Category Archives: Military kids

How to Help an Anxious Child After a PCS Move

PCS season rush  is over. You have relocated, which means you found and moved into a new home in a new town with new people and are anticipating new experiences.

However, your child is anxious and may feel like they’ve lost control of their life because they have been removed from their school, friends, and home. They also may feel as if they have lost their sense of security, too.  As a military parent, I have sought out professional help from therapists and read countless books on how to help my child adjust and feel comfortable in their new settings.

Here are some tips that have helped my own children thrive after relocating:

  1. Remind them of their blessings: basic necessities met are considered blessings, such as shelter, food, water and clothes. Reminding them, but not comparing to those without, allows the child to realize that they are safe and in-control of their own environment.
  2. Point out the amazing and extraordinary activities, like traveling, visiting, and living in a place that might not have happened to an average child their age.
  3. Find ways to minimize anxiety by encouraging and facilitating ways your child can be an active participant in problem-solving their own issues.


But not all problems are from the anxiety of moving. Sometimes, they’re just typical kid problems. And we’ve faced them, too. Here’s some helpful examples pulled from my own experiences as a military parent raising military children:

Riding the bus
If your child is anxious of riding the school bus, encourage the child to ask the bus driver to assign them a seat. The child will feel control in sitting in a seat that is assigned to him or her because it will give the child a sense of security.

Student-teacher personality clash
new school means a new set of teachers who are unaware of your child’s quirks. If your child is experiencing a personality clash with a specific teacher, help your child write a letter or note allowing them to express their thoughts and emotions in a constructive manner that is both helpful and progressive. The child has the ability to remind the teacher they are trying their best, promise to keep up, and desire a great school year. This will allow the anxious child to feel like an active participant in controlling their environment and situation with their teacher.

Neighborhood bully
If a another child is bullying youus, the best solution is to encourage your them to express their concerns to the child bothering them. Most military children already feel lack of control over their lives, it is not acceptable for their peers to restrict any more of their sense of safety and security. Remind the anxious child that making bold statements is hard but they were able to do it, which proves that they are strong, reasonable, and in-control of their own life.

If your child is the so-called bully, allow other kids to express acceptable and reasonable thoughts and opinions of your child’s behavior to them. As a parent, find ways to encourage group participation without leading the group. Help your child learn new ways to be cooperative without losing their autonomy.

If a child apologizes to yours, as a parent you should also feel as if they have apologized to you, too. Allow the children to solve their situation as much as they can on their own and only get involved when necessary.

Parenting is tough. None of this easy to do, facilitate, or encourage. However, we as parents, are given an extraordinary privilege to raise extraordinary children. Should you feel frustrated and need encouragement, I recommend speaking to a licensed professional. Military OneSource, TRICARE, and Give an Hour can assist you in finding a therapist who is ready to help you and your family thrive.

What tips would you give other parents with kids who are having a tough time after a PCS?

Posted by Fari Bearman, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

Sesame Street and the USO Tackle Military-to-Civilian Transition in New Show

“My family is going to be moving to a new base . . .again,” trails off Katie’s sorrowful announcement to her pals during the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families – a free, traveling show for U.S. service members and their families. “It seems like every time I get settled, I have to move again.”

Katie’s sentiment represents the stark reality for many military kids. They move.  A lot.

A service member and his or her family will face countless changes and challenges throughout a military career and beyond, and deployments, frequent moves, navigating the transition from military to civilian life are just a few. Sesame Street and the USO understand these changes effect the whole family and hope to ease the stress that can accompany these transitions with messages and tips from this special Sesame Street/USO tour.


The tour debuted in 2008 and has evolved to reflect the ever-changing needs of America’s military families. Last year, the tour traveled overseas to introduce its newest show about military-to-civilian transition called “Katie’s Family Transitions to Civilian Life.” This latest installment, featuring new songs and choreography, runs simultaneously with their ever-popular hit “Katie is Moving to a New Base,” bringing the journey of a service member and his or her family full circle.

Both moving and military-to civilian transition effect the whole family. The U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity website states military kids move six to nine times between preschool and high school education. These statistics, and the faces they represent, provided Sesame Street and the USO an opportunity to combine their skill and knowledge to create an entertaining resource that tackles these realities head on. The goal of each show is to ensure that military kids and their parents are empowered with the confidence and assurance that they are not going through these transitions alone.

In the new show, Katie — Elmo’s military friend — is transitioning back to civilian life at Sesame Street after living on military bases for the past few years. At first, Katie feels unsure about this big change in her life, but her Sesame Street friends help her realize that she will always be a part of the military community even as she goes on this new adventure. Her experience echoes that of many military kids.

Sesame Street and the USO know everyone can relate to having to find a new job or changing careers, but military families face that challenge, as well as a host of other important changes, when they transition from military to civilian life. For military families everything is different. From the lingo and clothing to the surroundings and structure, none of the everyday rituals of life exist any longer. These types of transitions, and others, can stress both parents and children. To help fill that space and alleviate that burden, the Sesame Street/USO tour helps kids express how they are feeling and what they might be thinking.

The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families tour is currently touring in the U.S. and will wrap up at the end of October 2016.

Has your family seen the Sesame Street show? How awesome was it?!

Read All the Books…Even When a Parent is Deployed

At my kid’s elementary school, reading homework is mandatory for every grade—at least 30 minutes a day for the older kids and 20 for the younger ones. As a mom of 3, whose kids are in everything from soccer to ballet, it’s hard to find the time! And shhhhh, don’t tell their teachers but, sometimes we don’t get to it. And my husband isn’t on active duty anymore, so he’s here to help.

But what about currently serving military families? Contrary to popular belief, deployments are not ending—so military spouses are holding down the fort at home, reading homework and all.

Of course reading homework isn’t about the homework or the 20-30 minutes… the point is that reading together as a family has a critical impact on literacy.

Nobody understands this better than United Through Reading (UTR), a wonderful nonprofit with 200 locations around the world offering service members a chance to get video-recorded reading books for their children.


Today, UTR released a report on “Nurturing Literacy Skills for Children in Military Families through the Read-Aloud Experience.” The study begins by citing a series of troubling reports on the state of literacy in our country. A third of American kids go to Kindergarten unprepared, and about 20% of high school graduates can’t read. What??? Kids are graduating high school unable to read?

There’s no simple answer to this monumental problem for our country, but UTR has an amazing program that tackles one of the primary, proven remedies: reading aloud to children.

The United Through Reading program provides regular availability of the read-aloud experience to military children who otherwise may find this experience harder to come by with one deployed parent and one busy parent at home taking on the full weight of running the household,” the UTR report explains.

Of course there’s Skype and Facetime and other online video options—but those often cut out due to poor connection when I sit on the wrong side of the house, so how reliable can they be from the other side of the world? What UTR provides are clear recordings of a parent reading, without interruption. Their child can follow along and get that important read-aloud experience regardless of whether their mom or dad is in Djibouti, Afghanistan or their living room.

Some reminders from UTR’s report that military families live every day, but much of the world forgets:

  • Military families relocate 10 times more often than civilian families — on average, every 2 or 3 years.
  • Since 2001, more than 2 million American children have had a parent deployed at least once, and more than 900,000 children have experienced the deployment of one or both parents multiple times.
  • A RAND Corporation study even found a strong association between children who have endured separations from a parent due to deployment and lower achievement in reading and math.

Some kids watch their recorded story hundreds of times during their parent’s deployment. How many days of homework does that add up to??

Has your family taken advantage of UTR? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

besa_2016Posted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

10 Reasons Parents Happily Say Goodbye to Summer!

School is back in session. You can’t see me, but my arm is raised with a fist pump! It’s been a great but loooooooooooonnnng summer. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve been looking forward to this day since mid-July. Of course, having the kids home for almost three months has given us a chance to sleep in, extra snuggles and tickles, parent-child bonding, travel and adventures. I love them so much my heart wants to burst, but my house has been bursting with kids, noise and stuff all summer. There are a few reasons I’m happy summer is in my rear-view mirror.


  1. Rediscovering the foreign sound of silence.
  2. Not doing other children’s laundry. Yeah, that’s right. The random socks, t-shirts, shorts that are left over after an all day of play or sleepovers. It was cute in June…annoying by August.
  3. Cereal boxes opened by a T-Rex. The cardboard box top is ripped to shreds, the plastic bag that holds the cereal has a hole where one should not exist, and there is more cereal on the floor and the counter than in the bowl. I’m attributing this chaos to the unfortunate small arms of the cereal eating T-Rex that lives sight-unseen in my home.
  4. Finishing a sentence. This one needs little explanation.
  5. The appearance of my mud room/entry way. For most of the summer it looked like the shoe department in a thrift store that just had their red tag sale.
  6. The daily clean up of unfinished art projects. Seriously, it’s like my daughter leaves a trail of art supplies and paper all over the house from morning to night. If I can’t find her, I follow the endless art droppings around the house to find her napping with crayons still in her grip.
  7. My living room strangely resembled a frat party or a cheap KOA campsite this summer. By the end of the day there are multiple blankets, solo cups, plates, bits of food, books, games, clothes and strange inventions. I pick it up at night, only to return to the same party site again the next day.
  8. Talking on the phone without interruptions. All summer my work and personal phone conversations have been interrupted for emergencies such as, “He looked at me,” or “She touched me,” or “Can I have your lipstick because I can’t find my red marker?” and the true emergency of, “I’m bored.”
  9. Finding juice boxes and freeze pop wrappers in sneaky, lazy places like in between my couch cushions, under my planters outside or just “near” the trashcan. Over it.
  10. The daily fly massacre with my most lethal and accurate fly swatter at 6 pm nightly when I finally discover what door was left open all day.

Actually, I’m going to miss my kids after a few weeks of being by myself again. Grown ups will be too serious, and my job will begin to pick up intensity again. The silence will grow too long, the house will be too clean, the quietness will be too much for a busy mom who loves her children and their friends. I’ll miss being the Kool-Aid house where everyone is welcome to stop by, grab a treat, get a hug and play until it’s time to find their way home – some just stay.

But, until it does, I’m going to bathe in the stillness of my house with my coffee in hand while alone watching the school bus drive away. Next year, we will PCS again, so this was our last summer with friends from the neighborhood. I’m really going to miss the summer….sometime near the October.

What do you rejoice about when school starts again? Share it with us!

stacy-huismanPosted by Stacy Allsbrook Huisman, National Military Family Association Volunteer

Preparing our Military Kid (and Our Bank Accounts) for College

This month, my family will reach a milestone: our last first day of school with two kids at home. Although it’s hard for me to believe, our oldest will be a senior in high school and this time next year we will (hopefully) be preparing to send him off to college. Like rising seniors across the country, he is already busy completing the Common Application, working on his essay, and researching colleges. Meanwhile, his dad and I are trying to figure out how to pay for it.

It’s not that we haven’t saved for our kids’ college education – we have. In fact, we’ve been contributing to our state 529 plan for years and have accumulated what we thought was a good-sized nest egg for each of our two kids. It’s just that college costs are going up faster than we can save. According to the College Board, a “moderate” budget at a private college averages $47,831 annually. Multiply that by four years and two kids and you arrive at a figure that exceeds some people’s mortgages.


Luckily for us and other families, there are options to make college more affordable. One is to attend school in a state where we qualify for in-state tuition. Because my husband is still active duty, our kids will be eligible for in-state tuition in the state where he is stationed, as well as the state where we maintain our permanent residence. In-state tuition at public colleges is often less than half of what is charged at private schools, making it a great option for many families.

Many military families are also able to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill to help pay for their kids’ college tuition. The GI Bill provides up to 36 months’ tuition at the in-state rate, as well as a stipend to cover housing and books. It’s an incredibly valuable benefit that has the added bonus of being transferable to a spouse and/or kids. There are strict rules covering transferability, so it’s important to read the fine print and make sure you meet all the requirements. Most significantly, the service member must have been in the military for at least 6 years before transferring the benefit and must agree to serve an additional 4 years. Service members can transfer all or part of the benefit and can divide the benefit among a spouse and children. Just remember the service member cannot transfer the benefit after leaving the military and transferring the benefit does incur an additional service commitment.

If you are using the GI Bill to pay for your child’s education, it’s important to know it covers tuition at the in-state rate. That’s great if your child is attending a state school in a state where you qualify for in-state tuition. If not, you may be in for some sticker shock. My son, at one point, considered applying to a school in North Carolina. However, the GI Bill will only cover the in-state tuition rate, leaving us to cover the difference between the much higher out-of-state rate – in our case, that would have amounted to more than $25,000!

If your child’s heart is set on an out-of-state or private school and you are using the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you should know about the Yellow Ribbon Program. Under the Yellow Ribbon program, schools award additional funds to help offset the difference between tuition and what the GI Bill will pay. Those funds are matched by the VA. Not every school participates in the Yellow Ribbon program, and the number of awards and the amount awarded varies by school.


In addition, the Veterans’ Access, Choice and Accountability (Choice) Act, passed in 2014, mandated that public colleges and universities charge in-state tuition to “covered individuals” using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. However, the law defines “covered individual” as a veteran or dependent using the benefit within three years of the veteran leaving the military. That means currently serving families are not covered by this law; nor are those using their GI Bill benefits more than three years after transitioning out of the military.

Of course, there are other ways to make college more affordable. Your child may be eligible for loans or grants from his or her college. In order to be considered for financial aid, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even if you think your student will not qualify for financial aid, experts advise completing and submitting the FAFSA.

Finally, there are dozens of scholarships available to military kids heading to college. Many local spouses’ clubs offer scholarships. The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) operates the Scholarships for Military Children Program, which awards hundreds of grants annually. You can find a partial list of scholarships available for military children at Military OneSource. While the amounts of individual scholarships may seem small, they add up quickly and every little bit helps!

The process of applying to (and paying for) college can be overwhelming at times, at least to this stressed-out mom! There are so many details to manage and forms to fill out. With luck and a little perseverance, though, I’m hopeful the effort will pay off and my son will be able to attend the college of his choice.

Have you sent your military kid to college? How is your family paying for it? Share your stories and tips below!

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

Adventures of an Outlaw in South Dakota

Located in the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota, surrounded by trees, mountains and beauty, lies Outlaw Ranch. The Ranch held nine weeks of summer camp, but had the honor of closing out their camp season by hosting their first Operation Purple® Camp. But even better: I got to be there.

Being a kid isn’t always easy, especially when you’re a military kid. But the spirit of the campers was strong. There were multiple campers who came from a dual-deployment family–where both parents deployed. For a week, they got to go to camp for FREE and build lasting friendships with other military kids that are facing the same challenges.

I wanted to get the full camp experience since I never attended an overnight camp as a child. I fully immersed myself in the activities, from hiking and kitchen parties to field games and campfire songs, the fun never stopped! National S’mores Day happened right in the middle of the camp week, so of course, I let the camp staff know that a great holiday was upon us. We all celebrated it over an authentic campfire with the most amazing people…and S’mores.


So, why camp?

“I have never seen anything that is able to transform people’s lives in a short amount of time, both staff as well as campers,” said Camp Director Matt Rusch. As I looked around at the kids braiding each other’s hair, helping each other out with their variety show acts, playing field games and horseback riding, I knew these were experiences the campers would never forget.

I asked a few of the campers what their favorite day was, and the consensus was Military Day. That was no surprise because it was my favorite day as well. Soldiers from, the South Dakota National Guard and Ellsworth Air Force Base came out to coordinate fun activities with the children. There was an inflatable obstacle course, face painting and zorb ball—zorb ball definitely topped the list of the favorite activity.


“Camp is the perfect place to learn the most about people, improve your personality and experience another world, said Camp Counselor Orsi.

I definitely experienced another world here. If you asked me two weeks ago if I would ever make it to South Dakota, see Mt. Rushmore, go hiking in the Black Hills, it would have been a NO. And for many of the kids, it would have been the same.

On the last night at camp, the children played a game in which they described camp in one word. The top five answers were: fun, awesome, cool, exciting and adventure. I think those answers sum up my experience as well.

I am now thinking about going to camp every summer. Why, well why not?

Has your child attended an Operation Purple Camp? What was their favorite memory?

ivoryPosted by Ivory Smith, Graphic Designer

I’ve Known You For Five Minutes: Will You Be My Emergency Contact?

It’s almost the first day of school and I’m faced with a stack of registration forms. I have my smartphone with me and slips of paper tucked into my purse with names and addresses. Truth be told, I even need to look up my own mailing address because we just moved and the old address 3,000 miles away is what I recall.

I feel pretty on-top-of-it for putting our new address and phone number into my cell phone. That’s a win. Thankfully, I remembered to print out the pediatrician’s contact information. I have a copy of my son’s birth certificate and feel, for a moment, I’m rocking filling out these registration forms.

Then, comes the tough request: Please provide the name, address and phone number of two local emergency contacts. The emergency contact must be within 25 miles of the school.

Oh, dear. Beads of sweat form above my brow. I nervously glance around the school office and watch the other parents filling out their child’s forms. I look for the tell-tale sign of another military spouse, parent – someone who appears to be stressed by the requirements for a local emergency contact. I’ve only been in town a week. I can’t navigate myself around the base let alone have I had time to meet anyone who might be willing to let me add their name to a form as my child’s emergency contact?


Why can’t I add my mom’s cell phone number and skip the address part? Because, the receptionist politely handed back the forms to me and said, she understood I may be new to town, however, the school has had more than one occasion where neither parent has been available and they needed to contact someone local – not someone several states away- who could immediately pick up a child. Other well-meaning parents had provided contacts out of the local area and the kid was sent to child protective services.

Fast forward three schools later and I’ve become a pro at spotting a potential emergency contact. Before we move, I check with my network of friends and ask who is the area or knows someone in the area. I exchange emails, Facebook messages, and text messages with people who I have never met screening them as potential emergency contacts. If there is a school event, such as a registration day, I chat nervously with folks in line and try to find someone in my situation – another non-local eager to make friends and willing to be an emergency contact for my child in exchange for me being a contact for her child.

The key, I’ve found, is offering to be a contact for someone else.

I know it can be nerve-wracking to ask a near stranger to be an emergency contact. I find that most moms are relieved when I offer to be a contact for their child as well. After I establish a network in the area, I update the registration emergency contact information. I keep a list in my smartphone and on a virtual drive and make sure each emergency contact has a copy of my list and specific information related to my child. If I’m listed as an emergency contact, I ask the parent for contact information and specifics about their child, just in case.

I remain cordial with emergency contacts and several have become great friends. It turned out there was a flash flood in our local area and another parent couldn’t make it to the school in time to pick up her child. Her spouse was deployed and she didn’t have anyone else in the area. I told her not to worry; I was listed as her emergency contact and my path to the school wasn’t washed out by the flash flood. I was happy to help and she was relieved she didn’t have to worry about her child’s safety.

In our mobile lifestyles, it isn’t uncommon to ask a near stranger to be an emergency contact. What other tips would you offer to military families?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Issue Strategist