Posts Tagged ‘ military families ’

Staying Connected With Your Family: A Tool for Veteran and Military Parents

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Military families face a number of challenges – and staying connected is one of the primary ones. A new website offers resources that can help – as described in this guest blog post by Dr. Peter Shore, Clinical Psychologist and Developer of Parenting for Service Members and Veterans.

With life’s continued distractions and separations, it’s easy for any parent to become disconnected from their child. Military parents face additional obstacles that can make it difficult to stay connected—physically and mentally—with their children. 

Moves, deployment, reintegration and job stressors are all factors that may affect the nearly 1 million military parents[1] and their families. That’s why The Department of Veterans Affairs partnered with The Department of Defense and a team of psychologists around the country to develop a website dedicated to helping Veterans and Service members further bond with their children and handle their parenting responsibilities. 

Our effort, Parenting for Service Members and Veterans, is an interactive, self-paced online course, which guides parents to interact with their children in new ways and reinforces the good habits they already have. Each of the six online modules addresses a different challenge parents may face when raising their children including:

·       Reintegrating into the family after deployment;

·       Promoting positive parent-child communications;

·       Helping children with difficult emotions and behaviors;

·       Positive approaches to discipline; and

·       Parenting when the mother or father has emotional and/or physical challenges.

Unlike other online courses, we focus more on the parent’s own behavior, rather than just how a parent manages a child’s behavior.

I recently caught up with Jason Hansman, Senior Program Manager of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and he had this to offer on the course:

“I found the Parenting site incredibly useful for both military members and Veterans. Raising children with the stresses that come with military service can seem daunting,” said Jason. “I can see having something to help you walk through some of these challenges on your own time as being very beneficial to Vets with families. This is one of the few products I’ve seen that addresses these unique challenges, especially in an on-demand format which appeals to younger Veterans.”

The course is not designed to replace or change a parenting style, but instead serves to supplement a parent’s existing knowledge and experience, and can be used as often as needed. The modules are designed for parents by parents and we have included videos with perspectives from real military families. The information from the courses can benefit any family and is not intended just for those experiencing parenting difficulties. While the course is anonymous, the tools and videos remind military parents that they are not alone!

No registration is required so Veterans can visit to start the training today.  

We want to hear from you. What are some other ways to help military families? Share in the comments below.


Find more fun ways to bond with your kids at home with our Activity Finder.

The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years

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Saluting Our Nation’s Littlest Heroes, and Letting Them Know the USO and Sesame Street Are Always By Their Side

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Sesame Street and the USO have now partnered for five years to support military families around the world. As they celebrate this milestone, Rachel Tischler (Vice President of USO Entertainment) and Lynn Chwatsky (Vice President of Sesame Street’s Outreach Initiatives and Partners) offer this guest blog post to announce the new world tour of The Sesame Street/US Experience for Military Families

The children of US service members scream and wave at the start of the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families at USAG Humphreys in South Korea February 9, 2010. (USO Photo by Fred Greaves)

Imagine you are five years old and you haven’t seen your mommy or daddy’s face, touched their hand or received their hug in six months because they’re deployed overseas. Now, imagine two years have passed and your mommy or daddy is back home, you have lots of friends at school, and you’re told the family is moving to a new base far away for the third time.  How do you feel?  And as a parent, what do you do?

These are just two of the many unique and challenging issues our nation’s military families face everyday.  It’s also THE reason Sesame Street and the USO partnered and are celebrating five years of working together to take The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families around the world.  Over the past five years our two organizations have brought the messages from Sesame Street’s military families initiative, Talk, Listen, Connectto life for more than 368,000 U.S. troops and military families.  We’ve performed 631 shows on 145 military installations in 33 states and 11 countries.

We are kicking off our new world tour at a special USO Care Package Service Project event with help from Cookie Monster and our supporters on Capitol Hill.  Next, we’ll head to Alaska to begin performing for and meeting even more military families this year as our journey takes us to 41 bases in 8 European and Pacific countries over the next six months.

For those unfamiliar with our adventure, the tour’s first phase focused on deployment.  Kids and parents related when Elmo said, “Elmo’s Daddy had to go away on a very important trip for lots and lots of days. Elmo sure misses Daddy when he’s away, and sometimes Elmo feels sad.”  Elmo and friends got those same families singing, dancing, and there was even the occasional Muppet mosh pit.

As the military transitioned away from long deployments, The USO and Sesame Street created a brand new show tailored towards another challenge, military family relocation.  The new show introduced a new character named Katie.  Katie is a military kid, and her experiences really echo those faced by military kids.  The show is designed to help other military kids like Katie with issues related to relocation – letting kids know they can stay in touch with old friends and even make new ones when they move.

Kids perk up in surprise as Katie identifies with them, telling audience members, “I’m moving AGAIN.”  And it’s thanks to Katie and her Sesame Street pals Elmo, Rosita, and Cookie Monster, who help her realize that while moving can be scary, she can still rely on her friends to help her through life’s transitions.

The USO and Sesame Street know that families everywhere can relate to the anxiety of moving to a new place, and having to go to a new school and make new friends.  But for military families around the world, it’s a way of life.  According to our friends at the Military Child Education Coalition, kids with parents in the military move six to nine times during their pre-school through high school education.

That’s why it’s important our military families know that Sesame Street and the USO are there.  We know it’s hard to be away from a loved one and that some days are harder than others.  Whether you’re a child, a military spouse, a service member or a nonmilitary member, nothing can change the fact our troops and their families are serving this country every day.  And in the words of Elmo and his pals, “We’re gonna be there for [them].”

As we celebrate the fifth birthday of The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families, we ask that you join in the celebration by offering your own support of military families.  We’ve come up with five things that everyone can do and we hope they will prompt and inspire you:

1.      Volunteer at one of the more than 160 USO locations around the world and discover ways you can take action locally.

2.      Offer to help a military family on the home front who live on or off base.  Whether you see that their lawn needs to be mowed or garbage cans taken in, helping with simple household chores and errands can really relieve some of the stress a family may be feeling.

3.      Teach your child how they can help support military kids in their school by visiting and or

4.      Lend an ear to listen to a military spouse as sometimes just having someone there to vent to or talk to when you may feel all alone can be the greatest support of all.

5.      Say thank you to a military member and their family for their service, sacrifice and strength.  Our troops and their families make sacrifices so we don’t have to and those two simple words say so much.

Whether on the frontlines, with their loved ones, in recovery or in remembrance, the USO and Sesame Street are adapting to meet the needs of those who need us most.  The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families is one of the ways we can help them navigate life’s challenges. To learn more and to see where the tour is headed next visit

Sesame Street characters pose for a photo with service members and their children following a performance of the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families at Atsugi Naval Air Field in Japan, January 19, 2010. (USO Photo by Fred Greaves)

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When 9/11 Stirs Up New Memories: Thinking About Military Families

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Most of my memories of 9/11 focus on the day and the immediate aftermath. Some have formed after the fact, spurred by things like visiting the World Trade Center site. But this year, I am thinking back to this time last year, when I had a chance to correspond with a number of military wives and learn more about how their lives have been influenced by 9/11. In fact, I had an opportunity to publish a guest blog post by military wife and mom Laura @ semperfimomma, in which she talked about her own experiences, both pre- and post 9/11. 

This year, I’d like to link to Laura’s website, where you can read about how she is preparing her kids for their dad’s deployment with a very creative idea – using a puzzle with a picture of dad to help the kids keep track of the time he is deployed so they can anticipate when he will return. Each puzzle piece will represent a certain amount of time being deployed (e.g., 1 week), and each time a puzzle piece is added, dad’s arrival back home will be that much closer – culminating of course with a final piece of the puzzle signaling his return.

Best wishes to Laura and her family for a happy reunion.



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Current USO Initiatives That Support Military Families

Monday, May 28th, 2012

It’s been awhile since I checked out what the USO is doing to support military families – and as they always have a number of programs going on, I thought it would be good to provide an update. Whether you belong to a military family, or just want to support our military and their loved ones, please keep in mind these current initiatives that were shared with me by a representative of the USO:

OPERATION PHONE HOME®: Staying connected with family is one of our troops most requested services. At our centers located in combat zones, the USO provides a private phone network for troops to make free phone calls home, access to computers with free high speed internet bandwidth to connect, online, with family back home, as well as free wireless Internet access for troops with their own computers. For those forward deployed troops who are serving in remote areas without access to our centers, the USO provides free international pre-paid calling cards. And many USO centers stateside also provide free internet and phones to connect with home no matter how far away.

UNITED THROUGH READING’S MILITARY PROGRAM: In 2006, the USO partnered with United Through Reading® to host its’ program at select USO centers worldwide. Troops can visit a participating USO center to read a story aloud to their children. This is then recorded on camera, and the USO mails the DVD and book home for the child. Families then send back a photo of the child watching their DVD. In 2011, 60,000 recordings were sent to military families across the world.

MILITARY FAMILY CARE PACKAGE: Sending a care package home is the focus of this program that helps families stay connected. Troops headed overseas write a note which is placed in a special journal which is packed in a “care package” with other useful items like prepaid calling cards, disposable cameras, and gift certificates for groceries and tutoring services. The package arrives home several weeks after the service member deploys, reminding the family that their loved ones are thinking of them.

USO PHOTO BOOK PROGRAM: Through a partnership with RocketLife, LLC, the USO Photo Book program gives loved ones a chance to connect with family and friends deployed overseas by creating and sending a free personal soft-cover photo album sized perfectly to fit in a uniform cargo pocket. USO Photo Book supports and comforts our service men and women by helping them stay connected with their families and supporters back home.

USO WARRIOR AND FAMILY CARE: USO supports wounded, ill and injured troops, their families and caregivers through multiple programs and partnerships with best-in-class organizations that help families reconnect as they continue their recovery journey. Families can participate in USO programs including Caregivers Conferences to USO/National Military Family Association Healing Adventures Camps and USO/Stronger Families, and Oxygen Seminars. Two new USO Warrior and Family Centers will create an environment to reunite families in the face of change. USO Warrior and Family Care includes support and programs for families of the fallen, such as USO’s partnership with TAPS to provide Good Grief Camps for children and families.

USO WISHBOOKUSO Wishbook is an alternative giving catalog that allows customers to tailor their contributions by interest, recipient or by price. The amounts range from $25 and under to $500 and over. Gifts for kids this month include: A Phone Call Home ($25), Growing Up Brave Deployment Kits ($25), Family Fun Day ($50) and Bedtime Stories ($50).

These are all terrific ways that the USO shows support for our military and their families. To learn more, visit the USO website.

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4 Ways To Support Military Families During The Holidays

Friday, December 16th, 2011

A number of studies this year have documented the challenges military families face, particularly when a parent is deployed (you can read about one such study in my discussion of the 6 most important child development studies of 2011). The critical take-home message has been that those of us in the community can learn more about military families and ways we can support them, particularly given all that they do for us. So as the holidays are rapidly approaching, I’ve asked Laura@semperfimomma (who I have featured in prior blog posts) to tell us things we could do for military families during this busy (and perhaps bittersweet) season. Here are Laura’s thoughts:

Hearing of those looking to support a military family during the holidays warms my heart more than words can possibly describe. Here are 4 things to think about if you are looking to do such a kind act:

  1. Is there a deployed spouse? If so, maybe you could give the family a week or two worth of housekeeping.
  2. Also, with only one parent at home, she/he may have a hard time getting out of the house to do their Christmas shopping. A great way to support a military family during the holidays would be to either offer to do some of the shopping for them, or to watch the kids so that the parent can go out and do shopping on their own.
  3. To do a little something special for the parent who is deployed, offer to take a few pictures of the family to send to their loved one.
  4. We all know what a chore cooking a big Christmas dinner can be. Some military families do not live close to their families, and opt to stay home for the holiday. Offering up a precooked dish that can be frozen and reheated when needed is a huge time saver. Even when not deployed, the gift of time is always appreciated. If you feel comfortable enough, you can even invite the family over for dinner. This way you can help each other with the cooking and cleaning, and by opening your home you may help ease or lighten some sad emotions for a family that is used to being ‘home for the holidays’.

Getting Laura’s insider’s view on ways to support military families is invaluable, especially since her mission is to bridge the gap between military and civilian families. And to that end, please note that Laura is transforming her website – into a platform that will host the voices of many other military moms. 

Happy Holidays to Laura and her family, and to all of our military families!


Image of soldier at home during the holidays via

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