I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine. I deployed with Lindsay to Afghanistan several years ago and have stayed in touch ever since. We’re both mommies now and military spouses, so there’s always lots to talk about. Like me, Lindsay has been on both sides of the military- the deployed service member and the loved one waiting back home. She agreed to share with us her top ten tips for helping your little ones cope with deployment when their mom or dad is away. -Elisebet
Sit your children down before the deployment and explain in an age-appropriate way what is happening to the deploying parent, how long the deploying parent will be gone, and ways that you can keep in touch during deployment.
2. Set a routine:
Children (and adults) need a routine. So the deployed parent is gone…okay, who says the rest of the family can’t come up with a fun routine! Routines help people stay organized and make daily transitions go smoothly (or as smooth as they can be).
3. Get thoughtful:
Let your kids design a card or make a drawing for their deployed parent. Sometimes we as the parents get stuck in the rut and are quick to buy a birthday or a special occasion card, but why not let your child design something special for their parent.
4. Respect the transition:
We all cope with things in different ways. Some people handle stressful situations better than others, but when you stop and think how do the children cope with the separation of a parent, it may be a lot more challenging than expected. Children are already transitioning through different stages of their childhood which is stressful enough, now add on a parent being gone for a year or longer, and that really throws everything off.
If you are a parent, and have a child over the age of, oh, let’s just say one years old…then you know children are curious. Prepare yourself for your child/children to have questions about the deployed parent; such as where the location is, what does he/she do while deployed, how long will the parent be gone, how old will the child be when the parent returns.
6. Have fun!
Just because there was a major change in the life of your family, doesn’t make it okay to just sit around and mope because your military member is gone. Get out, or just plain get creative and have some fun! I personally introduced myself to Groupon and started searching for cheap things to do around our town to get the kids out and having a good time. Just happened to get a great rate to a local museum of science and technology for the entire family, and I made an effort to at least try to take the kiddos about twice a month….if not more!
7. Express yourself:
Find different ways to let the children express their feelings about their deployed parent being gone. If you don’t provide or allow your child(ren) to express how they feel in a positive way, then chances are in time they will express their emotions in a negative way.
8. Start a group:
Sounds silly I know, but in today’s social media frenzy way of life, groups that are created are actually quite productive! You can start a group in your community, your church, on social media or even just online. You can create a group to be whatever you decide it to be; either a group for military moms, families, spouses in general…..the beauty of it is that you can choose what type of group it should be, probably based off of what is the growing trend in your area (ie. At your local church, there are over 15 military wives; therefore you decide to start a military wife group that meets every Monday at the church). Having a group can help other to connect and vocalize their feelings and what they are going through during the deployed service members’ time away. So many times, spouses and families feel abandoned during the deployment and do not know or want to reach out and ask for help. A group setting though can encourage the families to desire having a friendship with others that are going through a similar experience.
9. Let the countdown begin:
Decide with your family a fun way of counting down the time till your deployed service member is home. Children especially will love the fact that they have an idea of when they will see their deployed parent, and letting them get involved in the process is a lot of fun also! Of course, be sure to keep it simple, start a calendar towards the last few months or even major milestones like the end of each month, have your child put something to represent another month that is over and that much sooner to seeing their parent again!
10. Stay positive:
No matter what role you play in having a loved one that is serving overseas, stay positive in the fact that yes, they are gone (or will leave), but they will also return. Never make a promise to children that they will see their loved one in however many months, because reality can happen, and you never want to promise something that you cannot be for sure of. Sorry to add that, but unfortunately bad things happen. However try to not dwell on anything negative but instead stay positive, surround yourself with positive people, and make every effort to keep yourself and your family happy and supportive! Time goes by so much more quickly if you stay positive and keep an upbeat attitude on life!
Trust me when I say, I wish that I could claim that I followed my own advice during my husband’s one year long deployment…because I most certainly did not! But that is why I was able to muster up this list of advice for others that will or are going through a deployment of a loved one. Consider this as my life lessons learned and hopefully helpful advice for you! I only wish I would have incorporated all of the points mentioned above into my time with my children while my husband was gone, and if the day comes again that my husband will ever need to leave for a deployment, I vow to my family that I will do what I advise so many others that are going through a similar situation to do.
About the Author:
I live in a family of four consisting of myself, my husband Wilson (who we call Willie), and our two sons, Joshua and Gabriel. I would say to sum up my title, I am a full-time everything! I work full time, used to go to school full time but needed to put that on the back burner ’til hubby returned from his deployment to Afghanistan, and most importantly I am a full time…all the time mother (that is my fav job of all). I am for sure kept busy and even more so this past year since I am went solo on this mommy thing, but life couldn’t get any better or chaotic, and that is my little family!!
I could talk so much more about my family life, but then I would be writing a novel…that would never end, so if you are interested in my insanity, come follow me on Facebook, Lindsay Carrasquillo (yeah, I am the only white girl with that last name so you should have no problem finding me)!