Happy to have this guest post by Holly on going through a deployment with children. Please email me at Julie@soldierswifecrazylife.com and let me know if you would like to write a guest post for Soldier’s Wife, Crazy Life too.
The orders are cut and the news is official: your spouse is ready for another military deployment. As you’re trying to wrap your brain around the upcoming challenges, those tiny hands tug at your jeans needing another cup of juice. And then you remember, as much as a deployment is hard on you, you’ve got children to think about too.
What do you say? How do you tell them? How do you help them prepare and cope?
Decide on the Best Time
I’m not sure there’s any right answer here, but from my experience, the answer depends on the child’s age. When my son was toddler-aged, we usually didn’t tell him about upcoming deployments; he wouldn’t understand and with no concept of days, weeks, months, we would only be setting him up for anxiousness. Now that my son is 5, he knows that suitcases mean Daddy is leaving and he starts to ask questions.
Now that he’s older, we start talking to him only when my husband starts packing and there are visible changes around our house. We read our military deployment books and my husband schedules a day of fun activities with him before he leaves.
We love this book from Usborne Books!
What started out as a cute Pinterest idea, turned into a lifesaver for us during deployments. We have a Deployment Wall in my office at home and my son loves to view where Daddy is on the map and talk about what time is it in “daddy’s time.” We have pins marked for home, and then all of the locations my husband has been sent.
We have a clock that marks the time change and then an erasable frame with his address, making it easy to find when we send care packages. My son also loves to send Daddy his artwork from school, so there’s a clipboard where we save it until the next package is sent.
Our “Deployment Wall”
Recognize their Feelings
It’s hard to juggle it all, for sure, but it’s important to remember that little people don’t always have the maturity to handle their concerned feelings the same way that we do. When my husband leaves, I’m always sure to let his teachers know that there’s a change at home and to update me with behavior changes. When he was younger, they often commented that he would be more whiny or anxious.
Now, he usually wants to talk about Daddy and their latest conversations at school. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize their concerns in the pouting and whining, but that may be how they’re expressing their emotions about the deployment.
With a little bit of patience and a whole lot of love, your family will survive and thrive through the challenges that come with military life. The blessing is that your children grow up knowing the true meaning of sacrifice, honor and patriotism because they see it in their parents every day.
Holly Corcoran is a military wife of 10 years, mom to one adorable and resilient seven-year-old, and third-grade teacher living in the flyover states. She juggles home, parenting, and teaching, while also sometimes taking calls from Afghanistan. Connecting with other military spouses and friends is a constant reminder “we’re always under the same sky.”