By Cindy Grossman, LCSW, Executive Director for Kids’ Turn San Diego (To read the article on the San Diego Veteran’s April Edition Magazine, click here)

Did you know the divorce rate in military families tends to be about 75%?

Kids’ Turn San Diego offers Family Workshops for Separated and Divorced Families and we have seen a significant increase in military connected families attending the program. In 2016, 54 military connected parents and their children participated in a Family Workshop, compared to 137 in 2021!

Thank you to all the military families who sacrifice so much to keep us safe!

Let’s take a minute to look back over the past two years. As our world shut down and everyone was ordered to “stay home”, most of us felt alone and scared. As time went on, we heard new fears from military families. Deployments typically have a beginning and an end. But what about those who had a spouse deployed when the pandemic surfaced? Did someone on the ship get COVID, were they exposed, would my partner ever return home? Many families were resilient, and others struggled. Divorce may be a decision for many military families but holding space for your children must be the priority!

The number one theme we hear from children, month after month, is that they want their parents to stop fighting and yelling at each other. They want their parents to get along!

Parents, you have no control over others, only yourself. Only you feel your feelings and understand your thoughts. Only you can choose your behavior. Are you reacting and sharing your frustrations through yelling and lashing out at others? Are you internalizing and using substances to manage your emotions? Are you distraught and immobilized? Do you tell your children your problems and hope they will help you solve them?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone!

The good news is . . . YOU have control of your feelings and thoughts and your behaviors! You can choose to respond instead of react. You can choose to seek support from other adults (friends or professionals).

You can choose how you are going to interact with your child’s other parent. You may not like it! You may feel like you are compromising or giving in, but this doesn’t mean that you are less than others or bad in any way. This means that you are putting your children first! Children want to see their parents, they want you to say nice things about their other parent, they want to see their relatives, they want their parents to get along. Your children want to be heard, understood and to feel important in the eyes of both their parents.

Divorce may be a reality for you but support your children as they transition from one home to two. No matter how you feel about their other parent, show your children how to be kind. A smile (even if it is fake) or a brief wave is huge in your child’s eyes. Give them this gift! Virtual programming continues at Kids’ Turn San Diego so reach out for support from wherever you live. In honor of Month of the Military Child, we’re here if you need us Thank you for your service!

Article written by: Cindy Grossman, LCSW, Executive Director, Kids’ Turn San Diego


Image taken by Morgan Liberatore of Morning Owl Fine Art Photography

Kids’ Turn San Diego honors all military families and thanks you for your service!

Members and families of the United States military commit to serving our country, work long hours, and experience many moves and deployments. Whether this is your first time away, or your 10th, being away from home can put a strain on the family. Staying connected while away doesn’t have to be stressful! 

In honor of Veteran’s Day and the Month of Military Family Appreciation, Kids’ Turn San Diego encourages all families to stay connected during times of separation. Here are some suggestions:  

1. Create a realistic communication plan

Military service orders are sometimes vague, and the member will not know if communication via phone, text or internet will be possible. Instead of worrying about the details, create a plan with those at home for how they will communicate with the family member who is away.

Schedule a weekly family meeting time where each family member contributes to the Family Journal, a Family Memory Book, a Family Memory Box or a Family Poster. Whatever you choose, during your family meetings, each family member contributes by writing a note, drawing or adding a picture or tape/glue/place something about the week into the journal, book, box or poster.

This may seem silly but wait until your service member returns home! They will get to see everything they missed while away. What a great way to watch your children grow up and learn about all their adventures!

2. Have fun documenting memories and developmental milestones

Find a jar and decorate it with your children or by yourself if your children are too young. Then, whenever something exciting happens, write it down or have your children write it down or draw a picture. You can also slip pictures, crafts, and other items to share in your jar. Items in the jar could be shared during calls and then presented to the service member when they return home. Remind yourself and your children, your service member will need time to transition back into the family. Presenting the jar so they can check it out any time they are ready is a great way to help everyone transition back together.  

3. Use the internet or your smart phone to stay connected

Create a shared iCloud account, Vimeo account or google drive where you can upload recorded videos and pictures. Document first walks, first words, and every moment that you love about your child. We all do this so why not share it! Uploading is easy, free, and can be quickly done through a smart phone or computer. As parents, we all take the pictures and save them to our phones. Take the extra step and share them on a shared drive or account so your service member gets to enjoy each video and picture as they are happening and when they are able to view them.

4. Write letters to stay connected

Sending letters is another way to keep in touch! If your little ones aren’t ready to write yet, you can have them draw pictures to mail. The great thing about snail mail is that you’ll have a physical reminder of each other’s love to hold onto!

Short notes or letters can be written by everyone, even the service member. Mail may be slow and could take a month to arrive, but so what! A written letter is a treasure, no matter when it arrives. Save them all! Children will feel important and loved when their parent returns home and pulls out all their letters and then when children show you all your letters, you’ll feel important and loved too. Being away doesn’t have to mean that you miss your children growing up, it just means you participate differently.

5. Keep relationships strong

For military families, it’s not just about the kids. The parents matter too! Stay connected with your spouse in creative ways. For example, the spouse at home could play your wedding song every month on the day you got married or look at your wedding pictures and then share the memory with their spouse during a phone call or text or write the memory in their Thinking About You Book (which could be a spiral notebook or composition book or a special journal you choose). For the spouse who is away, figure out something you’re able to do monthly on your wedding date and then tell your spouse about it during calls, emails, texts or in your Thinking About you Book. If you’re able to keep a Thinking About Your Book or Journal, great, if not, find a different way to share, even if that means sharing when you get home.  

Since we know communication can be challenging when a service member is away, brainstorm creative ways to stay connected. Here’s another idea to try. Everyone sees the sky at night so maybe look at the stars on the same date each month and know that your spouse is also looking. This could bring comfort and connection. 

In honor of Veterans Day, Kids’ Turn San Diego salutes all veterans, active duty and reserve service members and their families! Your contribution and sacrifice for our safety must be acknowledged and honored. We thank you all!

Children with parents in the military navigate unique challenges and frequent changes. Kids' Turn San Diego is here to support families through transitions and separations.

In honor of April, the Month of the Military Child, Kids’ Turn San Diego interviewed 12-year-old Taylor, the daughter of a dual-military couple, to get a glimpse into the life of a military child.

Q: What are some issues that you think military children specifically go through?

A: Some of the issues that military children specifically go through are moving to different schools, meeting new friends, leaving old friends, and getting rid of a lot of stuff that you’ve gotten attached to in order to fit in your new house.

Q: How do you think being a child in the military helped you?

I’m able to overcome difficulties and adjust to my surroundings. I’ve moved to so many places and I’m used to the different climates and situations. It’s easier for me to make friends and leave things behind.

Q: What would you like the public to know about military children?

It’s really hard on kids. They have the hardest lives because they move a lot, leave their friends and pets behind, and sometimes they have to sell things that meant something to them (to fit into base housing). There’s a lot of change.

Q: How did you handle being part of a dual-military family?

Mom and Dad were stationed in different places or deployed for a large part of my life. My mom went on 2 deployments and my dad went on 6 deployments. I mostly lived with my mom, but I would occasionally live with my dad for a few years. I’d bounce back and forth. I’m happy that we’re all together now!

Q: How did you handle deployments?

We would count down the days. Saying goodbye was hard because we didn’t know how long they would be deployed for. It could be longer or shorter.

Q: What would you tell children now?

Look around and enjoy what you see. Don’t pay attention to what you’ve lost. Pay attention to the future. You can do anything even if it seems like it’s hard because being a military kid will make you stronger!

Kids’ Turn San Diego applauds Taylor and other military children for their resilience, dedication to their parents, and the sacrifices they have made. We know how difficult it is for a child to move and change schools, leave friends, and experience a parent on deployment. At Kids’ Turn San Diego, our goal is to change family relationships in positive ways so children experiencing family separations and military transitions are happier. In our programs, both children and their parents participate. Children learn new ways to express their feelings and parents learn communication tools, so they are able to put their children first.

During this time of uncertainty with the coronavirus (COVID-19), take time to talk to your children or grandchildren and check in with them. The shift of having both parents’ home, being out of school, not being able to see friends, and the information spread throughout media can weigh heavily on a child. While we’re all socially isolating, take the opportunity to connect with your children. Here are our best tips for military parents to support your children:

  1. Spending time. Deployments, pre-deployment work-ups, long hours at work, and Temporary Duty Assignments (TAD/TDY) are common military situations that keep parents away from their children. As we are homebound during this period, take a breather from your laptop and use this time to spend quality time with your military child or grandchild! Do fun physical training (PT) exercises together such as the “See 10, Do 10” push up challenge on social media or create an obstacle course or training regimen that you can all enjoy! Play hide and seek, board or video games with your child or simply spend time coloring and enjoying the time spent together. This is the time to strengthen your bond and be together as a family.

  2. Talk to them. With COVID-19, Permanent Changes of Station (PCS) are on hold until mid-May. With all the stress of PCS moves, this may be the first year where you can talk to your military child about how they feel during PCS seasons. Ask your child how they feel when it’s PCS time. For younger children, you can have them draw a picture of the family during PCS season or provide pre-written words for them to choose from (ie: Happy, Excited, Anxious, Sad). Discuss these words with your military child and ask your child what could support them during this transitional period. Open up lines of communication between you and your military child so that they can feel more comfortable expressing their needs in the future. Listen to your children without giving advice or trying to solve their problems. Work WITH your children to come up with a plan that would help them through future transitions.

    • For those families that are due for PCS in 2020 and are currently on hold, it is imperative that children understand and are a part of conversations regarding the move. As suddenly as the PCS hold was placed, there is a possibility that the release of that hold will be just as abrupt. Continue the conversation with your children and allow them to be informed of the situation so that when a sudden move is required, they are more prepared.

  3. Close quarters. Having the entire family in the home for an extended period of time can put stressors on any family, whether military or civilian. This may cause tension between parents or with children. Communication skills are vital in this situation. Practice utilizing the “I Statement” communication technique with your family members (both adults and children) and encourage their use of the practice as well. “I Statements” include: “I feel _____ when ____, please _____”. Talking with “I Statements” doesn’t come naturally. They are a skill. The important thing to remember with this skill is that this is a way to help your children express their feelings. It will also help you too.

    • As we are all living together without any breaks, regular check-ins (daily or every other day) can help alleviate some tension of being constantly in the home. They also provide the opportunity  for family members to share their feelings or thoughts when they otherwise would not know how to do so.

Remember Taylor’s words: “Look around and enjoy what you see. Don’t pay attention to what you’ve lost. Pay attention to the future. You can do anything even if it seems like it’s hard because being a military kid will make you stronger!”

Kids’ Turn San Diego’s mission of “promoting, supporting and securing the well-being of children who are experiencing family separation” drives our desire to empower military-connected families to remain connected, to talk about their feelings and to honor each and every family member. Thank you all for your service!