KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — At every military school he visits, Trevor Romain knows what to expect when he’s done presenting.
“I have 15, 20, 30 kids come up and they just want to share,” Romain said.
Often, in the few seconds they have with Romain before teachers whisk them back to class or to the bus, they share their troubles, from difficulties with their peers to dealing with a parent who’s deployed.
At Ramstein Intermediate School on Friday, where Romain gave three presentations as part of a months-long tour to many elementary and middle schools in Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe, it was no different. After his final show, among the students hovering around Romain, was a third-grader who told him that her father had missed her birthday for the past four years due to a deployment or training.
“She just stood there and she started crying,” said Romain, a motivational speaker on a USO-sponsored tour in Europe.
Romain said he told her he was proud of her for expressing her feelings.
“She then had a big smile on her face,” he said. “It was validating her feelings.”
Getting kids to share their feelings is central to “With You All the Way,” a program that Romain, in partnership with USO, has presented to more than 100,000 military kids over the last 18 months, he said.
Expressing one’s self can be hard for kids to do, especially in a military setting, Romain said. “If we show any weakness, crying or actually asking for help, can sometimes make you feel, ‘Oh, I’m a baby or I can’t handle it, so I’m not going to ask for it,’ ” he said. “So they internalize and that’s where the problems start because they can’t process their feelings. That’s why it’s so critical to know that it’s OK and normal to be angry, frustrated and sad.”
The “With You All the Way” program focuses on the difficult issues unique to growing up in a military family, as well as those common to most childhoods, from dealing with bullies and facing fears to coping with divorce and the deployment of one or both parents, according to Romain and USO officials.
A U.S. citizen born in South Africa, Romain is author and illustrator of an award-winning series of self-help books for children. He’s teamed up with the USO for the last four years, touring military schools worldwide, he said.
This week, he’s wrapping up appearances at Kaiserslautern area schools before heading to military schools in southern Germany. Next month, he’s slated to visit schools in the United Kingdom and Belgium, with upcoming dates for stops at military schools in Bahrain and Turkey to be determined, said Mike Lewis, USO Europe director of operations.
In his presentation Friday, Romain showed a video designed by his company featuring animated characters acting out different problems military kids typically encounter. Humor is sprinkled throughout, with a boy named Jack eliciting loud laughs from the students every time he daydreamed about nachos.
“The kids were excited,” said Ramstein Intermediate School fourth-grade counselor Michele Cook. “They experience a lot of peer pressure, a lot of differences when it comes to making friends and trying to fit in, so it helps to see characters or situations that are similar to what they’re experiencing.”
Each of the students attending the “With You All the Way” presentation were to receive a support kit that contains stationary, a journal for both the child and his or her parents, and a DVD with some of Romain’s videos tailored to kids.
“We really, really need to share our feelings,” Romain told the students Friday. “If there’s something on your mind, something worrying you, something making you uncomfortable, please share your feelings.
“You don’t have to be alone with any, any, any problem,” he said.