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Five Things Military Spouses Should Never Stop Doing

April 27, 2017

Military spouses are forced to stop doing a lot of things. Between moving frequently and the unpredictability of military life, they sometimes have to stop everything from living near their family to pursuing their career goals, even if it’s just temporary. Heck, we’re even forced to stop sleeping next to our spouses at least occasionally! But I believe so strongly that there are some things military spouses should never stop doing!

Military spouses should never stop…

Exploring.

The military takes you a lot of strange and random places, sometimes for years or just for a day. Military spouses should explore them all, everything from the tourist traps to the local restaurants. Take drives to the lake, plan day trips for long weekends, visit museums and eat all the local food you can get your hands on. You may only be somewhere for a limited amount of time and it may not be your absolute favorite, but keep looking for the best parts.

Pushing.

So much of a military spouse’s attention is focused on the person’s career, which makes sense. No one calls my husband a “communications spouse”; being a military spouse defines our lives in ways other career choices don’t.  But that doesn’t mean that we should stop pushing to have our own identity separate from our husband or wife’s career. Military spouses should never stop pushing towards their own career, education or life goals. Sometimes we’ll have to work a bit harder than our civilian counterparts or tackle the goal a different way, but we can still make them happen.

Loving.

Being a military spouse requires a whole lot of love; we have to love from thousands of miles away and sometimes enough for two people! And while we should never stop loving our spouse, this one is aimed at all those other people who come in and out of your life. Even though we say a lot of hard goodbyes or “see you laters”, we can’t build walls or close our heart to loving other people. So keep loving your friend even though she’s leaving soon and it would be easier to find a new friend. Keep loving your current neighbor even though you’ll kind of be happy when they PCS and stop leaving their stuff all over your driveway. Keep loving the people in your life!

Learning.

I would apply this one to everyone, military or civilians, because there is so much to learn in the world. But for military spouses, we are often given the opportunity to learn from and about so many different people, places and cultures that it’s imperative we never stop learning.

Living.

You’ve likely seen the bumper sticker that says “live like he deploys tomorrow” and while I’m not sure I agree with the drama that implies, I do like the message behind it. Perhaps no one is more painfully aware of just how short life can be than military spouses. So I encourage you to stop waiting to do or experience things. Don’t put something off until the next deployment is over. Don’t wait to say “I love you” until the next phone call.  And don’t let your life come to a screeching halt because your spouse is gone.

What would you add to my list of things military spouses should never stop doing?

Military

Connecting Kids And Deployed Parents

April 26, 2017

Happy Wednesday! I am so excited to have a guest post to cap off the Month of the Military Child-Grace is fantastic and has some wonderful tips for helping children deal with deployment.  Make sure to visit her at her blog as well. 

We have all seen those heartwarming pictures and videos of service members meeting their babies for the first time when returning home from deployments. They are the sweetest thing! But most parents know their kids before they leave for deployment. There is already a bond formed there, one that is most often a crucial relationship, an important influence in children’s lives.

Having worked in a couple of different military communities as a family counselor, I have seen how difficult it can be for children with a deployed parent – often there may be some small behavioral issues at home and school, decrease in school performance, decline in sleep leading to crabby and cranky kids, and an increase in anxiety. Most times these behaviors are not severe and often correct themselves after a few weeks or months of the deployed parents’ absence. And since deployment is hard on us spouses as well, often we are more anxious, aren’t getting enough sleep leading to cranky moms, lack a healthy diet, and diverted attention to more responsibilities.

However, there are ways to mitigate some of those negative effects of parental absence due to deployment, TDY, training, or field time. Making sure to keep deployed parents and children connected is crucial to the children’s wellbeing and to decrease the negative effects of parental absence. As you know most military kids grow up without any lasting impact from these separations so know that the effects are temporary, even if it is hard!

Here are some ways I have seen effective at keeping children connected to their deployed parents.

  1. Phone calls and/or video chats as often as possible. I know this depends on the service members’ jobs, locations, if they are deployed, training or in the field. Some service members I have talked to said they would rather not have video or phone contact back home so that they can push family out of their minds and operate unemotionally while deployed. While I understand their reasoning as a soldier/sailor/marine/airman, it makes it so much harder on the family back home. Having little to no contact can make reintegration that much more difficult, if all ties have been cut for that extended length. It is also hard for kids to understand why suddenly they have no contact with mom or dad. By having any communication – phone calls, video chats, texts, emails, or even just letters allows children comfort knowing their parent is safe and can maintain a connection to them. Any connection is better than no connection.
  2. Deployment walls have also become a big thing lately. This is a great way to maintain connection for older children who already read, write and tell time, maybe not as helpful for toddlers. Having folders where kids can leave their school work, letters, and pictures for mom or dad lets them feel like they are still able to share their days with their deployed parent. In addition to that I suggest having the away parent take pictures of them in their new surroundings to share with the kids and put up on the deployment wall. The multiple clocks showing the time in both places helps the kids imagine what their deployed parent is doing – is he sleeping? Is mommy eating a meal? Etc. Having information about the area of the world the parent has been sent to can also help children learn about a new culture but can also understand what their parents are doing while away.
  3. I love the Hallmark books or other books with the voice recorder so that mom or dad can still read to them or tell them stories. Build-a-Bear also has a voice recording device that can be put into the stuffed animals. Having the tangible item to carry with them can be a great comfort to little children, infants and toddlers.
  4. Finally, the last thing you can do to help your child maintain a connection with their deployed parent is talk to them about their absent parent. If you have a conversation with them while they are at school or asleep share it with them. Tell them what daddy said, share how mommy is doing. And remember that if they are acting out they are not doing it to hurt you or make your life harder; they miss mommy or daddy just like you miss your spouse. Be understanding and patient (trust me, I know how hard that is when you are spread so thin) but try your hardest to be patient.

As rough as deployments and separations are there are ways to make it less difficult for both you and our children. By taking steps to ease the worries and stress your children you can help relieve your own anxiety as well. As parents we often feel responsible for our children’s emotions; we want them to be happy and healthy, even when circumstances are not ideal. When they are upset, it upsets us as parents; any way we can help keep our children connected to their deployed parents will help them feel less upset, anxious and stressed throughout the deployment. So find any way you can help your children stay connected, and it will make it an easier deployment for everyone.

Grace Lipscomb is an Army wife and a family counselor with an emphasis in marriage and family counseling. She is trying to get her foot in the door to provide services for troops and family members. She is currently a volunteer intern with the Family Life Chaplain at Fort Benning, seeing service members and their families. You can find her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Military

Qualities Military Spouses Need

April 24, 2017
Qualities Military Spouses Need

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: before I met A, I never ever pictured myself joining the ranks of military spouses. In fact, I was pretty dead set against it because I didn’t think I “had what it took”. Four-plus years later, I can say that very few people have everything they need to rock military spouse life before becoming one, but there are some must-have qualities for military spouses to be successful.

Military Spouses Need To Be…

…organized.

While our spouses are meticulous at work, things tend to be very different at home. Military spouses have to be organized because things would literally fall apart if we weren’t. Try handling a PCS while your spouse is TDY or keeping track of everything during a deployment without checklists or an organizational system, I dare you.

…bold.

You’ll often read that military spouses need to be independent, but I prefer the word bold because it implies an inherent risk taker. And no, I don’t mean all military spouses need to jump out of planes or take up rock climbing. What I mean is that military spouses need to face everything thrown at them head-on without getting knocked off course. They need to pursue their own dreams while moving every few years. They need to hold their family together even when members are gone for months at a time. They need to be bold.

…calm.

The military throws a lot of curveballs: moves, deployments, random trainings and so on. With all of that unknown, it would be really easy to be a walking bundle of nerves. But military spouses need to be calm in the face of the unknown. We can’t get all worked up at every change of plans or every time our future seemed a bit uncertain, especially when we need to keep little ones calm as well.

…memory keepers.

One of the great things about the military is the many opportunities it gives you to see new places and make new memories. But someone has to keep track of all those moments, especially if not all members of the family are there for them. More often than not, that falls to military spouses. We need to record first steps, vacations, proms and everything in between.

…themselves.

More than anything else, military spouses need to be themselves. Our community is better off having the diversity each of us brings to the table.

To celebrate must-have military spouse qualities, I’ve put together a little Military Spouse Survival Kit that I’m giving away! But anyone can enter below for their chance to win the prettiest notebook, a hyacinth-scented candle, bright pink nail polish and (my personal favorite) a five-year memory book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Military

Books for Military Kids

April 19, 2017

One of the main ways I learned growing up was through books. Whether it was traveling to another place or time or learning about different groups of people, books helped me make sense of parts of the world I didn’t understand. It makes perfect sense that books can work the same way for military kids and their lifestyle. There are a lot of books for military kids out there and I collected a few of my favorites in honor of the Month of the Military Child.

Night Catch has extremely positive online reviews and beautiful illustrations. The story follows a little boy who plays a nightly game of catch with his deployed dad thanks to the North Star.  I think it does a great job reminding little ones that even if daddy isn’t physically present, he’s still thinking of them.

I included Paper Hug because of how neatly it ties into having kids help with care packages. You can read the book with your little one and then work to create your own paper hug to send in your next care package.

I Miss You! is more of an activity book than a storybook and is probably for slightly older children.  I think it would be great for the soon-to-be deployed parent and child to go through it together prior to the deployment. It will be a good conversation starter, especially for children who can’t quite express their concerns yet.

Most books for military kids deal with a deployed father, but My Military Mom focuses on another version of a military family and I really like that. All too often, we forget that those at home may include a dad instead of a mom. If this book fits your family’s situation, I definitely recommend it.

I had to include one about a Navy family and Red, White and Blue Good-Bye is just that.  I like that the little girl is feisty and tries to hide her dad’s boots in order to keep him home. Those little touches make the book and characters more relatable to children who may very well try the same thing.

H is for Honor is last on my list of books for military kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s my least favorite. The illustrations are gorgeous and the book has a lot of information in it. It’s probably a bit long for little kids; it’s recommended for grades 1-4, but I would say it’s probably better for grades 3-5, depending on your kid’s attention span. I like that it covers more topics than just deployment and incorporates all the branches so there’s something for everyone.

Books for military kids may not cover every unknown of the military lifestyle, but they can go a long way to getting the conversation started, especially when they’re about difficult topics. Do you have any favorite books for military kids? Share them in the comments!

Marriage Military

Relationship Habituation: What It Means And How To Make It Work For You

April 13, 2017
Relationship Habituation: What it is and how to make it work for you!

How often have you heard the expression “absence makes the heart grow fonder?” Military spouses hear it a lot, especially from civilian friends and family members who are legitimately trying to soften the blow of frequent and prolonged separations. Maybe it’s because we hear it so often or because it’s often said during the toughest moments of a deployment, but odds are we roll our eyes and brush it off as meaningless. But I actually don’t think it is; there may be something to relationship habituation. I know, I know. But hear me out on this one.

You see there actually is some scientific evidence that may back up the concept. The basic idea is that if you’re constantly exposed to something, you’ll get used to it and it won’t have as big of an impact on you as it did originally. This can apply to everything from a fancy meal to a new phone to that expensive sweater you just had to have, but doesn’t seem as great the 5th time you wear it. This is called habituation and is something that military spouses don’t seem to get a lot of.

Think about it. Between regular workdays, training, TDYs and deployments, military couples barely have time to get used to a joint schedule, let alone become immune to each other. It’s why homecomings have the rosy glow of a first date and the butterflies to go with it. On the bright side, you get to live like newlyweds longer and maybe find yourself loving your spouse more after a long separation. They have a stronger effect on you.

Unfortunately, this same concept may also be why couples may learn down the road that they aren’t as well suited for each other as they thought, especially now that they have to spend more of their time together. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can make relationship habituation work in your favor throughout your relationship, even if you never go through a deployment.

Spend time apart, even when he or she is home.

I’m not saying spend months at your summer home alone (invite me!), but rather explore your own hobbies/activities. A few hours or even a day here or there spent apart may recharge your relationship habituation batteries and give you plenty of new things to talk about.

Openly and respectfully discuss the things that irritate you about your loved one.

In my experience, it’s the smallest irritants that cause the biggest fights and the most resentment, largely because someone has kept them on lock down for eight years and suddenly lets it all come pouring out because they cannot stand one more pair of dirty socks on the floor. So nip it in the bud and discuss it early on before you’re boiling with rage at the mere thought of cotton footwear.

Regularly look for new reasons to love your spouse.

Part of the fun of a new relationship is that you discover new awesome things about your significant other on a regular basis, sometimes even daily. The same concept applies if your loved one has been gone for an extended period of time: you rediscover how good they smell or that cute way they crinkle their nose when they laugh. So look for ways to get that same warm and fuzzy feeling even if you’ve spent every day together for a year straight or 10 years straight.

Do new things outside of your collective comfort zone together.  

In new relationships, you’re constantly doing stuff together for the first time, learning about each other and bonding as you go. But as time goes on, couples often stop exploring together, instead settling into a routine of Netflix and chill. But I think it’s so important to continuously do new things together! You can try a unique date night idea or visit a new place or even just eat a new restaurant. Create new memories together. And who knows? Maybe you’ll see a whole new side of your spouse when you take them salsa dancing for the first time.

Relationship habituation isn’t necessarily something military spouses are super familiar with, at least not during their spouse’s military career. And in a way, we’re lucky because of that. But as time goes on, we may find that all the time together is a bit too much time together. How do you make relationship habituation work for you instead of against you?