1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #468

Tell Your Story - Tip #468

Everyone has stories inside of them to share about their experiences during a deployment, re-integration, posting or their lives as part of a military family.  Whether you were the one on a deployment or at home waiting for the deployment to be over, tell your story - a lot happens to you!  You don’t have to write a public blog or have a published book but you do need to put your thoughts out there - write them or record them somehow.  By sharing your experiences you are processing your thoughts and feelings, letting others understand your experiences and taking the first step in letting go and moving forward.  This is also a great way of sharing all the things that happened to you while your family member or friend was away.  They can look through it or read it at their pace when they return and it will help to fill in the gaps while they were away.


* If you don’t enjoy writing, tell your story through a video journal

* Take a photo of something or someone every day

* Decide in advance whether or not others are going to be allowed to read it/see it

* Remember to record dates and times (you think you will remember but time really does fly)

* Make time to do this every day - it will be time just for you (which we all don’t do enough of)

* Another option is to consider using StoryWorth.  For Veterans/Remembrance Day,  StoryWorth are launching the Military Stories Project to help veterans across the country share their stories with their families. From November 1st until November 11th, they are offering free accounts to active service members, and 50% off subscriptions to all veterans and their families. Additionally, for anyone else who purchases a subscription during that time, we’re donating $10 to an organization working with veterans (Wounded Warriors).

However you decide to share your stories, make sure you do.  You may feel as though what you have to say is important, not necessary, not worth talking about or too difficult but those that love you will definitely disagree and the benefits of letting it will flow over into every part of your life.  Writing this blog has been one way that I have been able to share my experiences and it has strengthen me in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

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

To use Storyworth and make a donation to the Wounded Warriors Project click:


1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #462



As we head into the last weeks of going it solo I am now spending a lot of time thinking about how we are all going to come back together as a family and some of the things that need to be said. We have lived in the same house for approximately 100 days in 3 years. In that time the kids have grown and changed and we both have too.  There are a lot of things that were awful and difficult about all the time away but there were also a lot of things I enjoyed too.  All of this needs to be talked about.

Tips for communication:

* Don’t take on any heavy topics for the first few weeks. Focus on fun and spending time together.

* Carve out time to talk each day once you have begun to settle into a routine of some sort. Even if it is for 5-10mins this is important and will truly help.

* Try to choose one or two things to tackle at a time.

* Be prepared to hear things you don’t want to.  No one enjoys hearing negative things about themselves or about all the things we are doing wrong but we aren’t perfect and if you don’t know what is bothering someone you can’t move forward.

* Be honest and courageous in your conversations not angry and spiteful.

* Set some common goals - we are talking about this because we both need/want…

* Listen to understand, not to be understood.  There is a huge difference and it will make a difference if you really try to understand what it is they are saying.

* Start and end conversations with something positive even if you have to dig deep!

* Take time outs when you get emotional. Talking when you are in a heightened state will accomplish little and may take you back a step or two.

* Conversations should not take place in front of children or family members. Go for a walk, sit outside, wait until the kids are out or have gone to bed.

* Don’t try to have discussions when either of you have been drinking or are exhausted. I don’t believe this has ever been a successful technique particularly as the other person may wonder if it was said because of intoxication or if it was even true or they just wanted to get to sleep.

* Turn off phones, TV, etc. I am not sure I know of anyone that appreciates someone watching the TV, texting or answering the phone in the middle of an important conversation.

Feeling anger, frustration, sadness and so many other emotions is normal and natural but… To have a healthy relationship you will have to let go of these things (eventually) and you can’t let go until you let them out!

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

1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #434

Meaningful Conversation - Tip #434

Family members can be chatty but not always about things that are important to them.  When you ask about their day you will often get a one word answer that really doesn’t begin to describe the reality of their day.  Happy families tend to get past the chit chat and regularly talk about what is bothering them, important, stressful, etc.  This is easier said than done and particularly when you are in a military family and much of their military lives often needs to be secretive - for your safety, theirs and their colleagues.  Playing “Did You Know” during dinner,  using conversation cards or challenge cards is a great way to learn more about each other and talk about things that go beyond the weather, how work was and the odd grunt. 

Suggestions for Getting the Conversations Started:

Did you know - Each person has to go around the table and tell something to everyone that they didn’t know.  It can be something that happened in their day, an accomplishment, a fear, a like or dislike.  If anyone around the table already knew they have to try again until it is something that no one else knew.  Everyone has to take a turn before they can get up from the table.

* Conversation Cards - They are cards intended to start conversations with your family and ask questions in a random way with some element of chance so no one feels unfairly targeted.  They ask everything from “What was the thing you missed the most?” to “What is something you want to accomplish in the next month?”.

Click on the link for sample cards:

Conversation Cards

Challenge Cards - In the kitchen (in a bowl) put a bunch of cards with different challenges on it.  Each day everyone in the family pulls a card.  You can also pull one for the absent family member and send them an email with their daily challenge.  The challenges can be anything from tell a family member you love them to spend the entire day saying only positive things or ask someone for help.  If they completed the challenge there could be some sort of reward.  One family tried this and put a $1 in a jar every time a challenge was completed and then used the money when their family member got back to go and and do something challenging together (they bungee jumped!!!).

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

101 Tips for Military Families - #41

Listen - Tip #41

Let your family know that you really hear what they are saying.  How many times do you ‘listen’ by thinking about what you are going to say next or while doing something else?  Listening is a learned skill, it needs to be practiced regularly and people know when you have it and when you don’t.  In a military household there can be a lot going on and it will be important for you to listen to what your family is saying and notice the things that they aren’t saying too!


* Anytime you are listening pretend that someone is going to ask you to summarize what they just told you

* Make time to listen, clear away distractions and give them 100% of your attention (let the phone ring, get off the computer, turn off the TV, etc.)

* Try to keep the ratio of 75% listening and 25% talking

* Try not to rush someone who is talking by guessing what it is that you think they are trying to tell you or interupting them with your thoughts and ideas on the topic

* Be aware of your body language - you may say that you are interested and your entire body may show the person trying to talk to that you are too busy, too tired, uninterested, etc.

* If you aren’t sure you understand what they are trying to say ask them to explain further rather than assuming you understand

* If you are having to deal with communicating during an absence - ask ahead of time how much time  you have and make sure you spend at least half of it listening to what they have to say

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

To submit a tip of your own, write to: [email protected]

101 More Tips for Military Families - #75

Tip # 75 - Making Decisions

Some decisions need to be made on the spot or fairly shortly there after - anything to do with immediate health especially.  There are very few decisions that need to be made immediately and most of those are life or death so we don’t tend to feel the need to consult with others as much - everything else can wait.  I would consider myself a fairly impulsive, live in the moment type of person.  I often think, when in the moment, that I need to make a decision right away but the truth is that most of my decisions are much better (and definitely more informed) when I wait.  The waiting isn’t always easy but worth it.  When you have a significant member of your family away it may seem as though you can make a decision for them or feel like you know exactly what they would do…  I would try to consult with them before, during and after any absence as often as possible.  Things change, people change and so will their thinking and decisions.

Try to come up with a list of big decisions that you may have to make in their absence.  Come up with a few scenarios for each and talk about what you would do before they leave.  Just talking about scenarios doesn’t mean that is what you would 100% do but it is better than never having started the conversation.

My suggestions:

Curfews - If they break it?  When they have their next birthday does it change?  When should it change?  For what reason would you bend it?

School - Who should we contact at the school and how often?  What are the consequences going to be for issues at school?  How will they be enforced?  How will will reinforce homework getting done?

Punishments - What do you consider reasonable punishments or consequences?  Are there going to be different punishments for different “crimes” or for different family members?  Who will talk to them about issues or concerns?  When will we decide we can’t do it on our own?  Would you be okay with me talking to a social worker?

Home Repairs - If they are expensive; should I get it done?  What things do you think will go wrong and what things are important to you?  If it is a major repair is there anyone you would like me to consult with?  How do I decide what to do and what to wait for?

Car Repairs - Who do I trust to give advice?  How do I decide where to take it to?  If the repair is expensive do you want me to wait until you can talk about it with me?

Birthday and Christmas Presents - How much do I spend?  Do you want me to sign your name or do you want to send something yourself?  Do you want me to get all of the gifts without checking with you or wait?

Large purchases - If our TV or freezer breaks down, do you want me to replace it?  Where would you like me to go to buy something like this?  Who could I take with me that could help me make a decision?  Is there anything that you think might need replacing soon?  Can we make decisions on some of the things before you leave?

Jobs/Careers - If I want to get a new or different job will you be okay with me making that decision without you?  What circumstances would you want me to talk to you first?

Medical - Are our wishes clear for our medical care in the event of an emergency?  What if one of our children got very ill?  What if I can’t get in touch with you?  Is there someone else you would want me to try to talk to as well?  What if I got very ill?   Who would be the person we could trust to look after our house, kids (if any), etc.?  Who would make decisions about my medical care in your absence?

Those are just some of the decisions that should be talked about as soon as possible.  Being a part of a military family makes it especially important as there are many absences and unfortunately things don’t always run as smoothly as you would hope during extended absences or deployments.  I often remind my husband that our children don’t get sick, our furnace doesn’t break and things don’t get incredibly busy at work until he leaves!  It is just the way life is.

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

To submit a tip of your own, write to: [email protected]

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: [email protected]

Tips For Military Families - When They’re Back #18

Ask Questions - Tip #18

One of the things that we are all worried about doing is overwhelming our returning friend or family member with a lot of questions.  While I don’t think it is a great idea to ask 100’s of quesitons all in a row and insist on immediate responses, it will be important that you ask questions to open up the lines of communication, let the person know what you are thinking and wondering about and to hear a little about what their thoughts and opinions are.

Soldiers returning from deployments, training, courses or exercises are coming back with BATTLEMIND - they have been trained to take action, think little about things other than their safety and those in their unit, squash emotions, live in the moment and do their job everything else comes second or not at all.  Your family member will need time to change his/her mindset to live within a non-combat like home.  Asking questions and encouraging them to express their thoughts, ideas, feelings and emotions will help them to ease back into lives at home and do some re-thinking.

Examples of  Suggested Questions:

* What do you want to do today/tomorrow?

* What do you think about ________________?

* What did you think about the movie/TV show?

* What would you do if you were ____________?

* What things do you find have changed the most?

* What are you finding it hardest to deal with?

* What do you think would be fun to do together?

* What would you like to avoid doing?

* How will I know that you feel like talking?

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

To submit a tip of your own, write to: [email protected]


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