10 Ways to Help Your Kids During a Deployment
During a deployment, we milspouses have to do what we can to keep the household running. We struggle to keep things together and often have tear filled nights as we make our way through the time our spouse has to be away. Then we have our kids. We worry about them too because they are missing one of their parents. For those of us who grew up in non-military homes, the idea of being away from one parent for so long can be a foreign one.
How can you help your kids during a deployment? Here are 10 ideas.
1. Give them information
Based on the ages of your kids, explain to your children where your spouse is, what they will do, and anything else you feel comfortable sharing. If your spouse has sent you photos, share those with them. You don’t want to scare your children, but if they can have an idea of where their mom or dad is, that can help.
2. Remind them it is not their fault
Some children might assume that they could have done something to cause their parent to leave. Assure them that this is not the case. That their mom or dad has a job to do, and if they could be home with them, they would be. Assure them that they love them very much and will miss them when they are away.
3. Encourage them to talk
If your children are old enough, encourage them to talk to you about their feelings. Kids can hold things in but talking about what is going on is important. Some schools, both on base and off have deployment groups for kids who are going through one. See if your child can go to those groups and let them know you are always there with a listening ear.
4. Talk about your spouse
Talk about your spouse often. Share silly stories and bring up memories that you had together. Have photos around the house and in scrapbooks. For babies, you can put photos near their crib so they can get used to seeing the face of their mom or dad.
5. Have a plan for the difficult days
There are going to be difficult days for any kid. Whether they are acting out or just sad, they will need a pick me up. Make plans for those days. Go out for ice cream, see a movie or take them to a particular park or play place. Find something fun to do that will help them get through the stressful day.
6. Schedule fun activities
Have a Taco Tuesday and on Fridays get a pizza and rent a movie. Schedule in these fun regular nights, so your children have things to look forward to each week. Find out what is going on both on or off base in your area. Fill up your calendar and get out and explore.
7. Have them help with care packages
When you are sending a care package, have them assist you with putting everything together. They can color pictures or the box and help you pack everything in. They can also write their mom or dad letters and let them know they can do so as often as they want to. If they are older, have them make the whole care package themselves. Something special they can send to mom or dad overseas.
8. Have a count up.
With kids, having a countdown can be a bit tricky if things change but having a count up can be a lot of fun. You can put pennies in a jar, candy or whatever it is you want to do to look at how much time you have gone though. On the more challenging days, you can remind them of what you all have been through.
There are quite a few recourses out there you can take advantage of. Daddy Dolls are always a hit, and you can order them online. Sesame Street has a wonderful program for kids going through a deployment. There are also quite a few books out there for military children that are worth checking out.
10. Know your child
The truth is, different children handle deployments in various ways. Some will show their sadness through tears, others will act out and some will have a very, “this is the way it is” attitude about everything. Remember to talk with your child and base your response on their personality. Seek extra help if you need to and know that you and your child will get through this time apart.