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Book Recommendation of the Week

The Magic Box

By: Marty Sederman and Seymour Epstein

This is a book for when a parent can’t be there to do the things they would normally do like tucking your child in, playing hide and seek, or riding a bike together.  Casey is given a magic box from his Dad to hold on to until he returns.  Inside is a picture of their family, a hug and a kiss for when it is needed and some markers.  Casey then makes a magic box for his Dad to have when he gets back and to use when he goes away again.  This book identifies how challenging even a couple of days absence can be for a child and parents.  My children liked being able to relate to Casey and his feelings as their own Dad comes and goes quite a bit.  This book helps kids to recognize that they are not the only ones that have a parent that leaves and that other kids are upset about it too.

Some Additional Suggestions:

* Use any type of box – shoe, cereal, etc. and decorate it

* Have your kids put pictures, ticket stubs, lucky penny, etc. to all talk about when their family member returns

* Put the box away when you are all home so that it will be considered special when someone is going to be absent

* Add a new decoration to the box each time it is used

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

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


More Tips for Military Families with Teens – #122

Complaint Department – Tip #122

Teens often wish that their home or school had a complaints department.  They normally mistake a parent for the department.  Try something fun and find out a little more about your teen(s) and family in the process.  Have your tween or teen write anyone in the family a letter of complaint.  In fact, everyone in the family can write one.  You then randomly draw out a letter and answer it in your most diplomatic way.  It allows everyone to have a grumble (we do all need to vent at times) and feel as though they are being heard but it also allows there to be an end point and offer of a solution to the complaining.  It is a great activity to do at home, at school or in a group or centre setting.

The rules:

* Everyone must distinguish between a person and a person’s behaviour

* You must write respectfully

* All complaints must be responded to within 7 days

* All complaints must come in written form (via email or pen/paper)

* In your complaint letter you must also offer up a minimum of two possible solutions

* This activity should be done a monthly basis (more frequently and its novelty will wear off)

** Tweens and teens can also come up with the rules together so that they feel more a part of the process.

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

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

More Tips for Military Families – #169

Take Your Time – Tip #169

I am an implusive, action taking, impatient, fool at times.  I tend to think that if I don’t act on something immediately then my opportunity will be lost or if I act immediately then I will be more successful or one step ahead.  While sometimes this is true it can also be my biggest downfall.  The times when these theories really fail me is when my husband is away or deployed.  I end up burning out, getting sick and being in a general funk by trying to do it all.  Time reveals things, adds more details, gives you time to come up with multiple solutions and sometimes makes it possible to not have to take any action at all.  Today’s tip is – take twice the time to do the things you want to do in a rush, implusively or immediately so that you will not exhaust yourself or burn out through an absence or deployment.  There is very little in this life that you need to do immediately and urgently (although it may feel like it at the time).


* Expand all of your time lines by doubling them

* Look at what in your life is a must vs. want

* Remind yourself that wasted time isn’t wasted if you are having fun or just relaxing

* Make a list of the things that would make you feel less rushed and stressed out if you didn’t have to do them and then look at what ones really can wait or that you can ask someone else to help you with

* Publish your ‘to dos’ where others can see them and help you out (which will save you time)

* Don’t get caught up in doing things that are urgent for other people (you’ll discover other people often think their issues are urgent and important when they aren’t)

* Look back on things that you didn’t get accomplish and laugh about how the world kept moving even though you didn’t get it done

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

More Tips For Military Families #168

Before Sleeping – Tip #168

Bedtime, for my family,  is the hardest.  Not only do my kids find it hard not to get tucked in my their Dad but it is also a lonely time for me.  Some nights I lay in bed at night wondering if he is thinking of me, missing me, safe, etc.  Sometimes an hour has gone by before I realize that I am no closer to getting to sleep.  My kids are tired after a long day of school, homework, sports, friends, etc. and it is when they are most upset about having their Dad away.

The kids and I now have a routine that we do before going to sleep.  While it was a challenge to set up and stick to, it has been our biggest success.  The kids rely on and know what to expect each night and they also feel like they are connecting with their day each day.  Each night, after teeth have been brushed, baths, stories, etc. we email a one liner about what was good, annoying and something we are looking forward to their Dad.  When he can write back he does and he also send us a couple of one liners that answer the same questions about his day(s).  The only rule is that we all try to put something different each time.


* Make a couple of sentence starters for everyone to use

* Email it out to not just your deployed family member but to other friends and family so that your children are not disappointed when their news goes unanswered (we send our nightly message to Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, their Dad, etc.).

* Keep it simple so that your deployed or absent family member is able to write back quickly if time on-line is limited

* Make sure that the account is under your name and carefully monitored and filtered by an adult

* By giving sentence starters it also ensures that you aren’t giving away operational information (be sure not to send information via email that should not be known about the mission)

* Send a picture a day too if you are able to – it is nice to have a visual as well as a few words

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

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

Book Recommendation of the Week

The Wishing Tree – By: Mary Redman

The wishing tree is not only a great book to read before or during a deployment but gives families a great way to mark time, keep a sense of hopefulness and purpose during a deployment.

At the beginning of the book, Amanda’s father has just left for a year long (perhaps longer) deployment.  She decides to make a wishing tree.  Each day she writes on a ribbon a wish for her Dad.  The wishes include – a safe flight, protect her Daddy from harm, I love you, Thank-you, etc.  When her Dad came home she presented him with her tree of wishes.


* Make your own wishing tree with a large branch and a plant pot

* Have each family member take turns making wishes

* Take pictures regularly to track the “growth” of the tree

* When your friend or family member returns, let them untie and read each ribbon then have them all laid out the way you want them and get it framed

* Take a picture of all of the ribbons laid out once they are home and send that to everyone that put a wish on the tree

* If you work at or in a school, this is a great whole school or class activity – each child has a leaf once a week that they add a wish to it (we did this in a front hall of a base school one year and it was a great way for students, staff and parents to realize that we were all in it together and make wishes and have a sense of hopefulness)

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

More Tips For Military Families – #165

Funding for Military Families – Tip #165

I don’t know many military families that haven’t had to endure considerable financial stress at one point or another, our family included.  There are a lot of agencies and resources available but it is quite a lot of work to discover which ones are out to make money off your financial hardship by providing you with money that comes with high interest rates or fees and which ones are providing you with much needed financial support and relief with no strings attached (government or organizational grants, bursaries, etc.).

Before you go looking for funding determine what it is you need additional financial help with.  Are you looking for things like combat injured, housing assistance, compassionate grounds (travel expenses to attend family member’s funeral, education or basic needs (food, electricity, gas, etc.)?  You will need to apply for funding based on what your family’s needs are.

Some examples of financial needs are:

Combat Injured: Significant levels of financial support for those wounded in combat. This includes the “invisibly wounded” PTSD and TBI veterans

Housing Assistance: Support with rent or mortage payments, cannot afford any housing, etc.

Basic Needs: Assistance that keeps the lights on, food in the cupboards, the home warm and the primary family car in the driveway.

Education:Grants for college, to attend a special school or program to support a child’s needs, etc.

Useful Sites for American Families:





For Canadian Families:





Useful Sites for British Families:





** If you are living in another country, let me know and I will do my best to direct you to the financial services and support that I believe can genuinely help you. **

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

More Tips for Military Families – #163

OPSEC – Tip # 163

I had no idea what OPSEC (OP = Operational & SEC=Security) was when my husband did his first deployment.  Not that I posted anything questionable but I probably would have without knowing that it wasn’t a good idea.  With technology and social networking today it is easier than ever to get information about you, your family, your job, interests, etc. and to have people, without your knowledge, reading and collecting your information.  It is important, whether you are experiencing a deployment, training, moves or military life in general that you don’t post information that could compromise the safety of you or your loved ones.

‘Do Not’ Tips:

* Do not post on internet, share with others or write about any and all operational information

* Do not provide people with the time, place or name of the operation

* Do not share specific locations of where your service member is

* Do not provide information about spouses, email, Facebook accounts or full names to anyone outside of your group (they may want them for kind or valid reasons but then they may, unknowningly, provide them to others and so on)

* Do not identify rank or full names of service members

The general rule is, ‘If you aren’t sure, don’t post it’.  For more information go to – http://loveoursoldiers.us -they have posted a great article with detailed information about OPSEC (the rules are generally the same for all countries)

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