Helping Military Kids Cope with Tough Times

LTC Dr. Keith Lemmon, a pediatrician in the military, who gives advice on what stress symptoms a child may display and what to do.

LTC Dr. Keith Lemmon, a pediatrician in the military, who gives advice on what stress symptoms a child may display and what to do.

The fatal shootings at the Fort Hood, Texas military post are tough enough for adults to grasp.

Now, imagine if you are the child in a military family and hearing news of the shooting for the first time.

Military kids are tough, but news like that can overwhelm a child already dealing with deployment, transitioning to a new post or living on a military base.

So, I’m posting a few links that most military families may know about, but it’s helpful to have online tips at hand.

First, LTC Dr. Keith Lemmon outlines symptoms of stress you may observe in a child from an infant having trouble bonding to an elementary school child acting out.

The Military Kids Connect website offers specific tips for dealing with four tough topics:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI)
  • Physical Injury
  • Grief and Loss

As part of a military family, children sometimes have to learn how to cope with and overcome very difficult situations. So, the Department of Defense has developed materials to help the children, parents and educators because the family’s involvement is key to a child’s success in dealing with tough situations.

There’s a sign circulating for April, Military Child Month, that goes:

Military children will say good-bye to more significant people by the age of 18 than the average person will in their lifetime.

Just think about it and whenever you thank a member of the military for their service you might add a thank you for their family and children.

Children’s Contest to Design “Pictures for Patriots” Card

An assortment of colored pencils

An assortment of colored pencils (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Crayons! Paints! Magic markers! Colored pencils! Do you know a child who loves to create pictures no matter the medium?

Operation Gratitude is holding a competition for youngsters from kindergarten through 12th grade to create original artwork for “Pictures for Patriots.”

Children may enter as often as they like. The more the better because all appropriate artwork submitted will be sent in Operation Gratitude care packages.

Operation Gratitude will soon ship out more than 40,000 boxes to deployed service members and wounded warriors recovering in military hospitals or transition units.

Contest artwork may be submitted starting February 1, 2013.

There are a few rules:

  • The artwork should have a “Thank you, Troops!” theme.
  • The artwork must be horizontal.
  • Submission size: Minimum: 4″ x 6″ up to a maximum size of 4.75″ x 6.5″
  • Entries must be postmarked by February 22, 2013.
  • Attach the name of entrant, plus age, grade and full mailing address and contact email address with a paper clip or sticky note to the back of each entry.

A panel of veterans will select the winning entry. A Grand Prize winner will be selected and their artwork will be featured on the 2013 Patriotic Drive Card. Mail entries to:

2013 P4P Greeting Card Contest
c/o 2468 Tapo Canyon
Simi Valley, CA 93063
ATTN: Operation Gratitude

Additional details and the official contest rules are available here.

Photo credit: Operation Gratitude

Photo credit: Operation Gratitude

How to Talk to Children About the News, Violence, Trauma

Photo credit: PBS Parents

Photo credit: PBS Parents

Many parents are keeping the television turned off this weekend to shield their children from news reports of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Another choice, is to turn to a TV organization, PBS Parents, for tips on how to talk to children about news:

  • Find out what your child knows about the news.
  • Listen to what your child tells you.
  • Ask a follow-up question.
  • Shield children under age eight from disturbing news.
  • Avoid repeated TV viewings of the same news event.
  • Monitor older children’s exposure to the news.
  • Develop an ongoing dialogue with your child about world happenings

Children of military families live with the possible loss of a parent daily, just like kids of first responders.

Experts at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration have developed a fact sheet on talking to children about traumatic events with age specific suggestions:

Ages toddler to 5:

  • Focus on your child, not the trauma of the event
  • Get down to their eye level to talk gently
  • Let them know they are safe

Ages 6 to 19:

  • Ask what worries them and how you can help them cope
  • Offer comfort, be present for them
  • Spend more time together, but get back to daily routines
  • Suggest quiet times to write or do artwork

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury has a resource guide for military service members. It focuses on deployments but offers ideas on how to talk to kids about their fears.

Threat of Sequestration Is Hurting Military Kids’ Education

school-deskJust the treat of losing some of its funding has one small Texas School district that serves children from nearby Randolph Air Force Base cutting teachers, reading specialists, a librarian and eliminating Advanced Placement science courses reports the Stars and Stripes.

Nearly half of the Randolph Field Independent School District’s annual budget of $12.7 million comes from federal “Impact Aid,” which helps fund school districts that serve large military populations.

But Impact Aid is also one of the many federal government programs facing an automatic, across-the-board 10 percent cut on Jan. 2 if Congress and the White House fail to reach a budget compromise to avert sequestration …

“Impact Aid is the lifeblood of our district,” said Billy Walker, the Randolph district school superintendent. So rather than cross his fingers and hope that the politicians in Washington would come up with a compromise, Walker decided to incorporate the sequestration cuts into this school year’s budget, which started in August.

The Randolph district is not alone. More than a third of the school districts that receive federal funds or “Impact Aid” cut teachers and staff and delayed maintenance according to a  survey conducted by the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools.

The survey found that 36 percent of the 334 school districts decided to make tough cutbacks in their budgets at the beginning of the school year to prepare for possible sequestration.

Military Teens Learn Resilience as Backpack Journalists

Backpack Journalists Emarah Cousar (left) and Kat Boynton (right) pose with Navy Capt. Paul Hammer, DCoE director, at the Warrior Resilience Conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Linda Dennis/A Backpack Journalist)

As a journalist, this idea excites me. Military children learning the ability to recover and be flexible by practicing reporting and photography along with other forms of creative expression.

Take for instance 16-year-old Kat Boynton who recently covered the annual “Warrior Resilience Conference.”

“I can be eye-to-eye with a three-star general and have a conversation and the confidence to speak well and present myself,” Boynton told Robyn Mincher with the Defense Centers of Excellence Strategic Communications.

Boynton’s father and brother are in the Army National Guard and both have deployed. She is participating in the Backpack Journalist program.

“Regardless of where I end up, the life lessons and skills that I’m learning [from Backpack] will go wherever I’m going,” Boynton said.

Continue reading

A Soldier’s Son Shares a Moment with His Departed Daddy

No need for 1,000 words with this picture re-published with the permission of the Facebook page Freedom Isn’t Free and consent from the Wise family.

Traci Wise posted this photo and text April 4, 2012:

Found my son sitting having a moment with his daddy (SFC Benjamin Wise) the other day. We lost him January 15 in Afghanistan… we cannot forget about the incredible loss these children must undertake.

According to, Wise was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal. And he is survived by his wife, Traci; his sons Luke and Ryan; and his daughter Kailen.

An Uncle Lost Too

According to the Arkansas newspaper, Hope Star, SFC Benjamin Wise’s brother, a former Navy SEAL, was killed in Afghanistan at a CIA outpost in December 2009.

Military Child Month: A Video Honoring Their Service

Two quick things about this video that celebrates April as Military Child month.

First, it is produced in remembrance of U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti, Medal of Honor (posthumous) 2009.

Second, watch for the daughter of Off the Base contributor Jackie Dorr. Paisley appears in the video 3:18 in holding her “Daddy Doll.”

Sending a virtual hug to all the children of military parents, in my experience, you can never get enough hugs!

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