Children of military parents are strong-willed, adaptive, and resilient. They know how to handle fluctuating and sometimes difficult situations and become stronger people for it. Taking care of children truly can be a pretty tough gig. When a child’s parent has to go away on military deployment, it can be emotionally straining for them and all-around draining for the remaining parent.
When a parent is away, they temporarily lose a role model, a reliable presence, and a form of entertainment. The best ways to handle children is to keep them busy and emotionally fulfilled.
Monthly Envelopes from Deployed Parent
In advance of employment, have your spouse write messages and/or tasks for every month or week that they’re deployed. During every increment of time, your children will have something to look forward to.
Inside these planned-out pre-deployment gifts, your child will find an encouraging letter and mission from their parent. The mission could be to “make a new friend!”, “help your parent around the house,” “try something new” or some other development goal.
Set Deployment Traditions
Holidays, vacations, routines—they’re all traditions, and they all bring comfort through familiarity. Exchange the newfound absence with something your kids will look forward to, like regular trips to the movie theatre, game nights, arts and crafts projects, or in-home theater productions.
Make sure it’s something new that they don’t otherwise get; it will help fill the void in a creative way.
With a parent gone, a child may find it difficult to express themselves. The deployed parent may be the one they are closest to, or maybe they’ve misinterpreted “being strong while the parent is away” as means to suppress their negative feelings. That’s not healthy.
Journaling is an ideal way to deal with the stress of deployment; it’s private, introspective, and solitary. Set aside time each week for your kids to write a journal, and respect their space when they do it. They may find it tedious at first but, for many, it’s a healthy, long-term form of therapy.
Start a Book Series
Books are among the best army stuff for kids. They’re accessible, exciting, and educational. Before your spouse leaves, pick out a children’s book series as a family to read over deployment, preferably something long.
If possible, send over the first few entries of the series over with your spouse. As your kids lose themselves in universes of excitement and wonder, they’ll look forward to discussing it with their deployed parent. This plan particularly excels with children who have communication concerns.
Involving Kids with Responsibilities
When a deployed parent leaves, there is a tangible hole left in the family unit. Help promote leadership and cooperation by allowing your children to help fill that void—especially through chores and helping out their siblings.
This will instill a sense of responsibility, accomplishment, and pride to share with their deployed parent.