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written by Ellen Pritchard Dodge, M.Ed., CCC-SLP and Mark C. Pisano, Ed.D. with Christopher Atkins, LCSW and Kate Ramsburgh, M.A.



Introduction......................................................................................................................... 5

Chapter 1: Getting Started............................................................................................... 9

Chapter 2: Compassionate Listening and Guidance................................................... 27

Chapter 3: Before a Service Member Leaves for Duty.............................................. 37

Chapter 4: While a Service Member Is Away on Duty.............................................. 43

Chapter 5: When a Service Member Has a Short Break from Duty...................... 49

Chapter 6: Anticipation Before a Service Member Returns Home from Duty..... 55

Chapter 7: After a Service Member Returns Home from Duty.............................. 59

Chapter 8: Family Fun! More Playful Games and Family Rituals.............................. 65

Introduction Note for Parents Feelings can be messy … Kimochis® can help! Every parent wishes for a happy, healthy, confident child. One very important part of being happy, healthy, and confident is learning how to understand and express feelings and have positive, loving relationships. The Kimochis® Activity Kit for Military Families is a tool you can use to help each other express thoughts and feelings that otherwise may be very difficult to share. Military families know all too well that feelings can run high before, during, and after a service member leaves home for military duty. By expressing feelings and maintaining a sense of connectedness, families can better endure the emotional challenges brought on by separation and strive to be healthy, happy and connected. Unfortunately, some families struggle with sharing feelings or are even scared to try. Many families try to share and communicate, but they can’t seem to connect on a deeper level. Kimochi (KEY-MO-CHEE) means “feeling” in Japanese. The Kimochis® Activity Kit for Military Families is designed to help families wholeheartedly express their emotions and feelings and, as a result, foster deep and loving connections. When families prepare for the predictable emotions that can arise during separation due to military duty, the family is better prepared to: • Manage emotions and challenges in a way that helps each family member feel understood • Be supportive, understanding, and compassionate toward one another’s emotional needs • Strengthen parent-child and parent-parent connections • Stay unified during separations • Celebrate and reintegrate the service member back home in a way that both honors and guides a positive transition NOTE: The activities in the Kimochis® Activity Kit for Military Families aren’t just for times of separation due to military duty. The activities in each section can be used anytime to enhance family communication and parent-child bonding or whenever your children wish to share their feelings with the help of the Kimochis®. You might find it useful to skim through the sections and find activities that fit your family’s and children’s needs and interests … anytime.


How to Begin There is no right or wrong way to play with Kimochis®! However, to make this kit easier to use and to help your family get started learning new communication habits right away, we recommend the following steps: STEP 1: Open the kit and let your family discover the items inside. Read the descriptions of each item (especially Hero’s bio) that start on page 9. STEP 2: Make a plan with your family for doing the Ten Opening Kimochis® Activities that start on page 11. We suggest scheduling these activities (Kimochis® Family Time) over the course of two weeks. Some families will take more time. Some families will take less. Use two weeks as a general guideline and adapt it to your family’s needs and schedule. STEP 3: After completing the Ten Opening Activities, read and experiment with the strategies outlined in Chapter 2: Compassionate Listening and Guidance. These strategies are designed to help your family check in with their feelings, work through challenging moments, and keep the lines of communication open. STEP 4: Go to the chapter that represents your family’s current situation: before the service member parent is away; while the service member parents is away; or after the service member returns home. Read and do the activities from that chapter. STEP 5: Keep the routine of Kimochis® Family Time going with games from Chapter 8: Family Fun! More Playful Feeling Games and Family Rituals. You might choose to play some of these games right at the beginning … and that’s fine too! There are a lot of activities in this book, but you don’t need to do every one of them to create stronger connections and have fun with your family.

Note for Mental Health Providers This activity book has been written directly for military families, but we know that mental health providers will also find the content useful. This book has been intentionally directed to families, knowing that you will be able to adapt the activities as needed for your own practice. Having the text written directly for military parents also allows you the opportunity to loan the kit to your client or “assign” specific activities as “homework” between sessions. Please note that Chapter 2: Compassionate Listening and Guidance includes specific strategies for guiding children and families to express emotions, problem-solve, and celebrate feelings. While these strategies are written for parents, they were developed in collaboration with and have been used successfully by mental health providers.




Getting Started What’s in the Kimochis Activity Kit for Military Families? KIMOCHIS® HERO Hero is the service dog and natural leader in the Kimochis® pack. He is protective, handsome, loyal, a bit aggressive, and always up for an adventure. Like many dogs, Hero gets distracted by certain smells, excited by noises, and overly protective when he senses danger. When Hero gets a little nervous and impatient, he tends to bark out commands that usually startle his friends. Hero needs to learn that even though his bark might be worse than his bite, finding a gentler tone of voice will always guide him where he wants to go a lot faster with his friends and family. Hero lives in a doghouse on top of a dogwood tree. He loves to play—always by the rules—and is known to get a little too rough-and-tumble sometimes. His favorite color is blue, and his favorite number is 1. He loves peanut butter and vanilla ice cream. Although Hero can act a little tough on the outside, inside he has kindness in his heart and deep concern for the safety and well-being of his friends and family. Specific ways to use Hero with your family are included in each chapter. HERO’S BIG ADVENTURE PICTURE BOOK Certainly you remember a storybook from your childhood that you begged to be read to you over and over again because the message brought you some emotional satisfaction or comfort. Hero’s Big Adventure is written especially for children in military families as a way to understand and cope with the emotions that come during times of separation. Discussion questions and fun ways to incorporate the picture book and story are included in each chapter.


KIMOCHIS® NESTING HEART The Kimochis® Nesting Heart is a physical and emotional symbol of your heart connection while you and your loved ones are separated. During military duty, training, and/or deployment, the service member can take the inner heart with them while the family keeps the outer heart at home.The hearts are a physical symbol that says, “Even though we are apart, we are always in each other’s hearts.” Hold the hearts together via a digital video connection while you are separated. And when you are reunited, put the hearts back together to show that home is where the heart is. Your family may want to use the Nesting Heart as a sweet, everyday tool beyond times of separation from military duty to remind everyone that no matter where you are, you are still connected. Specific ways you can add the Nesting Heart to your family routines are included in each chapter. KIMOCHIS® BAGS OF FEELINGS You have been provided with two Kimochis® Bags of Feelings. Each bag includes 15 feeling pillows: Nervous, Happy, Sad, Mad, Loved, Scared, Excited, Brave, Proud, Sorry, Grateful, Frustrated, Kind, Left Out, and Cranky. These little Feelings are a colorful, fun way to “show” one another what you are feeling and a playful way to communicate both in your home and while your service member is away. Many people can more easily “show” rather than “tell” what they are feeling. This can be especially true for boys and men. For example, a boy may bring you the Sorry feeling pillow more easily than mustering up a verbal apology. And having the Sorry feeling pillow to hold can lead a boy to verbalize because he has this tangible prop to help him put his feelings into words. One bag of Feelings can go with the service member when they are away on duty and the other bag can stay at home. Activities are included for how you can use the Feelings to spark conversations, deepen interactions, and share both joyous and tough emotional moments before, during, and/or after separations. Kimochis® Bowl of Feelings Put one set of Feelings in a bowl in a high-traffic place in your home, like the kitchen table or a place you regularly hang out. The Feelings are a fun way to spark conversations and connect with your family or visitors. The Feelings can also come in handy when siblings are having conflicts with each other. Your child can grab a Mad or Frustrated Feeling to give to their sister or brother instead of grabbing or hitting them. And, hey, who says Mom and Dad can’t use those Feelings with each other to help communicate their emotions in a more playful way? 10

TEN OPENING ACTIVITES: START HERE! • Break these activities into individual Kimochis® Family Time sessions. • Items needed for all the activities: Hero, the feeling pillows, and a bowl or basket in which to put the feeling pillows. • It’s best to read all the way through the activity before starting it. This will help the activity flow more naturally. • For younger children, it’s best to use a limited number of feeling pillows, such as Happy, Sad, Mad, Left Out, Scared, and Loved. Over time, you can add new Feelings to grow your young child’s emotional vocabulary. Your child will likely memorize the colors and facial expressions. • Rotate which parent leads each activity so children see that all grown-ups in their life understand and can express feelings. Understanding and expressing feelings in positive, healthy ways is for both men and women. • Have fun!

Activity 1: Introduce Your Child to Kimochis


• Have your child say “key-MO-chee” and tell them they just spoke Japanese! Share that kimochi means “feeling” in Japanese. • Let your child discover all of the goodies inside the activity kit. • Your child may be most excited about the Kimochis® Character Hero. If you haven’t already, read aloud Hero’s character description on page 9. • If your child shows interest, read Hero’s Big Adventure. Enter tain any of their questions or comments as you would for any other story. • Open one of the bags of feeling pillows. For children who can’t read, touch or hold each feeling pillow as you say its name. Your child may naturally start picking up and reading the pillows or asking, “What does this say?” • Share with your children that when you are a member of a military family, there can be feelings that are “hard to have.” Explain that they may have “hard to have feelings” when Mommy and/or Daddy has to go away and even when they come back. Explain that nobody likes it when people they love have to go away. Show your child the second bag of feeling pillows and explain that when Mommy or Daddy go away, that bag will go with them! • Show your child how they can tuck feeling pillows into Hero’s pouch as a way to let you know what they are feeling. • Choose a bowl or basket to hold one bag of feeling pillows. Together with your family, choose the best place to keep this bowl or basket for easy access. • Explain that this Bowl of Feelings will always be available to start a conversation. You can invite one another to the bowl with, “Let’s go to the bowl” or bring each other a Feeling to communicate. • Show your child the Kimochis® Nesting Heart and explain, “Even though we are apart, you are always in my heart.” Demonstrate how the two hearts can be separated and come back together. Explain that when Daddy or Mommy go away, the big heart will stay at home and the small heart will go with Daddy or Mommy. Pick a special place in your home for the large heart! • Start using your Nesting Heart for daily good-byes and hellos so your child begins to feel the comfort of rejoining the hearts.




While a Service Member Is Away on Duty Counselors and psychologists who specialize in working with military families find that feelings while a service member is away may include: relief, anxiety, fear, optimism, pride, and loneliness. Common thoughts from children and spouses may include:

Children: Will I be safe? Will Dad/Mom miss me? Will we be okay? Will I get to talk with him/her while he/she is gone?

Spouse: Now we can get on with our lives. I am actually alone now! What if something happens that I can’t handle? No matter how many deployments we have, it never gets easier!

Your family’s reactions during this time may include some initial confusion and feelings of insecurity. Families are encouraged to try to keep their daily routine as normal as possible, but inevitably, you will be making some changes. Your family’s roles, rules, and relationships will likely change to accommodate the absence of the service member parent. The biggest change you may experience is that the nondeployed parent has to fulfill the roles of both parents. Fortunately, modern technology offers a variety of ways you can stay connected during separation: email, digital video connection, texting, and satellite phones, to name a few. While it is comforting to hear the service member’s voice and see them through a computer, it can also be hard because they are not available to hug, cuddle, or engage in normal routines. Establishing new family traditions and “rituals of connection” during these times apart will be an important way for you to foster and deepen your family’s bond.


Activities for While a Service Member Is Away NESTING HEART Put the outer heart in a special place at home while the inner heart is with the service member. Place a photo of your service member in the outer heart. Hold the hearts up to the screen during video chats to show that you’re still together. Hugging or kissing the hearts during video conversations is also a special way to show your children that you are carrying them with you while you are away.


HERO’S BIG ADVENTURE Let your child watch or listen to the video or audio recording you created of the service member reading the story. Additionally, read Hero’s Big Adventure together as a family over video conference. Take turns with different family members reading. “Okay, it is Daddy’s turn to read.” “Now it is Mommy’s turn to read.” Even let your child read, and if they are not a reader yet, you can say, “It’s Charlotte’s turn to tell Daddy and Mommy what happens on the next page.” Invite each family member to use the Kimochis® Feelings to ask open-ended questions and or make comments after you are done reading together. Here are a few examples. Happy • “What part of the story made you feel happy?” • “I felt happy when Hero’s friends were getting ready for him to come home.” • “I feel happy when we talk by video as it makes me feel like we are together in the same place!” Sad • “What part of the story made you feel sad?” • “I felt sad when Hero had to leave his friends.” • “Do you ever feel sad?” • “What can I do to make your sad feelings a little smaller or better?” Loved • “What part of the story do you think made Hero feel loved?” • “I liked the part when Hero was ready to come out of his doghouse and be with his friends again. They all looked like they felt so loved.” • “I feel your love all the way across the world. I am going to send a bunch more love right now. • “Ready? Get your arms ready to catch my love. Okay, catch it.” Invite your child to send you love by opening your arms wide and catching the love they send from way across the world! HERO Make Hero and your family’s Bowl of Feelings part of your after-school ritual. After your child has had a chance to decompress, your child can tuck a Feeling they experienced that day in Hero’s pouch. To make this ritual playful, a parent can guess the feeling by asking yes/no questions. For example, “Is it a feeling you like having? Did you experience it in the classroom? On the playground?” Finally, have your child express the feeling with their face and body so you can guess. Or your child can simply describe what happened for you to guess the feeling. For example, your child may share that when he went outside to recess, no one played with him. Clearly, he was feeling left out. Once you guess or are told or shown what your child is feeling, use the communication pattern outlined here to coach your child through the emotion. • CONNECT through the above ritual of guessing or being shown the Feeling in Hero’s pouch. • COMMUNICATE that you acknowledge your child’s feelings with a compassionate statement and check for understanding. “Ahhh, that makes sense. You felt left out when no one was playing with you. Am I getting it? Is there anything more you want to tell me about that story?” Having a child “tell you a story” often helps children open up a bit more. See if you have that experience with your child.


• CREATE a plan with your child to manage the emotion and make the situation better. “When you are feeling left out at school, what can you say or do to help you get yourself included? Do you want to hear what other kids might do?” • PRACTICE with a role-play. For example, model for your child how they can seek out friendly kids and ask them if they can play. Have your child put you in the situation that was challenging so you can show them a positive way to handle it. Now reverse roles so your child can immediately imitate your positive communication model. FEELING ACTIVITIES Proud and Loved Go to School While at school, kids often really miss their service member parent who is away. Focusing on schoolwork can be difficult. Feelings of sadness may interfere with classroom performance. To stay connected and show your child how proud you are of them, the service member parent can type out an empowering message of support for your child and email it to their caregiver. Ask them to print it out and place it in their lunch box with the Proud or Loved feeling pillow. You can also write these notes before you go—seeing your handwriting can bring a special emotional connection. Imagine how surprising and energizing it would be for your child to find a Kimochis® Feeling in their lunch box coupled with an encouraging note from you: “I am SO proud of you for how strong you have been, and there is so much LOVE in my heart for you. It keeps me going while I am away!” Alternate different Kimochis® Feelings each week with different messages. Lots of Change … Lots of Feelings • Create a Kimochis® family video conference date. Have the service member parent begin the conversation by showing the Proud Feeling and saying, “There is so much that our family can feel proud of. We have had lots of change, and all of you at home are taking on new roles and routines.” • Family members at home can put the Proud Feeling inside the Kimochis® Nesting Heart and show it to the service member parent who is away. Have everyone take a turn naming what they feel proud of regarding how they are coping and managing with the separation. “Since you left, I feel proud that I have …” • Next, the service member parent can hold up the Curious Feeling and ask each family member: º “What are you doing differently now that I am gone?” º “What are you feeling about these changes?” (Family members can respond both verbally and by putting the Feeling inside the Nesting Heart.) º “What are you curious about regarding my new routines?” • To wrap up this conversation, the family members at home can place the Grateful Feeling inside the Nesting Heart. Have each person take a turn telling the service member parent the reasons they feel grateful. For example, “I am grateful that we all take the time to share our feelings for one another and that we work to be a close family.”


I Can’t Sleep • Children often have difficulty sleeping while a service member parent is away. Nightmares are common. If your child is having nightmares, offer your child the Kimochis® Bowl of Feelings and have your child pick the Feelings associated with the bad dream. • Talk about how most people have nightmares now and then—even Hero. Knowing that other people have nightmares will be reassuring. Help your child reframe the nightmare so that it has a positive ending. Brainstorm with your child ways to get rid of the bad dream. For example, let Hero sleep with them with the Brave Feeling tucked in his pouch; build a dream catcher; put a flashlight near your child’s bed; or put a pair of the service member’s boots under the bed. • If your child continues to have nightmares, allow them to draw a picture of the bad dream while Hero is nearby. Ask the child to tell Hero about the dream: Who was in it? What was being said? Where did it take place? Then your child can “throw away” the bad dream (drawing) in the trash. • If your child continues to struggle with nightmares, talk to your pediatrician or a mental health professional for additional resources.




Family Fun! More Playful Games and Family Rituals Kids and parents can feel more connected by having more fun! Playing together at home, even if it’s just for 10 minutes a day, will increase feelings of connectedness. Play that is child-directed (for example, they ask you to be the kitty) is extra fun for young children. Here are more Kimochis® activities to infuse play, fun, and positive family connection into each day.

Creating Kimochis Family Fun Night and Family Rituals ®

This is a way for families to drop everything, have fun, connect, and communicate together! • Delegate one night of the week as your Family Fun Night to hang out, play, share, teach, and practice communication tools. Having a weekly Family Fun Night has been shown to be an effective means of strengthening family bonds. • Set a reasonable time limit so that Family Fun Night will really happen consistently amid the busy life of families. The suggested time allotment is 20–30 minutes. • Always begin and end Family Fun Night with a game or free play. Fun, simple Kimochis® games can be found in this chapter and throughout this activity book. • Kids love repetition, so once you’ve held a few Family Fun Nights, let your child take the lead in deciding what games to play. You can even make up your own Kimochis® games. • After playtime, choose an activity applicable to whether the service member is about to leave, has left, or has just returned from military duty. For example, if your family has just been reunited after a separation, pick an activity from Chapter 7. • Again, end your Family Fun Night with a game and or some free play with Hero and the Feelings. When you allow for free play, this often proves to be the time when family members really get in touch with their true feelings. • Lastly, remember to leave the Kimochis® Bowl of Feelings out and available at all times, so that family members can spontaneously “go to the bowl” during the week to play and/or share feelings.


More Kimochis Activities ®

Feeling Detective Ask your child to stand outside the room while each parent selects a Feeling to hide behind their back. Invite the child back in the room to read their parents’ body language and guess which Feelings they have hidden behind their back. After your child guesses, it’s now a parent’s turn to leave the room and keep the game going! Take a Walk Down Memory Lane When your child is having trouble with a feeling such as fear, pull the Scared feeling pillow from the Bowl of Feelings and share a story from your youth about when you felt scared. Start the conversation with something simple like, “I see a boy who looks like he might be feeling scared. I remember when I was your age and had scared feelings.” Try to remember details such as how old you were and the circumstances surrounding your fear. Tell them how you felt and also how you moved through your fear. For example, you always felt comforted by a cuddly bear and/or your grandma. Reassure your child that everyone has moments of fear and that in your family, you want everyone to know that they can come to you for comfort and reassurance when feeling fearful. Encourage your child to tuck Scared into Hero and bring it to you so you can guide a conversation to help them pinpoint why they are feeling afraid and what might make their fear smaller. Often, children know they are frightened, but they need you to help them identify what is making them feel this way and what can bring them comfort and feelings of security. Do-Over the Kimochis® Way Everyone gets a do-over. (That’s the Kimochis® Way!) Use the Kimochis® Bowl of Feelings to either take a do-over yourself or offer one to a family member. For example, pull out Frustrated and say, “Okay, I feel frustrated, but that does not make it okay to slam the door. Let me start over.” Give your child a safe, playful way to take a do-over. For example, “Curtis, go get the feeling you are having and take a do-over. You can feel mad, but you can’t let yourself yell. Now, just tell me with your Talking Face and Voice why you are feeling mad.” When parents model how to apologize, they actually increase feelings of respect in their child. Feeling Fight (Warning: This could get wild and messy!) This is a very energetic game to get those feelings and emotions literally flying. Have your family just start grabbing feeling pillows. Throw them at each other! You may naturally say playful things with silly voices such as, “I cranky” as you throw the feeling pillows. This is really a silly game, but it works, as attested to by one father who commented, “As silly as this is, the Feeling Fight really got me to talk about my feelings.”


I’m Sorry Make apologies a bit easier. Tell family members that when anyone in the family regrets their words or actions, they can simply put the Sorry Feeling on the pillow of the person they want to apologize to. When you find the Sorry Feeling on your pillow, select a safe time to ask if the family member wants to talk about what happened so you can work through upsetting feelings. Hidden Happiness Use the Kimochis® Happy Feeling as your “Family Happiness Token.” Begin the fun and create happy and loving feelings by hiding Happy in a fun place where it’s sure to be found. Tell your family that whoever finds it will get the next turn to hide it. As the game gets going, make the hiding places more challenging to create an extra smile. The hiding place itself can create happy feelings. For example, inside a child’s sock. The service member parent can take part in the fun while away by playing this game via video connection. Have the parent who is away secretly tell the parent who is at home where to hide the Happy Feeling. Don’t let the children see! After the Feeling is hidden, have the children use Hero to track the Happy Feeling. When the Happy Feeling is found, the children can tuck it in Hero’s pouch. Then family members can take turns holding Hero while telling each other a reason they feel happy. Once this tradition gets started, it can go on forever!


Dedicated to all of the military heroes across the globe.

All text, illustrations, and photographs copyright © 2015 Plushy Feely Corp. All rights reserved. Published by Plushy Feely Corp. This book may not be reproduced in whole or part without the publisher’s written permission. These pages may not be reproduced. Photographs by: Nina Rappaport-Rowan, ND Koster, Julian Kwasneski, Susan G. Schroeder, and Brooks Marie Photography. Design and Editing by: Susan G. Schroeder. Copyediting and Proofreading by: Cindy Nixon, Bookmarker Editorial Services

Plushy Feely Corp. 2100 Fourth Street, C-286, San Rafael, CA 94901 415.578.1100 •

Kimochis Activity Kit for Military Families  

Just an excerpt! To learn more visit:

Kimochis Activity Kit for Military Families  

Just an excerpt! To learn more visit: