Why Kids Need Routine During Deployment
On a good day, with both parents present, kids can be a handful. But what about if one parent is a service member and the other is left at home for long periods of time trying to cope on their own? What then?
When a parent gets deployed, the family has to figure out how to cope without half of the parental unit, and even day-to-day activities can become a challenge. But instilling (and sticking to) a routine can work wonders.
The Need for Sameness
Life has ups and downs, but it is so much harder to cope with the unknown when you’re a kid. Children are ill-equipped to deal with things outside of their comfort zone, like moving, a family member dying, or a parent getting deployed.
In times like these when there are very large uncertainties, repetition is key. If there are things in a kid’s day that they know happen every day, and that everyone does them, the recurrence can provide much needed stability.
If you can figure out a way to get the everyday things done, the bigger things don’t seem quite as bad. The ability to carry on is one that every human, child or not, needs.
Beauty in Repetition
Replacing some of the chaos with structure helps eliminate some of the unknown, and this can translate into better behavior. When kids know the routine, such as taking a bath after dinner, it’s easier to get them to do it. If there’s a time and a place for everything and they know this, you’ll get less resistance that it’s actually playtime and not bath time.
Power struggles aside, routines can also give kids a much-needed sense of control. For example, if it’s bath time, they can control whether they would like bubble bath or not, or which pajamas they want to wear. Allowing them to make small, inconsequential decisions can alleviate the out of control feeling, for both of you.
Don’t just schedule the chores, though. Scheduling fun things like going to the park or after-school adventures will keep the routine from being made exclusively from unpleasant things, and therefore avoiding a negative connotation.
If you schedule fun time AND chore time, your kids will learn what it’s like to look forward to something. They’re less likely to hassle you about going to the park right now if they know they’ll get to go to the park later. And they get to learn that even if you have a bad day, there’s always something they can look forward to, like family game night or going to a baseball game.
Good for You, Good for Them
Having daily and weekly routines is a win-win situation. They get the structure and stability they need so desperately, especially when a parent is deployed. And you get a sense of control and the ability to establish yourself as the sole parent, and that even though the other one is away, you’re still the boss.
Kids will also learn tenacity and how to sit down and do things that they don’t want to do, like homework. By showing them you have to do things you don’t want to as well, you can lead by example. You can even do these things together: you can all sit at the dining table and you can pay bills while the kids do their homework.
You can also schedule a little quiet time before bed to help everyone unwind. Things like putting together a puzzle or reading stories will keep them active, but not wound up or fidgety. If kids know they still have a little time to do quiet things, they might not throw such a fit before bed. Let them accomplish something before sleep, whether it’s building a Lego tower or finishing a chapter in a book.
Keeping kids in a routine will help them cope better with a parent being gone and any other unknowns that might happen while that parent is away on duty. It will also help you cope better with your partner’s absence and keep a sense of order in the house while you bravely hold down the fort waiting for your soldier, sailor, marine, airman, or Coastie to get home.
Adrienne May is a military spouse, a mother of three and is the featured author for the Military Spouse Central blog with an active social network of over 100,000 military spouses and family members. Follow her on Google+ or tweet her at @AdrienneMay.