JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Military families encounter numerous stressors in their life and the stresses of their counterparts while dealing with extra stressors and transitions that come with military life such as a child attending new schools, moving and multiple deployments. The FOCUS Program on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, helps families deal with these issues, free of cost. "FOCUS stands for Families OverComing Under Stress with families being the emphasis," said Kimberly Crosby, site director at JBLM. "Our goal is to provide the skills and tools to strengthen the 'glue,' resiliency, in families." FOCUS is a resiliency-building program that promotes family strengths and supports couples and parents. It helps manage the challenges of military life while increasing closeness, support, communication and adaptability. Through the sharing of perspectives, families make meaning together and thereby grow in cohesion, mutual care and effective communication. Making meaning as a family unit as well as enhancing resiliency skills has been shown significantly to increase a family or couple's ability to handle military and life stressors more effectively. "Several families are not aware of the program," said Stephanie Self-Bence, family resiliency trainer, "so we developed a tip of the month to reach out to families with a small sample of what we do." February's tip relates to Valentine's Day by providing ways other than gifts to show love and affection toward family members. The program wanted to provoke the thought process by asking questions like, "How do you show affection to your children? How do you show love to your partner?" In response to those questions, phrases of affirmation like, "Our family is awesome," "I can always count on you," or "You're my best friend" are a great way to show you care, said Crosby. "Those are some small ways to show you care about someone," Crosby said. "We included this because it is a very strength-based program. We are always looking for ways to praise our families and to identify the strengths of them. Just saying something positive to someone else is a good way to boost their strength." The program works with all of the family, instead of just one person, on strengthening the family glue. The program encourages married couples as well as dating couples to attend. "We tailor our sessions and tools we bring into our sessions to fit the needs of that particular family or couple. The tools are geared around areas of communication and managing emotions military families encounter with all transitions they endure. The purpose of the program is meant as a prevention program, so we are not doing counseling or therapy, more educating and strengthening to overcome the challenges they face." For the past four years, Self-Bence has been helping families draw on strengths they already have while filling in the "cracks" to form a stronger family. "Working with military families and service members is my passion," said Self-Bence. "My goal is to give families the skills they need to move past any problem and continue using them as they grow together." For more information on the FOCUS program, contact them at 253-966-6390 or email at JBLM@focusproject.org.