Category Archives: Military kids

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.”

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“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.

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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

10 Things to do with Your MilKid on a Snow Day!

This winter has been a little warmer than most, so there haven’t been many snow days in our neck of the woods, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping the cold weather comes soon! Maybe you’ve already has a few snow days where you live? It’s tough keeping kids occupied when they’re not in school, or sports and activities are cancelled because of the weather. Don’t worry, I’ve got a few ideas that will make any snow day one for the books!

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1. Bake
What kid doesn’t love making cookies and eating them, too? Baking with your kiddos is also a great opportunity to practice reading out loud and working through those pesky fractions.

2. Craft
Who doesn’t have a few empty toilet paper rolls lying around? If you don’t, start saving them. There are a ton of cute crafts that require little more than that hollow tube.

3. Clean
Yeah, yeah…I know: who wants to clean on a snow day? No one. But hey, it is a free day with the kids stuck home, so why not teach them this simple method to conquer the dreaded task of cleaning their room? Dusting rags for all!

4. Wanna build a snowman?
Get outside and breathe in the fresh air. Build a snowman, a fort, or have a snowball fight. Just wait until you see their faces when you throw the first snowball! You can even build your own snowman kit as a craft project. No snow?Aren’t you lucky?! Go for a walk around the neighborhood instead.

5. Read
Make some hot cocoa, grab a book and a blanket, and read together in front of the fireplace. Or download one of these free children’s books to read together.

6. Color
Pull out the markers, crayons, colored pencils, your stash of coloring books, and color! Can’t find your coloring books, no problem. There are free printables online for both kids AND adults.


7. Play Board Games
Clear off the dining room table and grab a couple of your favorite board games. Not sure what games your kids might like, check out these top 10 family board games. They are sure to like at least one.

8. Put on a Fashion Show
Play some music, lay down a sheet in the hallway, set up a few folding chairs and put on a fashion show. Get creative. And if you’re brave, you could even make the clothes and let them use your jewelry and makeup!

9. Learn the Cha Cha
Get up and get moving! Learn the Cha Cha.

10. Science Projects
Every kid loves to experiment. Check out these science projects with everyday household ingredients.

What fun snow day ideas have you tried with your kids? Share them with us in the comments!

Lyndy-RohePosted by Lyndy Rohe, Communications Assistant

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.

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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.

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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!

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“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

30 MORE Reasons We’re Thankful for This Military Life!

We know military life can be filled with up’s and down’s, and with plenty of reasons to be sad, mad, let down, and lonely. Most military spouses, however, can find many more reasons to be grateful, joyful, excited, and thankful (and we love that about you!).

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Have you been following our #30DaysofThanks (Military Family Edition) on our Facebook page? There, we’re highlighting some of the awesome reasons why military families, like yours, are thankful for your military life. Follow us on Facebook to check out the other 30 Days of Thanks posts!

But that got us thinking: there are WAY more than 30 reasons that we’re thankful for our military journey! Here are a few other reasons:

  • Having a friend in 20 cities around the world
  • Never having to look farther than your Facebook feed for travel advice
  • Not being the only one to ask a stranger in the CDC to be your emergency contact
  • The smell of jet fuel/gunpowder
  • Not having to worry about your power bill in the winter (God bless base housing!)
  • Having a chance to start over every 2-4 years
  • Curtains in every style, for every room
  • Starbucks mugs from all over the world
  • Frequent flyer miles and hotel points from PCSing and visiting family so much
  • Cheap lunch at the chow hall (best date ever!)
  • The National Anthem before a movie begins
  • That one spouse who knows how to make all the baked goods
  • Friends who bring wine on bad days
  • Not having to explain how you are feeling because the other spouses ‘get it’
  • Irreverent military humor
  • Seeing other people stop and thank a service member (thank you, humanity)
  • When the colors play on base and seeing everyone stop/stand at attention
  • Commissary prices!
  • Running into an old military spouse friend at your new installation
  • All the kick-butt women in uniform!
  • Gold Star families
  • Getting into base housing without a wait list!
  • The ability for dependents to continue their education, thanks to the Post 9/11 GI Bill
  • Hourly child care on base (and the awesome people who work there!)
  • Friends who open their doors during the holidays when you can’t make it home to family
  • When you find out your spouse made the list to be promoted, take a command, etc.
  • Having a Christmas card list a mile long because you have moved so many times and have THAT MANY FRIENDS you still keep in contact with
  • The unique furnishings, or souvenirs, you pick up from different assignments, TDYs, etc., around the world
  • When your spouse shows up to your child’s sporting event in uniform (because they are racing home from work), and random people come up and thank him or her for their service.
  • Planning a PCS move and stopping to stay with military friends along the way to your new home.

Do any of these reasons hit home for you? What would you add to this list?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

karenPosted by Karen Ruedisueli, Government Relations Deputy Director

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

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

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

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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?

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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