MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (Jan. 25, 2013) -- Trevor Romain, a motivational speaker for children, returned to the Cherry Point area this week as part of the “With You All The Way” tour sponsored by the USO.
Romain’s lessons help children deal with the emotions and worries that come with parents deploying, which may come in handy to the children of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) personnel who recently deployed to combat operations in Afghanistan.
In the past two years, Romain has entertained and taught about 100,000 children, including about 60,000 military children, at dozens of American military bases stateside and abroad.
Romain teaches multiple techniques to help children deal with the stress of a parent’s absence for six months to a year. One technique is for the child to keep a jar of bite-size chocolates equal in number to the days their parent will be gone. Every day the child can eat one chocolate, and as they see the jar empty, know their parent is that much closer to coming home. He also advocates using Skype and other venues such as social media websites to keep in contact.
Romain also teaches kids how to deal with a parent coming home after a deployment. Before a deployment, certain behaviors and activities are considered normal. After a deployment, both the parent and the child have grown and changed, which means there’s no going back to the old normal, and a new normal has to be created. It takes time for both sides to readjust. Romain helps children relate by comparing it to returning to school after summer break, when everything is the same, and yet somehow it feels different.
Beth Wynn, a school counselor at Arthur Edwards Elementary, said she uses Romain’s TV show, deployment kits and divorce kits to help children at the school.
“He understands what they’re going through with the military lifestyle,” said Wynn. “I’ve seen the way he has touched them emotionally. Trevor Romain, to them, is a movie star.”
Romain decided to make it his mission in life to help children after an experience as a soldier with the South African military operating in Angola. He was walking through an overcrowded children’s hospital when a small child whose legs had been severely injured in an explosion said, “Please sir, hold me tight.” Romain picked the child up and held him as he cried.
When he returned to visit the child, Romain tripped and fell, and all the children started laughing. Realizing he could make the children laugh with his own pain, he started using slapstick comedy to make the children a little happier.
After realizing he could make children laugh and mix in lessons about life, he devoted his time to the project of happiness and education. He wrote books, started an animated television series, and visited hospitals for children with cancer. Now, he travels the world teaching children with humorous lessons.
“One of the things that I think is very important is that there are problems – there are always problems – but what we’re trying to do is give kids tools to be able to work through the problems in the future,” said Romain. “We want to leave kids with tools to manage and self-regulate as they go through their lives.”
His main focus is helping them grow by facing problems, solving them and growing from the experience. He also helps children communicate their problems to their parents, support each other and helps parents understand how to communicate better with their children.
“Today, for example, I heard a student tell Trevor he doesn’t feel like his father listens to him. So Trevor talked to him about how he can approach his dad and talk to him,” said Wynn. “Sometimes young children and grownups speak a different language, and I think Trevor helps in that because he can speak both languages.”
Romain said what a child is asking for is often disguised, and parents are not mind-readers. Also, parents will often tell a child what they think they need to hear instead of really listening to what they’re asking for. Establishing communication channels helps the parents take care of their children.
“Especially in a military situation, we’re telling kids to suck it up and be strong, and sometimes it’s misinterpreted by kids as weakness when they ask for help when they’re struggling,” said Romain. “We are teaching and giving parents information on how to connect with their kids, how to hear their kids, and how to help them navigate by sharing their own story, personalizing what their child is going through.”
Romain said overcoming challenges in childhood is how kids grow and become resilient. While bullying, deployments, divorces and more can be uncomfortable and painful from the children’s point of view, it can also be a learning and growing experience.
“I think a lot of times, parents are trying to protect their kids and almost shield them from negative feelings,” said Romain. “The more you experience something in life, the more you learn how to navigate it and understand it and realize, ‘Wow, that was terrible, but I got through it.’ That is what we’re advocating – for parents to be able to work through a situation with their kids instead of trying to hide stuff from them.”
Wynn said Romain left an impression on the children that should affect them for some time.
“We are just really thankful and grateful to the USO for doing this,” said Wynn. “It’s difficult to find a really, really good speaker, and then when you do, the price is astronomical. This was a gift today for our students and our faculty. This is a gift that I don’t think is going to be just a one-time opening, I think this gift is going to keep opening each day, and that’s what makes it the best.”