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DoD Provides Teens on the Move With Online Help

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2003 – Moving to a new school. Making new friends. Those are just a few of the stressors that plague teenagers and children of military families more often than their civilian peers.

John Molino, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, said children whose parents are in the military move at least five times in a sponsor's military career. Each year, he said, some 250,000 military children move.

However, help in dealing with the anxiety of yet another permanent change of station can be found at http://dod.mil/mtom (online April 1).That's the address of an improved Defense Department Web site designed especially for teens and children of military families.

The Web site is "Military Teens on the Move," and DoD is asking teenagers to log on April 1, which coincidentally begins DoD's "Month of the Military Child." Another site for children ages 6 to 12 called "MTOM for Kids" can be accessed at the same address.

Molino said the new Web site is designed to help teens and children deal with stresses of their parent's military careers.

"This initiative is an effort to communicate better to our teens who are military dependents because they move so often, far more often than the average American youth and they go often to unfamiliar places," he said. "Moving can be very trying, very compelling, and we're trying to make this transition easier."

The site designers, Chuck Thomas Creative, an Illinois- based agency, surveyed teenagers. "They found out what teens said they would need and what they would find helpful," Molino said.

"Teenagers have a lot of questions, and most think they are the only ones in the world with that question. And what they'll find at the Web site is information that responds to those questions," Molino said.

"How do I cope with this move? How do I tell my close friend I'm about to move? What can I find out about the new school or neighborhood?" he said. "This site either gives them that information directly or provides links to that information indirectly."

The site also provides a bulletin board that military teens can use to post messages to other teens who may be dealing with the same issues and to help them connect with new friends, he said.

Molino said the site would be updated regularly to ensure it stays current and safe for teens. And, he said, links to other Web sites will be monitored to ensure that "we are not sending our teens down a wrong path."

The site isn't a cure-all for young people who have trouble coping in the military, but DoD is hopeful it will help military teenagers and children understand their roles as part of the DoD family, he added.

"The president has made a commitment to improve the quality of life of not only the service member, but of the complete family," Molino said. "We think this is one step closer to completing that social compact that we have with service members and their families -- to make them feel as if they belong, because they do, and let them understand how much we appreciate not only the service of the service member, but also the service of the family."

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