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Book Recommendation of The Week

The Fifth Rule – By Don Aker

Regardless of whether you are in a military family or not, your kids need to read books that they can connect to, books that give them insights into other teen thoughts, actions and feelings, and books that teach them about their limits.  This book is about Reef Kennedy – a former young offender.  When he returns back to the former city of where he committed his crimes, he is forced to think about the consequences of his actions, discover who he is, what he wants and how to move on with his own life after the death of the only man that ever gave him a chance.

Reef let his anger control his actions.  Several years ago he ended up throwing a stone off an overpass which ended up nearly killing Leeza.  It would be a great book to read to a class and then debate around whether or not we should send young offenders to jail or give them opportunities in their communities to change their lives.  There is also the relationship between Reef and Leeza which would be a good starting point for discussion too – what things can you truly forgive someone for and what do you think you couldn’t?  Leeza’s mother and Leeza’s relationship is also a discussion point as Leeza’s mother could be percieved as over-protective – when do parents need to give you more freedom and let you make your own mistakes and live your life?

This book makes teens think about how one decision, one thoughtless moment, one angry gesture can not only change your life but someone else’s forever.

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


Book Recommendation – 101 Daily Challenges: A Road Map for Teens

Megan Recommends –

101 Daily Challenges: A Road Map For Teens

Okay, it is our new teen journal but I really believe in it so I feel comfortable blogging about it!  It is a journal with 101 challenges for teens to do and then write about their experiences.  The idea is to get tweens and teens focussed on what is important to them, take safe risks and learn about others and themselves, challenge themselves to do things to make themselves feel good about their accomplishments and perhaps even do the same for those around them.

Challenges include:

* Try a sport or activity you have never tried

* Decide on 5 things you would like to do before finishing high school

* Call a relative or friend you haven’t seen or connected with in a while

* Shop for an outfit with a $10 budget

* Donate blood

* Do something for someone else for free

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

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

More Tips for Families with Teens – #158

15 Rules For Talking to Teens – Tip #158

Whether or not you are in the middle of a deployment, about to be posted, recently reunited or just living military life, these tips will help you to effectively communicate with teenagers.  I think that it is easy to blame teens and say that the communication problems are theirs but there are a lot of things you can do to improve the situation too.  Below are my 15 rules for talking with teens – remember that I said talking with not at!  🙂

1)  Listen with your full attention

2)  Be aware of your body language and theirs

3) Don’t interrupt them when they are speaking

4)Focus on the problem, not the person

5) Avoid threatening or criticizing (it can be challenging, I know!)

6) Use humour when you can (remember if you don’t laugh, you could cry)

7) Be calm

8)Don’t talk too much

9)Accept your child’s feelings

10)                   Check that you have understood by asking them to re-state what you said

11)                     Stick to one topic/subject at a time

12)                   Give your opinion but remind them it is just one opinion

13)                   Allow your child to think about solutions before offering any of your own (as tempting as it is to give them an answer)

14)                   Give your child as many choices as possible

15)                   Don’t assume that you have been understood or that you understand what they are feeling

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

Book Recommendation of the Week for Teens

Megan’s Recommendation –

“Shattered” by Eric Walters

Fifteen year-old Ian needs 40 hours of community service if he wants to pass Grade 10 course.  He ends up in one of the most demanding volunteer placements available, serving food to homeless men at The Club – a soup kitchen on a tough side of town. Ian makes it clear that he’s only there for the hours. Mac, the tough, straight-talking guy who runs The Club, likes the teen with no empathy or understanding about life for the homeless.  For Ian who is from the suburbs and leads a life of priviledge, the grim realities, dangers, isolation and invisibility of life on the street opens his eyes in a dramatic way.
Ian is rescued from a violent mugging by Sarge, a former soldier, who is now living with other homeless men in a small camp of tents hidden away in the park.  He wonders how a man who is so clearly educated, self-disciplined and rational, could end up on the streets. Assigned by his Civics teacher to interview someone from the Armed Forces, Ian seeks out the former soldier and learns about his twenty-four year career in the military, and the many UN peacekeeping missions in which he participated. But, when Sarge mentions Rwanda and Ian admits to knowing nothing about this place, Sarge clams up, obviously distressed.
Ian learns about the 1994 Rwandan genocide and that people from other parts of the world have also been witness to atrocities, including his own housekeeper, who lives with the memories of Guatemala’s Disappeared.  His experiences, both at The Club and with Sarge, change the way Ian sees the world and himself. He finds himself going to the soup kitchen, long after his 40 hours are done, hooked on the need to help.  After a lot of soul searching, Ian decides to tackle Sarge about his drinking, and to do everything he can to aid the former soldier in facing his nightmares and finding the courage to live again. Shattered is an important story about two very difficult topics, homelessness and forgotten veterans.

Any book that gets teens to look beyond their immediate circle of friends and family and think about the sacrifices others make for us is a good thing!  You could challenge your group, school, class or resource centre to do a book club with this book and then come up with a plan of how they could volunteer some of their time to support your military community.  If you have a teen, read this book together and then challenge each other to both commit some time to helping others.

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

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

More Tips for Military Families with Teens – #127

Conversation Cards – Tip #127

Conversation can be strained, difficult or seem impossible when you have a teenager.  Their description of a day or events can be a grunt or “fine” and you are more likely to win the lottery than get any further.  This doesn’t mean you should stop trying, ask more questions and continue to ask questions that require more than a one word answer (ex. “What did you do today?” not, “How was your day?”).  I may be delusional but I truly believe that they want us to keep asking because they aren’t sure of themselves or the answers and need our help –  we just have to work on asking the right questions.


** Print these out and work on asking your teen all of these questions throughout the month.

** Re-phrase them the way that would be most comfortable for you to ask them if you need to

** Ask questions even if you are frightened to hear the answer or worried they will get angry or annoyed

** Questions:

– What is the longest you have been without sleep?

– Who would you take on your dream vacation and where would you go?

– How did you meet one of your closest friends?

– What do you find hardest when _________ is away?

– What do you think my greatest strengths and weaknesses are?

– What do you think the best job in the world would be?  Why?

– What meal do you crave the most?

– What is your best childhood memory?

– What do you like about military life?  What do you dislike?

– What is the longest you have ever had to wait for somebody?

– What was the last compliment you got?

– How do you think you would do on ________(insert game show or reality show)?

– What do you want to accomplish this year?

– What are your 4 favourite songs at the moment?

– Do you think people’s personalities are born or made that way?

– What is the most embarassing thing that I have done?

– What do you think your worst habit is?  What do you think mine is?

** For more information go to: http://www.whileyouwereaway.org

** To submit questions of your own, write to: Megan@whileyouwereaway.org

Megan Recommends – Afghan Dreams

Book Recommendation For Tweens and Teens –

Afghan Dreams By Tony O’Brien and Mike Sullivan

This book tells the story of young children in Afghanistan and their dreams for their country and themselves.  Each page has the story of a child or teen with their picture.  It has stunning photographs that capture the essence of the children that are telling their stories.   It teaches students about people their own age who are, in some ways, completely different from themselves and in other ways very similar.  Through the stories of children ages 8 to 18 we hear of their lives, hopes and dreams.

One extension activity that I have done is to have students take a picture of each other and have them write a paragraph about their lives, telling their story.  I asked them to write about one struggle, one trimuph and one hope for their future.  Then we created a cover using all of their photographs and made it into a book.  It was interesting to see them relate to one another through a shared experience or story.

It would be a great book for any library, resource centre, school or classroom.

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

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

More Tips for Families with Teens – #140

Tip # 140 – Life Lists

We all have ideas in our head about what we would like to do before we die, if we won the lottery, if we lived somewhere else, when you get married, when you graduate, etc.  Sometimes those dreams never make it past our own brain.   It is important for you to share your dreams, hopes and goals with your teen and important for you to hear about theirs too.  This might be the only place you find something you can agree on!  Teens spend a lot of time thinking about what is wrong with themselves, their parents, how hard life is or how cruel the world is.  Creating a family life list with everyone will get them thinking about all of the things there are to look forward to – it can give them a sense of hope while also giving you a chance to learn more about each other.


* Set a goal of having a 101 things committed to paper before your family member gets home

* Google other life lists and get some ideas

* Give everyone a chance to contribute to it and post it up where people can add to it any time

* Read out the list together once a month and see if anything has been accomplished or if there are changes to make

* Ask your absent family member to send or tell you about some of their hopes and dreams

* Have a mix of easy to accomplish and challenging so that everyone will feel a sense of accomplishment

* Take a picture each time one thing is a accomplished and make it into a poster, bulletin board, wall of dreams, etc.

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

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