1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #69

Teach the Art of Taking Risks

Some of the greatest rewards I have ever encountered came from taking a risk.

Some of the greatest rewards I have ever encountered came from taking a risk.

There is definitely the false notion that all teens are risk takers by nature and that they don’t need encouragement.  But after working with teens for over 18 years, I would say it is a myth.  In my 101 Tips for Military Families with Teens I suggest that taking a risk or two is something that many people and, especially teens, need to learn how to do.  Teens will take risks on silly things or things that their friends pressure them into but what about getting them to take risks with things that matter, bring them happiness or get them to challenge what they thought they knew about themselves?  The benefit of being a part of a military family is that there are often more opportunities to take risks as your family is moving to new places, changing schools, experiencing absences, friends are moving and changing and there are constant opportunities to experience new things.  Unfortunately, they don’t see those always as benefits.  It will be up to you to not only point out the advantages but also encourage the ‘good’ risks.  Teach your children the difference between foolish and responsible risk taking.

One way to get them inspired is to create a weekly challenge in the house.  You can all enjoy creating a list of challenges.  I would definitely ensure there is a mix of easy, quick, high risk and low risk so that depending on the mood in the week one can be accomplished without too much stress or hassle.

Sample Challenges:

Go on a mountain climbing course

Try out for a team

Ride a horse

Submit a sample of art, writing, etc. to a publication

Start a conversation with someone you think looks interesting

Tell someone why you love them

Go in a hot air balloon

Enter a competition

Tell the truth all day

Cook a meal from scratch

Climb a tree

Go to a scary movie

Tell someone a secret

Volunteer at a homeless centre or seniors home

Snowboard or water ski

Invite people you would like to get to know better to do something

Ask someone out on a date or tell someone how you feel about them

Learn to drive

Introduce yourself to 5 new people a day for a week

Give a speech

Be in a play

Join a club

Those are just a few examples.  Make sure you are willing and prepared to do anything off the list as well.  Once you each complete your challenge talk about what was rewarding, annoying, difficult, etc.  You’ll be amazed by what your teen learns about themselves and what they can accomplish (not to mention what you can do too!).

For more information about our tips, resources and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

Living It – Week 15

Listen – Tip #41

Using your ears!

Using your ears!

Active listening is a skill.  Some people are born with it, some people have to work hard on it and some people may never get it.  I am hopeful that I fall under the category of having to work on it rather than never getting it.  Having said that I am often shocked at how many people don’t really listen or give their 100% attention when people speak.  They are either thinking about what they are going to say next, thinking about all the things they have to do, or simply just watching the person’s lips move!

A few months ago I was stressed out, busy with work and trying to prepare for this deployment.  I found myself getting caught into the trap of not listening to my kids properly at least 75% of the time and multi-tasking when I should just been listening!  I began to realize that they were taking this to mean that I didn’t care.  Their Dad is a great listener so I always had him to fall back on if I was too tired or busy with work but now that he is deployed, I have made a commitment to be a much better listener and follow my own advice.


* I have set aside time just to be with the kids uninterrupted (dinner time).

* I don’t answer the phone or even have it close by throughout dinner

* The TV and all devices are off

* I no longer multi-task the same way – even when I am making dinner I stop to listen more

My new tip for listening is also to try to be less reactive to what they are saying.  By doing this, I think that they are sharing more with me.  They are less and less worried about what my reaction is and more concerned with getting it off their chest.  I believe it is crucial that we know what is happening in our kid’s lives – the good, the bad and the ugly.  Our reactions determine whether they tell us more and things later on.

For more information on our tips, resources and books: www.whileyouwereaway.org

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #102

Find Out & Use What You Have


Ask some questions, do some digging and use what your community has to offer.

Ask some questions, do some digging and use what your community has to offer.

Today I read my email from the Kingston MFRC about giving parents time (a true gift) and programs available, I have had the priveledge of posted to Petawawa (yes, I said it) and have been on bases across North America from Fort Drum to Mayport Navel to Nellis Air Force bases.  We were often able to visit or use a number of facilities and each time we went we were warmly greeted and the same comments were made at each place we visited – “If only more people would use us…”, “A lot of people don’t know we are here…”, “We struggle to get people to come and use our services”. When we lived in Petawawa I was always surprised that the pool wasn’t crowded or that the tennis courts weren’t used.  I also had little difficulty booking same day daycare (free daycare) to go grocery shopping or just go home and sleep.  I know first hand that moving, going through a deployment or military life in general can drain the life right out of you.  It often feels easier to stay at home and hunker down but what I have discovered is that in the long run it is a lot easier to make the most of where you are and have an adventure or two.


* Find out what is on your base or in your community

* Ask your neighbours

* Walk or drive around the base/town and check things out (we drove around and found one of the most impressive parks with play equipment most schools can only dream of having)

* Go to your local library or schools and find out about the events happening in your community

* Ask your family about the kinds of things they would like to do or participate in and then ask around about how to get involved or sign up

* Visit the local stores and look at the postings people or organizations have put up (I am usually the type to walk right by with the single minded purpose of getting what I came for).

* Local coffee shops and restaurants have advertising for camps and deployment information

* Read the newsletters or local newpaper to get ideas of things to do in your community – the busier I am doing things the easier the deployment is for myself and my children

Make sure that you are well aware of all the things your community has that can support you.  Take a few minutes and you could end up saving yourself time and energy.

For more information about our tips, books and resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

Living It – Week 14

Phone Calls  – Tip #80

An easy way to remember what to say!

An easy way to remember what to say!

I have to say that deployment phone calls are some of the toughest.  I always hang up thinking, “I forgot to ask about…” or “I forgot to tell him about…”.  I blame cordless phones!  You can wander all over the place and get distracted (at least I do).  My kids find the calls hard as they can’t think of things to talk about and end up saying “yes/no” the entire time.  This deployment I decided that I would try to make a list of things to remember to ask or talk about (which was my own advice from the “101 Tips for Military Families”).  I also added to it an area where we could tell him meaningful ways in which we missed him – not just the standard, “I miss you” line.  Finally, I put our lists by a landline phone that is actually attached by a cord (this is also a great comfort in power failures as it is the only landline phone in the house that works).  This means we all have to drop what we are doing, focus on the call and have a list right next to us to help remember everything.  From my husband’s point of view, he has their undivided attention, the conversations have moved beyond him asking questions and getting one word answers and I think he has enjoyed hearing that there are different moments, activities and times in the day when he is missed.  Living my own advice this week has definitely made calls a lot easier – I wish there were more of them but at least when he is able to call we are prepared!

For more information about our tips, books and resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #454

1 Second A Day –  

I recently watched the movie Chef (in a semi conscious state, flopped out on the couch).  I didn’t, personally, think it was a fabulous movie but…  there was an idea in it that I would like to steal and think it would be great for military families particularly when you are dealing with a deployment or lengthy absence.  The child (in the movie) went on a trip with his Dad and each day made a 3 second video each day and then put them all together.  It was obviously not edited or really done by the child but it was amazing and got me to thinking about what a great way it would be to share a little part of every day with a Mom, Dad or family member that is away.  So far I haven’t found any apps that make the 3 seconds a day easy but I have found one that does a second a day (1 Second Everyday).  This week we tried it and had a lot of fun.  To me it isn’t always about capturing the big moments but more about making sure all the seemingly insignicant things that happened in a day are captured sometimes too and now it will be in a video that won’t take a lot of time to watch but will capture and summarize our month in a different way.

In experimenting, with apps that do this kind of thing, I am now using three.  They each take less than a minute a day and are great at capturing a moment in time each day.

1.  1 Second Everyday – I am sure there is even more  you can do with this app but right now I am recording mini videos (they can be longer than 1 second) and taking a photo a day.  It then will make them into mini compilations for you to watch.  Mine is super small at the moment as I have only done 4 days but I made the video and it joined all the days together (in order) and it was great.  I also love that I can look at the calendar and see all the days so it gives me a good sense of what I still need to take pictures of this month.


2. Collect – This shows you a month at a time and lets you take a photo and attach it to a day.  I like this one as you can add a quick note and after 6 months to a year deployment I will definitely not be able to tell my husband where or why those photos were taken.  It is quick and user friendly.  I am trying to take a picture of someone or something different everyday.


3. Everyday – If you have a child then this is the app for you to take a photo a day of them and then it will make it into a video.  I think it would be amazing to see a year of your child growing and changing.  I did it of myself to try it out and have 5 photos of me doing differnt things each day.  It is already quite funny.  It would be fabulous if your absent family member could do this everyday while they were away too.


For more information about my tips, resources or books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org


Living It – Week 13

Mapping Their Journey – Tip #76

World Map

I have not been great about living my own advice with this one.  When I wrote it a few years ago I was doing it but we have moved and not had another deployment until now so I had forgotten.  This week my kids started talking about where their Dad was and I quickly realized that they had no sense of where in the world he has been deployed to, how far it is, etc.  so I bought a map (there are also a ton of free printable maps online too).  We have been able to map out where their Dad is, how long it would take to get there, time zones, etc.  It was a good geography chat and I think it make them feel better too.  We have decided to now mark (with different coloured stickers) all the places that he has been, all the places that we have been as a family and then use a completely different coloured sticker to mark all the places that we would like to go.

When I taught at a base school (quite a few years ago now) we put up a map and attempted to run/walk the number of miles that it would take to get to Afghanistan in a school year.  It gave students a goal and a sense of distance they hadn’t considered before.

I am sorry but for safety reasons I won’t post my map right now.  

 For more information about our tips, resources, and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

1001 Tips For Military Families – Tip #452

Daddy Dolls – Tip #452  

Chilling out by a cosy fire

Chilling out by a cosy fire

When my kids were younger they would have loved to have cuddled with a doll that had their Dad’s face on it.  I realized that they are older now and that might not be considered ‘cool’ but I still loved the idea of having something with his face on it to take on trips, to eat with us, to put into pictures and have fun with so… I ordered an Daddy Doll to have some fun with!  This doll is going to be on a lot of adventures with us while their Dad is away and we are going to keep track of them all through photos.  We have also started pinning ticket stubs, momentos, receipts, etc. onto the back of the doll.  When their Dad is back we will be able to talk about all the adventures our Daddy Doll went on while he was away.   It was $100 including shipping and taxes and has been one of the best things we have ever purchased for absences!


Texting together!

Texting together!

A day in the principal's office!

A day in the principal’s office!

For more information about our tips, books and resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

Daddy Doll link: http://daddydolls.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=83


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