Story and photo by Spc. Nathan Thome
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
The Family Advocate Program held a “Kids Chat” session Aug. 24 to help military children open up about their feelings and to allow parents with deployed spouses to voice their concerns.
Part of the Army Community Service Family Violence Prevention Plan, the working group is in the process of becoming an official service provided by the FAP. The session was held at the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, headquarters building.
Kids Chat was developed to attack the problem of domestic and Family violence at Fort Carson, said Jill Nugin, manager, Fort Carson FAP.
“The Family violence task force was developed a year ago because of a significant increase in infant deaths in El Paso County … the community put this working group together to address what we could do to reduce the impact of child abuse,” said Nugin.
Victim advocates and project managers, the volunteers for Kids Chat, divided the children into three age groups: 3-5, 6-10 and 11-16. Adults also participated in the service; they gathered in a separate room and addressed concerns about their spouses returning from deployment.
“Kids Chat speaks to Family resilience and making Families stronger and happier,” said Nugin.
The younger children drew pictures, completed puzzles and participated in story time.
“These types of activities help nurture our children,” said Sgt. Brandie Senior, ACS operations. “Children don’t know how to communicate like adults, so integrating games helps them to open up and communicate their feelings and emotions.”
Children from each age group talked about their home lives and concerns about when their parents return from deployment.
“One of the things I miss most about my dad is spending time with him,” said Evan Burciaga, 13. “When he was home, he would take me to the gun show, but since he deployed, I miss the time we would spend together.”
Children in the middle group spent their time making Halloween-style picture frames for Family photos, while talking about their parents and how they felt about their parents’ deployment.
“We developed this program because, when the war first started, kids didn’t have a good place to talk about their (parents) deploying or coming home,” said Nugin.
This service is offered whenever children are faced with a parent deploying, said Nugin.
The teen group colored pictures, made bead jewelry and participated in an opening-up exercise. They chose between 14 strips of green paper, each containing a question.
Participants answered their questions, opening up about their lives at home and how their parent’s deployment has affected their roles in the Family.
“Since my dad has left, I can do things that I haven’t done before when he was here,” said Jason Griego, 14. “I just feel like I’m a bigger person, like I have matured and become more independent.”
The event concluded with the children gathered in the headquarters common area, sharing what they learned from the service and how it helped them cope with their parents being deployed.
“Kids Chat is a great social-networking environment for our children because they get to be creative and play with adults and other children,” said Senior. “The kids light up when you give them that one-on-one attention, making them feel special.”
Call 526-4590 or visit http://community.carson.army.mil/ACS for more information on Fort Carson ACS Family Advocacy and Family Violence Prevention Programs.