By Wendy Brown (USAG Wiesbaden)April 24, 2013
WIESBADEN, Germany - Sgt. 1st Class Charlene Villa Gomez knows exactly where she is going to take her 2-year-old daughter when the weather gets warm this summer.
The city of Mainz has a free water park in the Volkspark in the summer, and Gomez is sure her daughter Tinina will love it. She might never have known about it, however, if not for a program called "Winging Through Wiesbaden" that 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment Chaplain (Capt.) Andrew Shriver started to help single parents.
Shriver and a group of single parents spent the morning of March 22 talking about single parenting and discussing a book by John Gottman called "How to Raise an Emotionally Intelligent Child." Afterward the group visited sites in Wiesbaden, Mainz and Rüdesheim where the parents could take their children later.
Gomez, who has been a member of the U.S. Army for 17 years, said one of her main reasons for participating was because she wanted to learn how to help younger Soldiers, but she is a single parent herself and enjoyed the training.
Gomez said she had to make a conscious effort when she moved to Germany to build a support network. "You need to get out there and look around," she said. "If you don't get out there, you're not going to find anything."
There is a lot of support available for single parents, and Army Community Service and the Directorate of Morale, Welfare and Recreation are both excellent places to start looking, Gomez said.
There are 37,000 single parents in the Army, and sometimes they find there is a stigma against them because they are the only parent available, for example, to take a child to a doctor's appointment during working hours, Shriver said.
Single parents can also develop a martyr complex, Shriver said, and find themselves thinking, "Woe is me. I'm a single parent."
Shriver said his aim is to help single parents by talking about common problems and showing them low-cost, relaxing places nearby where they can relax and have fun with their children.
The Neroberg area in Wiesbaden, which includes hiking trails and a park for children, is one example of a local place the group visited, Shriver said.
Another aim of the program is to introduce single parents so they can help one another, Shriver said.
Gomez said she has not met a lot of single parents overseas, but she has learned how to build a chain of friends who can help her when necessary. She does her best to help younger Soldiers who are single parents, she said.
The key is to get out there and meet people, Gomez said. "Always have an open mind and go out and speak to people," she said.
For more information about the program and upcoming events, contact Shriver at firstname.lastname@example.org.