Deployments affect everyone in the household – the service member and the family left behind. Deployments also affect everyone in the family differently.
It’s also important to remember that every family and individual responds to deployments differently. There’s really no right or wrong way. But, there is never anything wrong with having some tips to pull out of your back pocket.
Here are a few tips to help your military child through a deployment. And remember, each of your children may need a different approach.
Before tackling things with helping your child get through a deployment, have a discussion with your spouse. Have a plan in place that you both agree on when it comes to addressing the upcoming deployment with your child(ren).
- How far in advance you want to talk about the deployment with your child
- How much you want to share about the deployment
- Communication during deployment (phone calls, face time, email)
When my husband deployed, we always talked to one another on the phone first. This was something we both agreed on before he left. It allowed time for us to connect, get the rundown, etc. And his chance to remind me that they are just kids. He then chatted a little with each kid to hear about what was going on with them or how mean I was because I didn’t give them five more minutes of T.V. time.
Talk About The Deployment Before The Deployment
Have the military parent explain why they must go away, where they will be (remember OPSEC), and a little about their job and how important it is.
Keep in mind the age of your child and how they’ve responded to past deployments. If it is your child’s first time experiencing a deployment, be ready for questions.
Plan Alone Time With Your Child
Having alone time with your child is a tip for the deployed parent before they leave and for the parent on the homefront.
Taking this time to have one on one time for the deployed parent allows focusing on each child’s fears or concerns individually. It’s also a great memory maker to add-in for the next tip.
Prewrite or Record Messages
Before the military parent leaves for deployment, write or record a few messages to your kids. Talk about some fun times you had and how you’re looking forward to making more great memories after you return.
You can read or listen to these messages every day or as needed. Have a couple of messages recorded with extra love in case there are some tough days.
Write a letter, record a message, or send that photo of your one on one time. It will make a great keepsake for both of you while going through the deployment.
Keep Your Routine
Maintain the same daily and weekly routines as much as possible. You may want to allow the kids to play with friends longer or stay up later, but it’s important to keep their routine as normal as possible.
Rules are rules. Keep your house rules the same. Your child(ren) needs to understand that the household rules are the same no matter that you’re solo parenting for a bit.
Plan Outings With Friends
This tip is suitable for kids of all ages and parents too.
Plan a few extra playdates for your younger kids, but don’t overbook yourself. Being with friends is fun and brings joy. If you have teens, allow an outing out or friends over to hang out and chill.
Keep Open Communication
Be ready to listen. Your child may need to talk to you more about missing their military parent, about things going on their life, with peers, etc. Deployments can bring up lots of emotions that you usually do not see within your child(ren).
Be there for them. Try to keep things as normal as possible. But know that it’s ok to pivot. Let your child know that it’s ok to have a not ok day. And that it’s ok to miss their parent.