Welcome to our unaccompanied tours (UT) blog, Foggy Bottom Rambles! We can share information, programs, and resources quickly with you and since blogs are a two way street, we (and the other readers) can hear from you. What's in a name you say? This blog reflects how we (back here in DC, Foggy Bottom area) provide information (rambles) to you. Find websites and information, upcoming webinars, programs and events. FLO does not endorse organizations or companies linked-to in this blog, the views they express, or the products/services they offer. Let us know what you think: contribute to the blog or email us at FLOAskUT@state.gov.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The two recent “Parenting During an Unaccompanied Tour” tele conferences generated excellent comments and participation from more than 30 different individuals calling in from all over the world!  Thank you for your support! 
 Below is a compilation of suggestions and tips presented by your fellow colleagues and family members during the sessions.  Please remember, these are suggestions; choose the ones that work best for you.
  • ·         Use a globe of the world to show where mommy/daddy is staying
  • ·         Use FaceTime, Skype or other communication means for frequent calling
  • ·         Have the parent that is away hold the camera or take pictures of their new living arrangements
  • ·         Create a family web page/blog
  • ·         Make a photo book and mail it.  This can work for either parent
  • ·         For serious questions set up a specific time to talk.
  • ·         Make a big deal about reunions!  Make countdown signs.
  • ·         Splurge a little--the parent staying with children arranges special dinners and weekends away with them
  • ·         The parent that has been gone arranges special “date time” with the child when everyone is united, during R&R and at the end of the tour
  • ·         Read with your children the books When Mommy Travels or When Daddy Travels  by Harriet Ziefert 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Successful parenting can be a challenge for any family but it is usually more difficult when one parent is not only absent but also in a dangerous location.  To address the issues families face during an unaccompanied tour, FLO is offering an interactive workshop, “Parenting during an Unaccompanied Tour”.  Thursday October 11 at 9 a.m. EST.  You may participate in person (Department of State, room 1239) or virtually.
To participate virtually:
1.       Dial toll-free 1-800-531-3250 on a US-based phone line or non-toll-free 1-303-928-2693
2.       Enter 9690198 for the Conference Code
Please direct questions to FLO's Unaccompanied Tours Support Team at 202-647-1076 or 1-800-440-0397 or email FLOaskUT@state.gov.

Below are some of the ideas and suggestions from past sessions:
·         Use indirect questioning to allow children the opportunity to talk
·         Have small children use stuffed toys to act out their feelings
·         Play manicurist and mother/father paints nails while asking questions
·         Teens – may take them an hour to ‘warm up’; ask them “what do your friends think?”
·         Let children’s teachers know what’s going on
·         If you have employee’s cell phone or other number, make sure kids know that it’s for emergencies only; set time limits on using phone; if kids want to ‘vent’ or complain about parent at home, encourage them to email absent parent instead of picking up the phone.  (Good advice for adults too!)  That way you won’t say something you regret.
Effective communication strategies and mechanisms     
§  Use Skype, YouTube, phone, web, Face Book
§  Watch the same TV shows or read same book/magazine
§  Download the same music, videos, photos, etc                                                 
§  Have the child write to the parent; parent keeps letters and puts in a letter box to give to the child at end of tour
§  Parent at post brings pre-stamped post cards to post
§  Create your own postcards-you can buy blank postcards and decorate them
§  USPS has site to make photo postcards: http://www.usps.com/createmail/welcome.htm

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Communication Tips During a UT

Communication Tips for Unaccompanied Tours

By Margaret 

Communicating during a UT can sometimes be a challenge.  Uncontrollable factors such as time differences, work and other commitments that require time and attention, and power outages (just to name a few) can really impact our ability to communicate with our loved ones serving abroad.  Because communication is important and sometimes limited, we must make sure that we make every second count when we do get the opportunity to communicate. The following are some tips for communicating during a UT:

1.    Keeping it in perspective.  Understand that what may seem urgent to you back here on the home front may not seem as urgent to your loved one who is serving on a UT.  Therefore, if you share an issue with your loved one and do not receive a response that you like, don’t take it personally.  Nine times out of ten, your spouse may be dealing with issues that are far more urgent than those that are going on at home.  However, rest assured that this does not mean that he/she is not concerned about your issue.  Keep things in perspective, and don’t waste valuable time on the phone, Skype, etc. complaining about issues that are really out of your spouse’s control.  Instead, value the time that you have to communicate with one another, and try to focus on the positive.

2.    Keep it creative.  Oftentimes, long distance communication with your loved one can become routine, boring, and limited. While modern technology has made it easy to communicate with our loved ones who are away, sometimes it may be worthwhile to revert back to “snail mail” for a change.  Instead of using the telephone or Skype, try writing a love letter to your spouse. Can you imagine how happy he/she will be to receive a thoughtful, hand-written love letter? If writing is not your thing, simply send a care package with items that communicate “I love you” such as a CD with a mixture of love songs, a book of poems, or a collage of pictures that illustrate “love.” 

3.    Keep FLO/UT in mind in times of uncertainty.  Uncontrollable factors such as power outages, civil unrest, and long work hours may sometimes make it impossible for your loved one serving on a UT to communicate with you.   If you have not heard from your loved one and are concerned about whether or not he/she is okay, please do not hesitate to contact FLO/UT with your concerns.  We are here for you!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

4 Tips for a Successful Unaccompanied Tour

4 Tips for a successful Unaccompanied Tour

By Sherri 

1. Take care of yourself.     Remember you can’t help your loved one if you are sick or emotionally drained.  Take the time to eat right, sleep and give yourself the occasional break; you deserve it!

Resources the State Department offers to DOS, USAID, and their family members:
·         Deployment Stress Management Program (DSMP) is located in Mental Health Services within the Office of Medical Services.  The DSMP is a community based program to support the psychological health of Foreign Service Officers, Department of State (DoS) and USAID employees, and their families who are or will be assigned to high stress / high threat / unaccompanied tours (HS/HT/UT).  The DSMP provides information, referrals, initial assessment, and brief treatment for problems related to the stress of deployment.  They offer a support group meeting twice a month in the Department of State and meditation practice. For more information, visit www.state.gov/m/med/dsmp/index.htm  
·         Employee Consultation Service (ECS) has a staff of psychiatric social workers.  They offer consultation, evaluation, and referral services to families of U.S. government employees assigned to diplomatic posts abroad and to employees and family members on an unaccompanied tour.  Walk-ins are welcome, or you may schedule an appointment.  For more information www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/c21952.htm
·         MHN, Inc. is a comprehensive mental and behavioral health services company with extensive experience in providing confidential web-based, telephonic, and in-person resources to employees and family members throughout an unaccompanied tour.   Log on with the word (single word lower case) unaccompaniedtour in the company code https://members.mhn.com/external/public/default/homepage 
Other places to look:

·         The Integrative Restoration Institute (IRI) provides programs that show you how to live a contented life, free of conflict and fear, by opening your mind and body to its inherent ground of health and well-being: www.irest.us
·         Authentic Happiness is the homepage of Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of positive psychology, a branch of psychology that focuses on the empirical study of such things as positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions.  www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx
2. Be organized.   Whether you are getting ready to leave for the first time or getting ready for the final R&R, it is always a good idea to look at, use, and make check lists. Times of transition (whether it be going to or coming from Post) can be very stressful.  And, stressful situations can sometimes cause us to be forgetful (amongst other things).  This is where those lists become very important for you and your family; they help you to remember!
·         Write FLO!  We have a number of good lists we can forward to you. FLOaskUT@state.gov
·         Overseas Briefing Center (OBC) helps U.S. Government employees and their family members prepare for an overseas assignment or a return home.  We encourage you to explore the  website and email OBC (FSIOBCInfoCenter@state.gov) with questions and requests for additional information www.state.gov/m/fsi/tc/c49333.htm 
3. Think security. Your home, your car, your personal safety and your virtual presence all need extra care.
·         Create good passwords and change them often.  Use sites like USAA’s Password Strength Indicator to see how strong your password is.  www.usaa.com/inet/pages/security_take_steps_protect_logon?action=INIT&wa_ref=SEC_CTR_YourSec_logon_CyberCodeText&SearchRanking=7&SearchLinkPhrase=password
·          Wondering about an offer and can’t get in touch with your partner for advice?  Use www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com   for advice.
·         Look at State Department Federal Credit Union on their tips for the Foreign Service www.sdfcu.org/ForeignServiceCenter
4.  Cultivate appreciation.  Take time to appreciate the little things!  Appreciate the sacrifice your loved one is making for you and for the service of this country.  Appreciate all the hard work your family is doing while you are away doing an unaccompanied tour.  Tell your loved one how much you appreciate them!   Brag about them to others and let your loved one overhear!  Write words of appreciation in your e-mails and other communications.  Remember the words of Voltaire: “Appreciation is a wonderful thing.  It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”