Kids are tricky. You want to help them understand how to handle military life, but you have to do it in a way they understand — and in a way they will hear. Because there is a big difference between talking and being heard.
As parents we know that one of the ways to do that is to give them what we want them to hear over and over again, especially when it comes to these important coping skills that can help them through the stress of military life. We teach them one on one. We read them books. We have them watch movies. We sneak the things we want them to learn into every crevice we can come up with.
Now the Red Cross has a new class on emotional strength and reconnection just for military kids — and they can bring the workshop to you … for free.
“We’ve been doing reconnection workshops for adults for a couple of years now, and while we’ve been doing that we’ve been hearing ‘look this is great, but can my child join us or do you have something for kids?’” said Diane Manwill, a retiree spouse and mental health expert with the American Red Cross who helped design the program. “Not every kid is broken, not every parent is disabled — but everyone can use just general information on how to cope with some transition issues.”
Unlike workshops aimed at adult that have a lot, well, talking said Manwill, the workshops for kids are less words and more participation. For example, instead of discussing the challenges of communication, the children’s workshop helps the kids demonstrate it through a game of telephone. Another activity shows the struggle by putting children through a exercise where one describes a picture and the other draws it. When they are done both can see the differences between what was described and what was created.
The kids’ classes are also shorter than the adult versions, Manwill said. Instead of up to two hours, she said, they run closer to 60 to 90 minutes.
Manwill said they based the curriculum off of feedback from the military community.
“We didn’t do this in a vacuum. We did this with our partners in the community, we did this with military child curriculum experts, and other moms also participated in this,” she said.
The classes are available for children eight and up across the country and are operated by trained, background checked experts, she said. Groups can call their local American Red Cross office and find out how to get a class set-up for their kids.
“This is not group therapy for kids,” Manwill said. “This is something that’s really fun to participate in while they learn some skills.”