By Justin Creech, Belvoir EagleOctober 21, 2011
Fort Belvoir Elementary School students were treated to a special presentation when award-winning author and illustrator Trevor Romain brought his "With You All the Way" Deployment Kit program to the school, Oct. 12.
Children laughed and cried as Romain performed for second-through sixth-grade students in which he shared jokes and childhood stories that inspired him to start the Trevor Romain foundation, a nonprofit organization creating resources to support and comfort military children and their Families when challenged by adversity.
Romain and his colleagues also discussed common feelings the students may be experiencing or have experienced with the deployment of a parent.
"It's unhealthy to keep feelings trapped inside," Romain said when asked of the importance of children sharing their feelings. "If those feelings aren't managed they are expressed in other ways. Sometimes it's by bullying."
Romain showed an animated video during the presentation that stressed the importance of the children doing their homework, exercising and eating healthy. All the children received a "With You All the Way" Empowerment Pack that includes a journal, six DVD's in both English and Spanish that deal with issues like children facing their fears and how to handle bullies.
Getting children to understand the effects bullying can have on another person and how they can help is key to Romain.
"I think the more we let kids know how damaging it is and how they can get help the better it's going to be," said Romain. "If they're not finding help with the first line of defense; a parent or teacher, then go to the next line. Go until you find the help you need. I think sometimes if one person doesn't help them then they back off and just take the bullying."
However, it was the emotions shared by the children that drove the presentation. Children said they were angry, sad and disappointed when their parent deployed; one even said he we was proud. A few of the children said they had to take care of younger siblings while their parent was deployed and they also had to help their mother's more around the house.
Stephanie Pridell, a children's advocate with the Trevor Romain Foundation also spoke to the children about the feelings they might have when a parent is deployed and how they can deal with those feelings.
Pridell is also a child from a military Family and told the children a few ways they can handle their feelings while their deployed parent is gone are: hit a pillow, cuddle with a pet, talk to the parent that is still around or even write in a journal.
"Growing up in a military Family and being separated from my dad was very difficult," said Pridell. "So, I really want to reach out to the kids who are dealing with something similar. The difference between children dealing with deployment now compared to when I went through it is they are facing combat deployment."
Lauryn Scott, 11, has previously dealt with her father being deployed. She said she used a few of the coping tips that Romain's presentation suggested while her father was deployed.
"My dad was deployed for one year and I was really upset and had to help my mom out a lot," Scott said. "I talked to my grandmother a lot when my dad was gone because I'm really close to her."
Pridell said having a better understanding of the emotions a child feels during a combat deployment is her goal during the foundations tour. One incident in particular has helped her do that.
"I had a situation where a girl described a video chat she had with her dad where she could hear bombs dropping the background," said Pridell. "She told me she was feeling an overwhelming amount of anxiety seeing flashes and hearing bombs and talking to her dad while that was happening. It made it more real for me that these feelings are legitimate."