MANHATTAN – Write down three simple things: A positive daily routine, someone reliable and a group that provides a connection in the area. Now, crumple up that list and throw it away.
That's what Blair Benz, team member, Fort Riley Parent to Parent, Military Child Education Coalition, had attendees do at a Military Relations Committee luncheon Dec. 4 in Manhattan to illustrate what military families go through when they move.
When families get word of relocation, they may as well be going to Mars, Benz joked, because they will have to start from scratch to get acclimated somewhere new.
No matter where a family is within a relocation or deployment cycle – newly arrived at a duty station, settled in and exploring the area, facing deployment or redeployment – Parent to Parent offers workshops to help the military community thrive.
And, all of the Parent to Parent workshops are free.
As the guest speakers at the December lunch, team members Benz, Stormy Jones and Jennifer Dixon discussed their backgrounds and the variety of programs they offer.
All Parent to Parent personnel have ties to the military. Between the Fort Riley team, they have gone through 32 moves, have raised 11 children and have spent about half a century in military families, so they know first-hand what parents go through and what life is like for a military family, Jones said.
"Either we have served or are married to those who serve," she said. "When we go talk to parents, we can empathize with them."
More than just empathizing, they also provide tips on how to thrive in the military environment through workshops on resilience, deployment, reintegration and more.
Benz walked attendees through a typical transition cycle of denial, resistance, exploration and commitment. Everyone goes through these cycles when faced with change, Benz said. But for military families who face change more frequently than most, resilience is crucial.
"We want to shorten that resistance and denial phase," Benz said. "We talk about how you build resilience."
Benz said she loves hearing parents get excited about something new they've learned at a workshop, whether they pick up tips to try at home or get affirmation on a technique they've been using.
In addition to workshops on resilience, Parent to Parent also focuses on educational workshops.
With the average military child changing schools seven to nine times, Parent to Parent offers valuable information not only for children and students, but also for parents to navigate the confusing waters of switching schools and help their children thrive and prepare for the future, Jones said.
According to its Facebook page, Parent to Parent's goal is to empower parents to be their child's strongest advocate on educational and social issues. To do so, their workshops cover a variety of topics, like science, cooking, bullying, Internet safety, learning styles and more.
"We all have different learning styles," Dixon said. "It is important for us, as parents, to know that."
The workshops are highly engaging, Dixon said, as she described a simple science experiment of putting a can of soda and a can of diet soda in water to see which would float – the diet soda because it's not weighed down by extra sugar. As audience members raised their eyebrows in surprise, it seemed clear that Parent to Parent also has interesting and valuable information for adults.
In addition to its regularly scheduled workshops, Parent to Parent can provide custom presentations for family readiness group meetings, unit briefs and more for free.
"Whatever you need from us, we're going to make happen," Dixon said.
For more information, search for "Parent to Parent - Fort Riley, KS" on Facebook or visit www.facebook.com/pages/Parent-to-Parent-Fort-Riley-KS/124208561107482.
For more information or to schedule a workshop, email PtoP.Riley@militarychild.org.