1001 Tips for Military Families – # 436

Back to School – Tip # 436

It is hard enough but trying to get your kids ready for heading back to school but when one of you is away, you have been posted, they are starting a new school, etc. it can be even rougher and tougher. Whether your children are 6 or 16, there are feelings (good and bad), anxieties, fears, excitement, nerves and many stresses that come with the start of any school year.  It is also an expensive time of year for parents and that can be an additional stress for everyone.  Below are some tips that will help you and your child(ren) to survive the transition from the lazy days of summer to the routines of the school year.


* Check with your child’s school (call or visit their school website or the school board website) and see what things are actually required. Often when my children tell me they have to have it for school it can be translated to they want to have it. It helps to know in advance what are needs and what are wants.

* If your budget is tight and you aren’t able to get information about what your child will need,  put a note in their bag, to their teacher, on the first day of school asking them to send you home a list of things that they will need and that way you won’t be blindly buying things that may go unused or be wasted. Buy what you can and let the school know that finances are tight.

* If you have the luxury of knowing, in advance, that a family member is going to be away during this time, shop in advance and hide it all in a bucket until they need it. Your absent family member could leave a note in the bucket giving their best pieces of advice for the first day of school or something funny that happened to them at school when they were younger.

* Before leaving to go shopping ask they to make a list with three columns – Must Have/Would Make Life Easier/Luxuries. This will give them and you some perspective.

* Let your children know well in advance what stores you intend on going to and what the budget is.

* If you want to avoid taking your children, ask a friend to trade with you. You’ll take their kids while they go and they’ll take yours while you go. It will be faster, you’ll get what they need and you can even take a few moments to wonder around the store in peace and quiet.

* Let the school know of up-coming, current or lengthy absences of a significant family member. It will also be important to let the school know how your child handles stress and absence. It is also extremely important that you let the teachers and school know about when your family member is returning as that can bring change and stress too.

* Know your child’s teachers – whether your children are in Kindergarten, middle school or high school you should make a point of knowing the names and contact information of your child(ren)’s teachers. Your kids need to know that you can get in touch with them easily and it will be important for you to keep them up to date with what is happening in your household (ex. absences, deployments, re-integration, moves, etc.).

* When you have an absent family member contact information also needs to be changed at the school (One of my children was hurt of the play ground and it took them over 20mins to get in touch with me as they had been trying to get in touch with my husband – he was in Afghanistan!). Ask someone to be the second contact while your family member is away and then send in a letter to the school with that information.

* There are also excellent books for younger students that you can read in advance of school starting to help reduce the anxiety (The Kissing Hand and The Invisible String).

* If you are starting a new school and your child has additional medical needs or academic information that it would be helpful for the school to have, make a copy and drop it off the week before school starts (all school offices are open one week prior to the first day of school)

* If your child has allergies or medication that will potentially need to be administered at the school, go online and get the forms you will need and ensure you have the right people signing and authorizing them (schools often need a family doctor to sign off on them)

There is something magical about the beginning of the school year and the ‘back to school frenzy’ although it can be an exhausting ride. Ask for help and try to make it as fun and stress free as possible for everyone. Check with your military resource or your base social workers to see what they are offering in terms of support and/or resources too.

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

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1001 Tips for Military Families – #429

Pre-Deployment Pampering – Tip #429

If you are one of the primary care givers in your relationships and family then you are often so busy making check lists, running around trying to cram in special events, lasts of everything and anything, and preparing family and friends for their departure that you probably forget to take care of yourselves and before you know it, they are deployed and there is no time to take care of you. Self care is undervalued and we often put ourselves last. This is a mistake as when we are feeling better, more rested and sane, those we look after will be the same. We will have more patience, attend to things faster and more efficiently and have a more positive outlook which rubs off on others.

Things to do for yourself before they’re deployed:

Go out to dinner or lunch with a group of friends

Get a pedicure or manicure

Go to someone else’s house for dinner

Get take out that you like

Sign up for a course you’ve always wanted to take

Go to the movies and maybe stay for another one afterwards

Have a long bath and take a book or magazine with you, put a sign that says “Only disturb if you see blood or vomit”

Call friends or family members and have a good long chat

Take a personal day or book a day off and do nothing but put your feet up

Go through photos or other piles you have been dying to get to

The bottom line is that you need to take time before they leave to pamper, renew and treat yourself as a deployment is filled with doing a lot of things for other people and you will be better for everyone around you if you are somewhat rested heading into it.

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

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #413

Find a Family Pet That Fits – Tip #413

Having a pet can be a tremendous source of comfort and joy but it can also feel like an incredible burden or another thing to stress and worry about.  A  family pet can be the most consistent and reliable member of your family (no offense) – it can provide stability in the up and down world of military life.  Studies have conclusively shown that having a family pet can reduce stress, emotional trauma and anxiety.  A pet can be especially beneficial when you are being posted, preparing for a deployment, going through a deployment, experiencing a re-integration/reunion, etc. and provide the comfort that no one and nothing else quite can.  With a pet can also come a tremendous amount of responsibility and additional work depending on the pet you choose.  Here are some things to consider…

Prior To Having A Pet:

* Take a good look at your schedules and routines and see how a pet would fit into your world

* Think about your long term possibilities – upcoming moves, tours, trainings, etc. and ensure that your pet will fit into this

* Consider who would be able to care for your pet in the event you go on holiday, away visiting family, are late at work, deployed, etc.

* Cost out how much your pet would add to your monthly bills – food, supplies, toys, etc.

* Assign responsibilities to each family member prior to getting a pet and have them agreed upon

* Take a pet for a weekend/ trial basis – some pet stores or shelters have a plan where you can babysit a pet to see if it fits with your family

* Make an agreement on a budget for medical costs and other unexpected expenses

* Look at different pets and what each one has as an average time committment

* Consult with everyone in your family – including ones that may be absent

For more information about our tips, resources or books go to: http://www.WhileYouWereAway.org

To submit a tip of your own or request a topic to be covered, write to: Megan@WhileYouWereAway.org

1001 Tips for Military Families – #403

Car Kit – #403

Although some of us are approaching winter and we tend to think more about car safety kits, there should be one in your car no matter what the season or the climate you live in.  When you have a family member deployed or absent, you may not have time to get the car serviced, have anyone else that you would call if you were broken down or think about taking some time to put a few essentials into your car.    Taking the time to do this now can save you a lot of headache, time and potentially keep you safe later on.


* Water

* Booster Cables or Mini Battery Booster

* Candle  & Matches (waterproof)

* Spare Tire

* Energy Bars

* Air Pump

* Safety Blanket

* Help/Call Police Sign

* Flashlight

* Windshield Fluid/Power Steering Fluid

* First Aid Kit

* Sand/Salt (small container)

* Mini Shovel

* Medication (if you take a serious medication and need it at particular time – keep at least one dose)

* Glass and Seat Belt Cutter

* Road maps (your GPS won’t work if your car isn’t!)

* Clothing (if you are in a colder climate, an extra coat, hat, mittens, etc. or even just a sweater)

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

To submit a tip of your own, write to: Megan@whileyouwereaway.org

1001 Tips for Military Families – #402

Middle of the Deployment – #402

There are a lot of tips that I have for before and after an long absence or deployment but I often forget to give tips for when you are right in the middle of one.  Often in the middle of a deployment you are into a good routine, you have gotten used to life without your significant family member or friend but you are also feel as though the days go on forever with no end in sight.  These tips are for when you have come a long way but it still feels as though there are way too many lonely, frustrating, tearful days ahead!

Tips for the Middle:

* If you have not counted down the days make a chart and cross off all the days you have already done (it will make you feel good, trust me)

* Each day complete the sentence, “From this day on I am going to…” (try to come up with a new goal each day)

* Drive a different way to work, the grocery store or school (seeing new sights can really make you feel better)

* Get a local paper and look up three things you can do in the next month and then invite a different person to each (even if you don’t feel like it, make yourself – break out of the rut)

* If you set a bunch of goals for yourself at the beginning of the deployment and are feeling blue because you haven’t accomplished them, write new ones and forgive yourself for not being perfect (no one is)

* Take pictures of anything and everything that has changed or is different in your world since your friend or family member has left and make a since you have been gone book or album for them and send it

* Clean out one area of your house/apartment that you have been meaning to for ages (the more organized you are, the better you feel)

* Review your budget – where you are and what additional or unexpected expenses you have had since the deployment and get a real picture of what your money situation is (hiding it to even yourself only works for so long and the stress of financial strain can affect every area of your life)

* Have a ‘Half Way There’ celebration with friends or family – have people bring one item to put into a care package for your family member or friend  (Video the event and send it to your absent family member or friend)

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

To submit a tip of your own, write to: Megan@whileyouwereaway.org

101 Tips For Military Families – #211

Paperwork Checklist – Tip #211

I am always surprised by the amount of paperwork that I have as an adult.  When I was a child I thought that having a bank statement and birth certificate was a lot to keep track of!  Even though we have been through many absences and deployments I am always shocked at the volume of paperwork and documents that need to be updated, found, sorted, stored safely, etc.  Here is a simple checklist to help you out.

For more information about our resources, books, tips or to get a printable copy of the checklist go to: http://www.whileyouwereaway.org

To submit ideas or a tip of your own write to: Megan@whileyouwereaway.org

101 Tips for When They’re Back – Tip #216

Family Wish List – Tip #216

When your family completes a deployment it is important that you find ways to come back together as a family by creating new goals and following through with some old ones.  You have not shared the same world or experiences for the entire time they were deployed and it will be important that you begin to create new and happy memories together.  This will help to remind you that you still love and care about each other, have some of the same interests, can laugh at some of the same things and most importantly love being together.


* Make a list of 50 – 100 things that you have always wanted to do, interested in doing or thought would be fun

* Highlight the ones in a particular colour that you can do within the month and use another colour to highlight the ones that you will do the next month or within the year

* Ask other people to give input on the list too

* Remember to put a mix of things that are both short and long term, easy and hard to achieve, need no money and that you would need to save for

* Post your list in a high traffic area so you don’t forget your dreams and goals

* Check them off as you do them and look through your list and make any changes you want at least on a monthly basis

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

To submit a tip of your own, write to: Megan@whileyouwereaway.org


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