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Web site offers help for military families in transition

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Sixteen-year-old Robyn Lutzkanin loves the military.

As a military child, she said she has moved often and enjoys seeing new places and meeting new people.

"It really opens your eyes up to the world," Robyn added.

But she admited to dreading the transition of moving to that new place and having to make new friends.

"Moving is a really big stress, especially on teenagers. Because when you move to a new school, it's like all of these kids, (and you) don't know them," Robyn said.

Three national associations joined forces Sept. 30 to publish a Web site that offers help to military families going through those transitions.

The site, is a joint effort by the National Military Family Association, the Partnership for a Drug Free America, and the National Association of School Nurses. Among other tools, the site offers a guide for military parents on how to talk to their children during transitions such as a move or a deployment of a parent.

Talking during that time is critical, Robyn said, addressing a crowd gathered at the U.S. Capitol Sept. 30 to announce the site's launch.

"The only way to solve a problem is to talk about it. If you let it sit there in the back of your mind, it's going to start festering in your brain and be like all on you," she said. "You've just got to let it out."

Parents are ideal for the children to talk to, she said, because they are sharing the transition.

"(Parents are) there with you all the time. They can talk to you about anything. You can trust them. Kids at school don't understand you. Your teachers sometimes don't understand you," Robyn said.

Joyce Wessel Raezer, the executive director of the National Military Family Association, said she hears from families that they need resources to help them deal with the issues surrounding moves and deployments.

"Our military life is full of transitions. That's one of those trigger points where military families are looking for resources when they are preparing to move," she said. "Even the brightest and the best ... walk into that new school, walk into that new town, and think, 'Am I going to fit in? How am I going to find friends?'"

The site also contains information for parents on talking about substance abuse with the children. And it has information on how to educate members of the civilian sector, such as teachers, who are not used to dealing with problems unique to military families.

But mostly, the site simply helps to initiate conversations that can help parents address difficult topics during difficult times.

"The premise is, 'Let's start that conversation between parent and child, and here are ways to help that parent start that conversation,'" she said.