Finding My Way with FOCUS

Tami Patton |
Author

I wear many hats!  I am the proud wife of a United States Marine, the mother of three extraordinary children, and I’m honored to be the friend of many exceptional women who are also Marine Spouses.  I am also a Resiliency Trainer for Project FOCUS (Families Overcoming Under Stress) for Military families.

In the course of my husband’s service, we have been through the many challenges every Military family faces.  We have moved ten times, endured seven deployments and countless separations due to training while living far away from family support.  My kids have attended seven schools, waved goodbye to dear friends too many times, and made more friends anyway.  We have avoided the daily reports of war on the news to protect our fragile hearts while husband/dad was deployed.  We have been asked to endure so many challenges; too many at times. However in spite of all these challenges, there have been many blessings in our Military life that have left us thriving and ready for the next adventure.  FOCUS is one of them!

I first learned about FOCUS during a brief at a Spouse’s conference by a speaker named Dr. Lester. Dr. Lester defined resilience as “to cope, adapt, and overcome.” I began to consider whether my family had these qualities. Unsure, I listened intently trying to absorb every detail as Dr. Lester explained how each skill in the FOCUS program was designed to help strengthen this quality in Military families. I realized that this was the missing piece of the puzzle.  My family had been resilient on and off, but over time our strengths were being depleted through the repeated combat deployments and long separations.   My kids were becoming worn down and so was I!  We were a strong family and had managed well enough, and  we were proud of our parenting and family closeness, but we were missing this quality of resilience.

We needed FOCUS.

FOCUS  is a resiliency skills training program designed for the proactive family or couple wanting to shore up its strengths to better meet the daily challenges of Military life.  FOCUS training helps families and couples recharge and build skills within the context of their shared experiences.  FOCUS’  unique, flexible, confidential and individualized approach has made it an instant success with Military families.

I strongly believed my family needed the FOCUS skills in our own tool box of strategies for dealing with Military life.  I was so impressed with the program that I decided to become part of the FOCUS Team.  My family has been benefiting from increasing resilience ever since, and each one of us would tell you that we feel stronger and closer than ever before.

Here are some of the FOCUS core resiliency skills we provide in 6-8 fun and dynamic sessions:

  • Effective communication
  • Problem solving
  • Identifying and managing emotions
  • Goal setting

After participating in FOCUS, families find themselves better able to clarify their needs, opinions, or misunderstandings with an increased respect for each others’ point of view.  Family members identify, manage, and discuss their emotions in a way that empowers the entire family. Families who use these skills feel more connected and more mutually supportive.

Military families and couples who engage in FOCUS resiliency training tell us that the skills we provide are beneficial and highly effective for their families.  In fact, program participation has resulted in statistically significant increases in family and child positive coping and significant reductions in parent and child distress over time, suggesting longer-term benefits for Military family wellness.

Another aspect of FOCUS that impresses families is the individualized approach.  Trainers tailor each meeting for the purpose of working toward personalized goals set by the family to enhance family cohesion, communication, and care.  FOCUS also has a specialized track for families facing wounds, illnesses, or injuries. The program hosts Skill Building Groups and Workshops for children and adults as well.  Since 2008, the FOCUS program has worked hard to collaborate with both Command and other base providers to become a household name both through group and family level services.

Since 2009 I have worked with the most amazing families through FOCUS.  I find that each family has the desire to be part of a healthy and loving relationship.  My team has seen:

  • Parents on the brink of divorce see eye to eye, and rededicate themselves to their marriage
  • Children so anxious about a parent deploying that they were unable to concentrate on school work, become relaxed at school and a leader within their family
  • Kids learn to resolve conflict without parent intervention
  • Parents at their wits’ end over squabbling children learn skills to validate and positively encourage their children toward more productive and respectful communication
  • Kids lovingly reconnect with deployed parents after a long and difficult separation

I believe FOCUS is the missing piece to the puzzle that Military families create of the resources they have available to them.  The power of this simple, preventive program overwhelms me as a parent and a Spouse.  I am proud to be part of FOCUS, but more proud of our leaders for recognizing that Military families make sacrifices every day for our country, and we require resilience, a learned skill, to remain strong and united.

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