By Shannon Morell

I was honored to serve my country by joining the Navy. I met my Marine husband while participating in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 and we were fortunate to form a family together. As a military spouse and mom, I have experienced firsthand how important it is for my family to be unified and resourceful. I understand the importance of keeping our military families strong and supporting both the service member and their partner as they guide their kids through childhood.

I was excited to join FOCUS in their efforts to strengthen military families. As a FOCUS Resiliency Trainer, I worked with many wonderful educators at various schools, child development centers, and youth and teen centers, who have explained to me some of the common challenges military kids face in schools. I am happy to share some of my favorite strategies to help you and your kids start the school year right.

Tips from Teachers:

• Discuss feelings and expectations: It may be helpful to talk to children about expectations for both school and home. Giving children the language and ability to share their feelings can help relieve any concerns they might have about going back to school. The Feeling Thermometer (see the “FOCUS On” article in this edition) is a great tool to use when talking to kids about how they feel about the first day of school.

• Talk about changes and transition: Find out when the first day of school will start and begin informing your child a few weeks before. You may want to show your child the school’s website or the information that is posted about the new grade level. Be sure to give adequate time to help prepare your child for the transition.

• Develop predictable routines: Prepare kids for the transition from the less structured routine of summer to the more structured school schedule. For many, the change in habits and routines can be difficult without preparation. Talking to your children about the changes and giving them a few choices in the new routine can help generate excitement about the upcoming year. While some things, such as the time they need to arrive at school, are not negotiable, they can choose other things such as the color of their backpack or what type of sandwich they would like for lunch.

• Encourage independence: Your child is coming from summer break to a classroom of 25 or more students. In the classroom, it is impossible for teachers to help every child with their jackets or book bags. By learning to manage these things children begin to develop a sense of competence and independence. You can work with your child in advance to practice these things, like how to load and unload their backpack.

• Develop problem-solving skills: Small disagreements are common among friends and classmates. Whether on the playground or in the classroom, older children may have to resolve conflicts on their own. Teach your children simple problem solving techniques, such as coming up with several possible solutions. Taking deep breaths and practicing speaking in a clear, calm manner are also useful tools for settling conflicts.

• Establish goals: Helping children establish their own goals for the school year can set them up for success. For instance, you can talk to your child about their goals and help them develop simple and specific strategies to reach them. Having goals helps kids feel prepared, but not overwhelmed. Write down the goals and discuss the steps for achieving those goals. Two weeks before school begins, review the goals with the child during a family meeting. Knowing your children’s goals increases your awareness of their needs, and it increases your ability to support their independence.

Saying goodbye to summer vacation can be hard for children. The thought of changing routines and adjusting to the demands of school can be challenging for kids of all ages. Using these tips can help prepare you and your student to have a successful start to the school year!

FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress) is a resiliency-building program of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED). FOCUS is an eight-session training program for military families that is grounded in more than two decades of research and experience serving families dealing with stress and changes. FOCUS is specifically adapted for the needs of military couples, children and families and provides training in core resilience skills. These skills increase closeness, support, communication and adaptability. Couples and families learn to work together to manage difficult emotions, set goals and problem solve, communicate clearly and effectively, and develop customized strategies to deal with ongoing stress and change.

For more information about FOCUS, visit us online at www.focusproject.org or www.facebook.com/FOCUSresiliencytraining.

Contact your local FOCUS site today to learn more about FOCUS and to schedule your personalized training sessions.
• Marine and Family Services, Bldg. 13150, Camp Pendleton, 760-859-6079, camppendleton@focuproject.org.
• Dolphin Alley, Bldg. 265, NBSD, 619-556-6075, sandiego@focuproject.org.

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About the Author

Military Press

The Military Press was created to serve the men and women of our military community; the active duty, retired, our veterans, DoD workers and their families.