just say I am not a swimmer! I just recently got a swim coach and am excited to share some of the drills and training tips I learn. I want to be a great and efficient swimmer. This (like many others) is my weakness. I also just bought a Cannonade CAAD10 road bike and have been putting in some miles on my trainer already. Michigan has been kind to us this winter so far, so getting outside for a run hasn’t been an issue. At the moment I am just focusing on strengthening my foundation and building my base so I am at my peak performance on race day.


I am looking forward to updating you on my progress, sharing some of my workouts and tips, and filling you in on my race day experience and results!

Have you ever set a big goal for yourself? Did you achieve it?

Posted by Alicia Phillips, Coast Guard spouse and owner of apFitness

Christmas in the Military: They Answered the Call

A few years back, my husband, Dave, was on a deployment rotation where he was deployed for 4 months and then home for 4 months. This cycle continued for 2 years. During this time, he missed a lot of special days, including some holidays. I wrote this poem to reflect the Christmas holiday for families with a deployed family member. I have never shared it, but this year I decided to share it in support of all of our military that are serving and are away from their families this Christmas.


Christmas in the Military

Another year has gone by and we cannot wait,
Christmas time is coming; time to celebrate.

Mommy told me Christmas will be different this year,
As I looked at her face, I saw one lonely tear.

She says Daddy cannot come home, he will not be here,
All I can do is look at her with sadness and fear.

My Daddy is a hero, for everyone to see,
He’s fighting the war for our proud military.

I am sad at first, but I think for a while,
And finally I am able to show a bright smile.

If Daddy can’t be here, it is perfectly clear:
We take Christmas to Daddy and fill him with cheer.

Mommy smiles a big smile to show she understands,
She says let’s get busy and start making our plans.

First things first, we start writing our list,
Double checking it twice, to make sure nothing is missed.

Off to the store to buy our supplies,
So many great things brings wonder to my eyes.

Back at the house, let the projects begin,
Can we finish in time? That would be a blessed win!

We mark the calendar, December 10th is the date,
If we cannot finish, Daddy’s gifts will be late.

First, we make a collage with pictures of us,
Will he love seeing my first day of school on the bus?

Next, we pack a shoe box with all of his needs,
Soap, deodorant, shaving supplies, and books that he reads.

Moving on to a special gift for Daddy from me,
Drawing is ‘our thing,’ I give him a lot to see.

Our next gift is all of Daddy’s favorite treats and more,
Cookies, candy canes, brownies, and movies galore.

The last gift is the most special you see,
A video is made by mommy and me.

We tell him how much we miss him, can’t wait until he is back,
And hopefully all of his gifts will fit in that great big, green pack.

Finally, I wrap all the gifts and place a bow on each one,
To the post office we go, our job is almost done.

At the counter, we prepare to ship our box,
I’m very nervous, shaking in my socks.

The postman, replies, “I will do all that I can,”
I answer, “Thank you sir, my Daddy’s a very special man!”

“Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Daddy would always recite,
But this year we read it and it took all of our might.

Christmas morning we wake up and go downstairs,
Santa has been here, but still nothing compares.

What happens next, is the best gift of the day,
The computer screen comes on and I hear my Daddy say,

“Merry Christmas, son, thank you for the gift,”
“You and mommy are my world,” and I feel my little heart lift.

We talk on the computer for a long while,
And all we can do is smile and smile.

Daddy says he has to go, but tells us each day he loves us more and more,
Only two more months and he will be through with this tour.

As the computer goes off, Mommy and I look at each other,
You can feel the love between a son and his mother.

We open our gifts and Mommy says she is so proud of me,
Giving Daddy a special Christmas has been an amazing journey.

Later that night, she kisses me and tucks me into bed,
As I drift off to sleep with happy thoughts in my head.

Remember, children everywhere, and listen with care,
Because I have something very important to share.

If your Mommy or Daddy cannot be home on a special day,
Take the special day to them and do it your own way.

Even when they are gone, they love you through and through,
You are their pride, you are their hero, too!

Merry Christmas, happy holidays to all,
Our military is where they need to be; they answered the call!

Posted by Sonserae Martinez, Marine Spouse

PCSing During the School Year: Be Prepared and Ask Questions

According to Department of Defense’s (DoD) Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the military moves roughly 530,000 service members and their families every year. More than half of those moves are during peak moving months of May through August. That leaves more than 250,000 service members and their families moving off season: during the academic school year.

While moving during the summer months may add a heavy workload to the DoD, moving in summer presents an ideal time for families to transfer schools without missing crucial educational requirements for military connected children. In contrast, moving the other 250,000 military members during the school year brings an entire new set of challenges for military members.

When changing schools during the year, there are plenty of hurdles both parents and students face. The important thing is to gather as much information and ask as many questions to school administrators and teachers before (and after) you PCS. Being organized and prepared is key to a successful mid school year transition.


Here’s a solid checklist and questions for parents with school-aged kids to ask, but we’d love to hear some of your tips and tricks when moving during the school year, too!

Research and Compare Curriculum – Do your research before you move.

  • Will the school be able to meet the educational needs of your child?
  • Compare curricula of your current and new schools.. You need to know if your child will struggle to keep up or be ahead of peers and thus bored in the classroom.
  • Collect and review important schoolwork showing your child’s academic aptitude.
  • Compare current schoolwork to curriculum in new school. What type of math are they teaching? Does the school use Common Core or has it opted out?
  • Plan a conference for your child’s current teacher or counselor to review the new school’s curriculum.
  • Take a picture of your child’s text book covers, websites they use and gather work samples of current work.
  • Ask the new school how new students who are behind/ahead of current grade-level objectives are handled.

The Teacher(s) 

  • Educational continuity is at risk each time a military child – no matter what grade they are in – moves to a new school.
  • Teacher-to-Teacher Letter – A great preemptive idea is to have your child’s current teacher write a letter to the new teacher – even though you don’t know who it will be. This is a perfect venue for teachers to share information about your child’s learning methods or insight into behavior.
  • Meet with the your child’s current teacher before you PCS. Take lots of notes at a parent-teacher conference. These notes will be critical when you advocate for your child’s education or services at the next school.
  • Administrators Ask your current school to explain procedures for withdrawal and forwarding your child’s records to the new school.
  • Ask for a copy of your child’s records to hand carry to your new location.

Education Binder – Compile a binder that is home to all of your child’s important documents, including:

  • Report cards – all of them, even ones from previous schools.  It allow teachers to know the educational history of your child.
  • Schoolwork samples
  • Assessment results
  • Teacher comments and conference notes
  • Individual Education Plan
  • 504 plan
  • Shot records
  • Speech or occupational therapy evaluations/summaries
  • Letters from teachers (to teachers), including specialty teachers (music, coaches and art teachers, for example) if applicable
  • Test results (Cog AT, Iowa Assessments, reading readiness, SAT)

Families On The Homefront offers a free downloadable Operation Dandelion Kids Education Binder to help parents advocate for their child and help tell their child’s education history.

Know Your Rights

Military families have rights and responsibilities regarding children’s education. It’s up to you to understand these rights and responsibilities. Don’t leave your child’s right to a good education in the hands of a stranger. Own it!

  • Interstate Compact – Start here! Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission  is fighting to level the playing field for military family education.
  • The School Liaison Officer’s job is to help parents navigate the local school system, every base/post has one, contact them for insights about your school or if you have problems with placement of services.


Information About Your New School

  • School calendar – Ask for the new school’s calendar right away. It will list important dates you need to know.
  • Registration requirements – Every school is different but most schools require PCS orders, proof of residency and immunization records.
  • Holiday hours – Call the new school and learn when the school will be open to register and take a tour hours.
  • Appropriate placement – Gifted and Talented and special needs programs often differ between schools. Understand what the school offers and how placement works for your child.
  • How does the new school handle new students with IEP/504 plans, documented academic struggles and/or academic discrepancies?
  • How do they program for Gifted and Talented students? Not all schools are equal when it comes to curriculum or testing.
  • Speak with a grade-level teacher and/or counselor to get a feel for the school climate and available programs.
  • Does the school offer a way for your child to connect with a peer school is back in session?
  • Secondary students: understand transferring credits, graduation requirements, ranking and how to determine appropriate academic placement.

Contact Your New School – Once you arrive, get on the phone and be ready to get to work.

  • Register and tour the school as soon as possible. Bring the education binder with all your important documents, share your education binder when you register so staff can place your child accordingly.
  • Ask about the school’s procedure for reviewing and implementing a new student’s IEP or 504 plan. Schedule any necessary meetings to review your child’s IEP or 504 plan.
  • Ask about procedures for parent/teacher conferences, schedule on within the first two weeks of school and share your education binder with the teacher as well.
  • Don’t be shy. Parents need to be involved within weeks of arrival at their new location. There will be a ton of information and insights you WON’T have access to unless you make yourself available and start connecting.

Organization and preparation are keys to a smooth school transition, especially one during the year. The loss of support, routines, and social networks associated with changing schools can be challenging for both children and parents. Being prepared for this transition is your best chance to ease the anxiety of changing schools. Start early and be sure to follow up when you arrive. We all know that as parents, we aren’t happy in a new location until our children are happy and settled.

Have you recently moved during the school year? What is the best piece of advice you have for others?

stacy-huismanPosted by Stacy Huisman, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Air Force spouse, mother, and freelance writer. Stacy was published in the popular book “Stories Around the Table – Laughter, Wisdom, and Strength in Military Life.” She is also a judge for Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year 2015. 

Parenting Military Kids: It’s Time to Get a Babysitter

I need to get something off my chest: lately, I have been feeling like the odd-man-out, and I am completely bewildered! None of my friends ever get a babysitter and go for date night with their spouse…EVER!

Do people think they aren’t good parents if they leave their kids with someone for the evening? I’m not sure, but listen to me on this one: I think leaving your kids and heading out for some personal time will make you a better parent! And for me, getting away from the house and the kiddos is crucial for my husband and I to reconnect. When we are home, we could go days without actually connecting because of busy schedules, housework, honey-do lists, kids, and all the other distractions! Not to mention, I work from home, so I’m with our kids all the time!


“But I can’t afford a babysitter.”

“We live so far from family, I don’t trust anyone else.”

Stop it right now! Do a swap with a friend; you watch their kids on Friday nights, and they will watch your kids on Saturday nights (or whichever days works best). You don’t have to pay someone, you can trade babysitting for favors. Have your elderly neighbor watch your kids, and in return, your husband mows her lawn.

You can make it work!

And the date doesn’t have to cost money either. Go for a run together, have a picnic, take the dog for a walk. I don’t care what you do, just get out and do it!

I promise you that disengaging from your home life for a short ‘break’ can only help your mental well-being! I feel like it’s made me a better parent, and it’s been good for my kids, too! They get to stretch their wings, and have a little time away from mom and dad. I promise, they are just as annoyed by you, at times, as you are by them! And it’s good for your kids to meet new people–expand their horizons; let them learn to trust people other than you! It will build their confidence and teach them how to behave in the world. They need to know that there are other people out there who do things differently, and that there is more than one way to handle a situation. These are life skills that they are missing out on if you take the burden all on your own. It takes a village, as they say.

The feeling I get when I come home and my little guy runs to me for hugs and kisses is the best. You have to go away for them to miss you! Not to mention, I think you set a good example for them by showing them how to lead a healthy and balanced life, especially with your spouse. I don’t think it’s too healthy to be completely and totally consumed by one area of your life, but neglect another. You have to nurture and care for yourself in order to properly nurture and care for others!

So, I beg of you, please go. No more excuses, just go.

Do you think it’s important to use a babysitter so you can take time for yourself and your spouse? Share your thoughts with us!

alicia-steelePosted by Alicia Steele, military spouse and blogger at Two Kids and a Blog