Faces of FOCUS

It’s hard to believe that I’m starting my fifth year as the FOCUS Site Director at Camp Pendleton. When I was young, my father was stationed at Camp Pendleton. After he retired, we returned to Camp Pendleton every summer and enjoyed the beach and camp grounds. It was always our last activity of the summer before school started. Now, here I am back at Camp Pendleton working to support military families. It’s a nostalgic time of year for me as the summer comes to a close and families begin to gear up for the new school year.

MelindaAs your family wraps up the last of your summer activities and starts preparing for school, your children might be experiencing a variety of different feelings. Children may be excited to reunite with friends, but they may also be a little worried about what the school year will be like. To help get everyone in your family feeling excited and confident about the coming year, check out the great articles in this edition of FOCUS Quarterly. "Ready, Set, Back to School!" offers practical tips for getting your child’s year off to a great start. The "FOCUS On..." article provides information about how to talk to your kids about feelings, which is a useful skill for kids of all ages. In fact, scientists have even found that learning to manage emotions is just as important for brain development as what children learn in school. The “For Those in the Know” section highlights some helpful back-to-school resources, like MCEC’s Ask Aunt Peggie website and the School Age Care program. And don’t forget to check out the “FOCUS Top 5”, which offers our favorite suggestions for games to play with your kids on the car ride to school.

The start of a new school year can be challenging, but military families are strong. Best wishes for a wonderful and exciting new year in school!

By Melinda Morgan, Site Director, Camp Pendleton

Ready, Set, Back to School!

I was honored to serve my country by joining the Navy. I met my Marine husband while participating in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 and we were fortunate to form a family together. As a military spouse and mom, I have experienced first hand how important it is for my family to be unified and resourceful. I understand the importance of keeping our military families strong and supporting both the service member and their partner as they guide their kids through childhood. read more »

FOCUS on...

The Feeling Thermometer

Kids with Feeling ThermometerThe Feeling Thermometer is one of my favorite tools that we use at FOCUS. It helps kids and parents express how they feel. It also assists family members to understand that each person in the family may have different responses to the same event. The Feeling Thermometer provides a common language for families to identify and share feelings.

The thermometer has four color zones: green, yellow, orange and red. The green zone is an area of comfortable feelings, such as happy, excited, or perhaps silly. Kids sometimes share that playing outside, or having a family movie night, is the type of activity that helps them feel “in the green.” The yellow zone represents feelings that are just a little uncomfortable, such as a little sad or a bit worried. The orange zone describes more uncomfortable feelings, such as mad, sad, or nervous. The red zone is used to describe more intense feelings like fear, anger, or extreme sadness. At FOCUS, we teach children and adults to use this tool to talk about their feelings, things that make them feel uncomfortable, and ways they can get back to the green zone. read more »


Car games for the ride to school - with a FOCUS twist!

Car games are a great way to engage in positive play with your children and to help the ride to school go quicker. Our top 5 adaptations to classic games emphasize key FOCUS skills, including expressing emotions and setting goals. These games can help children, who may be feeling a little nervous about going back to school, to talk about their feelings and to practice problem solving while having fun.

  • I Spy - Ask your child to spy something green in the car. When a family member guesses the green object of choice, the child then shares one thing that helps him to feel good and “in the green.” For a description of the green zone on the Feeling Thermometer, check out the FOCUS On… article in this issue.
  • Feelings 20 Questions - In this game, one family member thinks of a feeling and then the other family members ask her yes or no questions about times she feels that way or how she acts when she feels that way.. The other family members have twenty questions to try to guess what the feeling is. Feelings 20 Questions is great practice in communicating feelings.
  • Places and Things - This is a great game to strengthen kids’ memories while helping your family plan for a trip. The first person starts by naming a place your family is going, such as a new city where you are moving, an afternoon soccer practice, or the next vacation destination. After the location is chosen, the first player adds an item for your family to bring. For example, you might say, “We are going to the beach, and I’m bringing a beach towel.” Then each family member takes turns by repeating everything already in the list, and then adding one additional item. The game gets harder each turn as you try to remember everything on your family’s list.
  • Alphabet Solve - In this game that supports creative problem solving, someone in the family mentions a problem that the family is facing. The problem doesn’t need to be anything serious. Something like, “We don’t know what to make for dinner,” is a problem that even young kids can help solve. Everyone in the car tries to come up with different options, starting with solutions that begin with the letter “A” and then moving on to the next letter of the alphabet. Your child might begin with “Ask my teacher for her favorite recipe,” and then you might continue with “Bake a casserole.”Keep going through the entire alphabet so that each family member gets several turns.
  • Yes, and… - This classic improv game focuses on building positive communication skills and a shared family story. The game starts with someone saying a positive action sentence, like “I am going to buy a pineapple.” The next person says “Yes, and…” and then she adds another sentence to the story. For example, she might say, “Yes, and I am going to attach it to a kite.” Family members keep adding “Yes, and…” sentences to see how silly the family story can become.

US Flag

FOCUS honors the service and sacrifice of our military families and their service members

For Those in the Know

Ask Aunt Peggie

Ask Aunt Peggie is a free service on the Military Child Education Coalition’s (MCEC) website that provides answers to parents’ questions about education and their military child. On the site, Aunt Peggie posts answers to the most frequently asked questions. If parents have additional questions, they can fill out a form on the right hand side of the page and Aunt Peggie and her team will send a prompt reply. Aunt Peggie’s page also highlights other great education resources such as MCEC’s SchoolQuest online tool, which helps families search for new schools. For more information to help you prepare for your child’s school year, visit Aunt Peggie at www.militarychild.org/ask-aunt-peggie..

School Age Care (SAC) – Military Child and Youth Development Program

Designed by the Department of Defense (DOD), School Age Care (SAC) programs offer after school programs, summer camps and childcare during school vacations for children in grades K-5. SAC’s certified counselors oversee a variety of activities including team sports, arts & crafts, homework help, and field trips. These activities provide children with educational, social, physical, and emotional support in a safe and nurturing environment. For more information about SAC programs in your area, please visit  www.military.com and search for SAC.

American Hero Books®: My Daddy is a Marine and My Mommy is a MarineBy Alia Reese

American Hero Books® : My Daddy is a Marine and My Mommy is a Marine are great for children who have a parent in the US Marine Corps. The author, Alia Reese, brings her perspective as a Marine Corps spouse who is raising two children through multiple deployments and changes in duty stations. These books help young children to understand their parent's very important job and why they have to be separated from time to time. The books are customizable using the InsertYourOwnPicture™ system, which allows kids to put pictures of themselves and their parent into the book. For more information about the books and purchasing, please visit the following website: www.heartstarpress.com/store/Default.asp

Reese will also be holding Story Times and Book Signings at the following times:

  • September 7th – 10:30 AM – 2:00 PM at Quantico, MCX – Book Signing
  • September 8th – 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM at Quantico, MCX – Book Signing
  • November 7th – 10:30 – 11:30 AM – Microsoft Store at Arlington, Virginia – Story Time

Igo’s Corner


If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out our FOCUS World calendar which provides 30 days of suggested activities to assist you in building a stronger family. If you have had a chance to use the calendar and have any feedback, we would love to hear it!


In 2008, the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) contracted with the UCLA Semel Institute to implement the FOCUS Project for United States Navy and Marine Corps at 9 USN and USMC installations. In 2009, FOCUS Project was expanded to include 14 sites, including the USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment. In September 2009, FOCUS Project was made available to Army and Air Force families at designated installations through support from the Department of Defense Office of Family Policy.

Send us your thoughts!

We would love to hear your comments and feedback so please email us at newsletter@focusproject.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

We love to hear from our readers! Email us with feedback or content suggestions.

FOCUS Headquarters
UCLA Semel Institute
760 Westwood Plaza Room A8-159
Los Angeles, CA 90024