Dear Salvation Army Officer’s Kids: 5 Survival Tips For Officer Kids Who Are Moving…

Hey fellow ponderers, please allow me this moment to be a little selfish…actually I want to specifically think of my children, and other officer kids out there on the cusp of moving (perhaps once again).   I know that this blog post will not speak to everyone, and not everyone will relate, but please recognize that I have a heart for the kids that these moves effect…because I was once one of them.  I know the hurt of moving, and hopefully, in some small way, I desire to help other Officer kids out there going through another move…

Dear Officer’s Kids: 
I remember vividly the day my parents broke the news to my sister and me that we were being fare-welled.   It struck my heart, my friends, my school, my corps family…everything was about to be uprooted, dislodged and, in my adolescent mind, ruined.  Life as I had known it sucked!  That’s what I thought.  That’s how I felt…and, in some small way, I was angry about it.

My family had spent eight years of our life overseas as missionaries to three separate locations in Southern Africa.  Then when we moved back to America, I had this thought that perhaps we would stay in our “American” appointment for a whole lot longer…but that was not to be, and at that time, I was very sad about the prospects of moving once again.

So we packed up our things, and began the long goodbye that is the farewell process in The Salvation Army.

Let’s face it, moving is never easy.  Your parents can get stressed out, frazzled and downright difficult to live with during this time; But how we view these kinds of transitions can make all the difference in how we face the next place we live.

Here are 5 Survival Tips For Officers Kids Who Are Moving:
(Perhaps, if you can practice these tips, it will be less survival and more thriving in a new opportunity!)

  1. Talk To Your Parents/Parents Talk To Your Child! 
    Mother and Daughter TalkingAsk as many questions as you can about where your parents are being sent.  Start to be inquisitive, and ask about your new school, corps, summer camp?  When we actually talk about the new appointment, or place you’re moving to, it becomes less of an unknown, scary thing, and more of an absolute, tangible ‘new home’.   Keep in mind that talking won’t always be easy.  There will be times when your parents will be stressed or upset too about the move, but keep in mind that families need to stick together and talk about the transition.  Parents: this is SO vital!  As soon as you can, tell your children.  Get them ready for the move.  Also please remember that how you view this move will positively or negatively impact how your child will view this move.  Discuss the pros and cons of moving…don’t neglect that both adults and children will feel a sense of loss, especially if the the current appointment is a place that you’ve been in for a long time!  Talk about what you’re going to miss and also talk about what you’re not going to miss – be honest and sensitive to what your child/children are saying.
  2. View Moving As An Adventure & Use What’s Familiar!
    Young Man Traveler with backpack relaxing outdoorMy parents helped my sister and me in this important topic by showing us the adventure that awaited us.  Now I know that there are some who are reading this and may be thinking to yourself, ‘It’s not always so joyful when we move’, and you’re right; but the more we can begin to view moving as an adventure, the more we can begin (and help our children begin) to adjust to a semi-transitory lifestyle.I recall knowing people who have lived in one place for their entire life, and I can’t even begin to understand that, but I don’t envy it either.  As I look back at the ‘Army’ life that I have lived, both growing up and now as an adult, I see all of the life lessons that I’ve had the opportunity to learn.  I also have experienced a broader world view than if my family had just stayed in one location for my whole life.  This adventure has taken me to live in different cultural places, I have learned different local customs of many regions, and because of it I feel like my life is more rounded.O the places you will go…and the places you will see as an Officer’s Kid!

    To Parents and Kids:  Start talking about the adventure…then live the adventure!  It can be easy to always look back and miss where you once lived, but if you look back the whole time, you will miss the adventure that you’re about to step through in the next appointment.  Find the fun in life.  View the new place that you’re about to live with a sense of fun and adventure.  Coupled with the new adventure, set up your rooms and homes with the familiar so that where ever you go, Home looks and feels the same – this is the ‘safe ground’, the sanctuary, the ‘fortress of solitude’ and the family first environment!  Bring your familiar blankets, pillows, posters, decorations…etc.

  3. Research, Explore & Google Places To See In Your New Home Townexplore
    We all have smart phones, computers and tablets, so use them to not only check out your new home, but all of the fun places around your new home.  Check out apps like Google, TripAdvisor, Zomato Yelp…etc to find new and exciting places to eat, explore and visit when you arrive at your new appointment.  Make plans to check out those places – and then do it!It can be fun to use your google maps to literally view the street your house is on and then go for an interactive ‘drive’ down the street through that app.  As you do this, you will start to envision yourself there.  It will never take the place of where you are living right now, or the places you’ve been, but it will certainly add to your life’s adventure!  Think of it as the next chapter, but you will never, ever replace the last chapter…it just becomes a wonderful part of your life’s book!
  4. Find Activities To Get Involved In Right Away In Your New School!
    activitiesWhen you move to your new home, (and here’s the BIG, frightening step of faith you should take:)  find activities that you are interested at your new school and/or community that you can become involved in.  Don’t wait for a year to jump into it, do it right away…trust me on this!I know some of you might be introverts at heart and you’ll want to stick close to home and ‘play it safe’, but try to push yourself to get out get involved!

    When I was a kid, I loved sports, and so when we moved I joined the soccer team and the track team.  By the time school actually started, I already knew people at my new school because they were friends from soccer.  I made it a point to get involved.  It wasn’t easy…and there were days that my stomach just churned with anxiety about being the ‘new guy’, but I pushed myself, and my parents gently pushed me too.

    That’s the key too parents:  your kids are stronger that we sometimes think they are.  They will thrive if we get them out there and involved in activities.  I’m not saying don’t allow them their down time at home, but don’t let them settle into unhealthy – isolating cocoons either!   Help them find activities that they are interested in within your new appointment and plug them into those activities.  When we can help our children find these healthy sources, they will develop friendships and become invested in this new adventure!

  5. Stay Positivepositive
    I’m not going to lie to you.  There will be days when you will sorely miss the place that you just came from.  There will be days that you will be tempted to withdraw from your new place and quit…don’t.  Families need to stick together during this ‘mourning’ phase of moving.  Emphasize the positives…look for the bright side and the opportunities.They say that life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to things – so attitude is VERY important in these transitions!If your new school stinks, then perhaps you can find one friend to enjoy the stink with at that school.

    If your corps is not the best place to be, then perhaps you can find a small corner of it to make it your own despite the circumstances.

    Officers Kids and Parents:  How we act towards one another matters.  Be an encourager to each other.  Don’t go negative and only focus on what you hate about this new place.  Sure, talk about those things, but don’t stay there – find the silver lining and when you do, you will find hope and joy despite the ups and downs of these transitory circumstances.

Kids:  You got this!
You are resilient, smart, amazing people!  Help your parents, and remember we aren’t alone in this!  Officers kids are band of brothers and sisters and we can do anything we set our minds to!  Let’s stick together!

Parents:  Keep speaking truth, love and joy into your kids.  Be patient with them…and at times go easy on them!  Encourage them to be active, and show them what it means to live this Officer life…live the adventure with them!

Something more for This Army world to ponder!
May God richly bless on your move!

Dear Church, Dear Salvation Army – Give Special Needs Kids A Break!!

Let me be vulnerable with you for a moment.
We have a son who struggles with disabilities.
He has some severe educational challenges coupled with ADHD.
One might say, “oh, well they have medication for that kind of thing”…and you’re right, but did you know that usually when providing medications for ADHD it’s a crap-shoot as to what will ACTUALLY work?  Did you also know that there are some severe side-effects to these medications?  Some even have long term effects that only exhibit themselves later in life through health problems.  Our son has always been extremely sensitive to medication.  We tried some of the ADHD medications, one made our son as high as a kite.  Another led our son to have extreme bouts of anxiety that forced us to consult a counselor.

He’s a great kid.  He’s extremely creative, and he’s also very sensitive about it even if he doesn’t let on that he is. He also privately suffers from anxiety and depression because of it.
I don’t say this to make you feel sorry for us, I just want you to understand what I’m about to say.

kid1One moment in particular still strikes the protective parent chord in me.  We were attending a required army event.    We were all at this meeting including our son.  You have to understand that children with ADHD have difficulty sitting still for prolonged periods of time…it gets better with age, but it does take a. lot. of. time.   Anyway, back to the meeting.  There wasn’t a youth track for this event, and so all of the families were to sit through a three hour meeting…in ADHD time this is the equivalent of a year sitting in an uncomfortable chair.
Our son became rowdy and restless even with various distractions provided for him.  Finally, after another restless shuffle in a metal chair and a very loud exhale of frustrated breath, a soldier seated in front of us turns around and looked at us and our son with daggers in her eyes and a dirty look on her face.  Not a word was said, but words weren’t needed, we knew what she wanted to convey to us and we weren’t all too happy about the situation either.  It was at this point that we took our son out of the meeting despite the “required” attendance.  I wish I could say that this was the first time this has happened…it wasn’t.  I also wish I could say that it will never happened again…I can’t.  We struggle.  It’s not easy.  Perhaps some of you out there with kids who struggle with ADHD and/or other special circumstances can relate and understand.

Give Special Needs Kids A Break! kid2
Churches and Corps should be sensitive to families who have children with special needs.  Don’t just assume anything.  Please don’t judge or condemn.  If you happen to have new families come and visit your corps building who have kids who seem disruptive please don’t automatically judge them and assume that their parents don’t know how to control them.  Please respond with compassion and care.  Perhaps help if you can.  Some parents would really welcome the help…trust me on this.  Please don’t lecture us either, we are trying, we really are!

Our current corps has a child who attends with his family who is autistic.
His father really, really tries.  He’s a single father…and he needs a break.
This child might not fully understand what he does, but he knows that he is loved in our corps.
He might be disruptive from time to time, but our corps members help out with this child.
Are there any churches who are completely capable to handle special needs children?  I doubt there are many…but there are many patient, and compassionate soldiers and church members out there who could help, and usually do help.

So What?
Why do I write this today?
What’s my point?
My point is this:
Don’t judge or presume to know what parents with special needs kids are going through if you yourself haven’t been there.  Perhaps instead of judging, which takes much less of a concerted effort, you could help.  Try to be compassionate and understanding.  Yes, we go to church to listen to the message and get blessed but so do these parents who have special needs kids, and most of the time they only get half of a service.  Church is not only about the message and “getting blessed” it’s also about being the hands and feet of Christ.  It’s also about being a united community helping one another along in the faith.

So I guess what I’m saying is be aware of kids who might have special needs.
Don’t just pigeon hole them and label them as disruptive, disrespectful children.
They need our understanding…and so do their parents.

Give them a break!
Something more to ponder today!

Here are some links to check out:

Church helps Special needs
Additional Helps

Dear Salvation Army, Officer’s Kids…

I am an Officer’s kid.  For those who have no idea what I am talking about, let me explain.
No, my parents weren’t in the military.  My parents were/are Salvation Army Officers.
Being an Officer’s kid is a lot like being a Pastor’s kid.
Being an Officer’s kid is also nothing like being a Pastor’s kid.
Is that as clear as mud?  Good.

Backing up,
I am an Officer’s kid…
So was my father and mother.
So were my Grandparents.
My Great-grand parents were the first in our family to join the ranks of this fledgling army here in the United States.

Being an Officer’s kid is a unique thing.
People expect more from you.
People expect you to act a certain way.
People expect you to be more mature than the rest of the kids your age.
In short, the expectations for Officer’s kids are unfair and perhaps the bar is set too high.

There is also the running joke that if one marries into the army and also has family in the army that a blood test is required to ensure your soon to be bride is not related.  Seriously, sometimes the life of an Officer’s kid can become solely an “army” bubble…and that, in my opinion, is not always healthy.
blank sign
Back to Officer’s kids and expectations…
I recall meeting many officers kids while living with my parents growing up.  We moved to various locations including South Africa, St. Helena and places in the central states of the U.S.  I have met some very straight-laced Officer kids, who in turn grew up to also become Officers themselves, and I have met some rebel Officer kids who pushed back at every turn.

Are the expectations of Officer kids fair?  In short, I believe that the answer is a resounding “No“!
Do these expectations of Officer’s kids sometimes lead to them wanting nothing to do with the Army when they grow up?  In short, I believe that the answer is a resounding “Yes“!
Other times, and I have witnessed this, Officer’s kids have seen how the Army and its leadership has treated their parents and because of those seemingly unholy moments, they have walked away from this movement.
Could we use a little more compassion in our Army?  Yes.
More understanding?  Yes.
The ability to understand the hectic lives of Officers who have young children in their homes?  Yes, yes, yes!

One might contend that Officers know what they are getting into when they sign their covenant…but did their children sign it too?  Do they tag along during the kettle season?  Do they help out, sometimes as the best and only volunteer on Sunday mornings?  Do they go where their parents tell them to go?  Many these Officer kids have unknowingly signed the covenant of officership too.

It is the nature of this organization.
There will be cause and effect.
A ripple here might become a wave on the other side…

How might we improve the lives of Officer’s Kids?
Does this responsibility fall squarely on the parents?
Does the corps, does DHQ, THQ, IHQ have a role in this as well?
What of the many who have left the army following reaching adulthood?  Is there something to learn from those experiences?

This isn’t some sort of “Woe is me” edition of Pastorsponderings, this is just me hoping to teach my kids the importance of being their own individual and walk their own spiritual path.  I’m not saying I didn’t or am not right now…because I have.  How can we improve this ever changing facet of Officer families for the better?  Are we making strides today?  Yes I believe we are.  Is there more work to be done in this sometimes forgotten aspect of “Army life”?  Yes I believe there is.

Honestly, I haven’t arrived at a conclusion on this today.
I am simply pondering the nature and nurture of Officer Kids.
I understand them.
I was one.
I sympathize.
I know that there are also perks, privileges and opportunities.

Honestly, I would like to hear from you.  What do you make of Officer Kids?
Were/Are you one?  Are you a Pastor’s kid…you can somewhat relate too.
How about a missionary kid?  You fit this mold to some extend too.
From the outside looking in – Soldiers and friends, how do you see Officer’s kids?

Something more to ponder in our Army world today.

School Kids, Embarrassing Parents & A Horror Show


There are certain horrors in life.  But none compared, none eclipse the mortifying, stuck in your shoes type of horror that many prepubescent boys experience – the horrors of parental embarrassment.   Imagine being that eleven year old boy about to begin school after the long summer days have ended.  The boy is forced to go school clothes shopping with his mother at a local department store down the street.  They arrive and enter the clothing establishment and little does this boy know how uniquely horrifying this experience will be to his young life.  Perhaps his life, though short lived, will flash before his eyes.

They find the young boys section, which just so happens to be right directly across from the young girls department…how lucky for him…still awkward around girls, like em one minute hate em the next.   Yet here he is with his mother about to shop for clothes.  Glancing over he sees a pretty girl around his age then he pulls his glance back quickly just as she also notices him.  “Great!” He thinks somberly to himself… the horror has begun.  In this jungle of cotton and hangers, the boy is vulnerable and exposed, inexperienced with shopping for anything other than video games or comic books.

His mother, oblivious to the plight his son, is perusing the racks of sale items.  Why is it most mothers pick the style and colors that the boy feels was so three years ago?  Why is it that mothers long to keep their boys forever 8 years old?  This Peter Pan mentality within all Moms who have attempted to stop the chicken legs and bony knees.  To stop the freakishly elongated arms and the feet that consistently pass another shoe size seemingly by the month.  Why try?  Is it so that Mom doesn’t feel older?  Is it to prevent the inevitable from happening – Her little boy growing up?

Then the summit, the apex of this horror show of school clothes shopping with your Mom unwraps itself.  It’s the shower curtain scene in Psycho, someone just needed to cue the shrieking music of ‘the knife’ scene.  If this boy later became a quantum physicist and invented a time machine, he would undoubtedly, come back and save his younger self from this moment of great embarrassment.  A group of girls, pretty girls that he recognizes from school walk by the boy section and sees him just as his mother, with underwear in hand sizes him up for a pair of cartoony kindergarten style pajamas.  “Mom!” the boy protests, red faced and awkwardly embarrassed, he ducks into a rack of clothes, hoping the girls didn’t just see that.

Perhaps that’s not your story.  But we’ve all been that awkward boy or girl.  We’ve all experienced the ‘licked spit on the hand to wipe your face moment’ from a parent.  The embarrassment of the waving parent as the son or daughter walks with a group of friends.  It’s funny how certain things never seem to change.   We might get older; our children might one day grow up, but the acts of embarrassment continue from generation to generation.   I for one am a parent who enjoys the role of the long passed tradition of the hand licker in public for the purpose of wiping a smudge off of my twelve year old son.  Or the moments of anxiety created when I crank the radio to 80’s rock songs while pulling up to the front door of the school at pick up time.  It’s the little things in life that make me smile.  My sons will never forget their father belting out an operatic version of Adele’s “Skyfall” as we approached their school.  Sometimes parenting has its rewards as a red faced child exits the vehicle quicker than usual because his father is badly singing at the top of his lungs…and they walk off shaking their heads but smile quickly as the glance back one last time.

Long story short, don’t miss out on the small things.   The embarrassing things.  The ‘make your child cringe’ things.  It’s your responsibility as a parent to embarrass the crap out of your kids.  Do I sound like an evil father?  Perhaps…but if your kids can laugh at the little things of life because their parents do then they’re better off in the future.  If your kids can see humanity for what it is, faults and all, then maybe they won’t worry so much about striving towards unhealthy acceptance in other areas of life.

Besides, laughter is the best medicine…so enjoy those moments when your child runs away red faced while shaking their head…but wait for the backward glance and a smile at the corner of the lips…it’s all worth it!

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