contributed by Liz Zaczek, senior staff writer
The reality of a loved one’s deployment? Often the family members at home feel the absence of their service member in everything they do throughout the time away. Routines are changed, holidays and family celebrations feel different and even the youngest of children miss their deployed parent throughout their days. Helping children prepare for a parent’s deployment can make a huge difference in how they perceive that time away from mom or dad.
While planning for deployment, dealing with deployment logistics, finances and mission prep, include a plan for the children to cope with the upcoming time away from mom or dad. Children will likely have questions and feelings and preparing them is an important part of the plan. Some ideas that might help:
- Talk with other parents who have successfully navigated the path of deployment. What questions did their children have? How did they respond? How much did they share about deployments of their loved one?
- Think about the best ways to explain military deployment to your own children — factoring in their ages, their personalities and how they respond to surprises.
- Consider reaching out to your Military and Family Support Center, a military and family life counselor or chaplain
- Notify your children’s schools, teachers and coaches about the upcoming deployment, so they have insight of the changes facing your family.
- Talk with your children in age appropriate ways they will understand. Explain deployment in easy to understand terms as well as why it is an important part of the job and why it means being far away from home. Allow them to ask questions and answer them plainly and honestly in ways that will help them.
- Reassure your children that routines, rules and traditions at home will remain the same as much as possible. Yet also discuss the ways that routines might change during the deployment and the importance of listening to and helping the parent at home.
- Assure children that the parent leaving for deployment loves them and will do their best to communicate with them regularly when possible. Help them to understand that there will likely be times when this isn’t possible but that it doesn’t mean they aren’t loved or have been forgotten and that it is simply part of the job.
Each family experiences the challenges of deployment differently but most would agree that communicating with one another is the key to success during each stage of the deployment. It is important to note that sometimes professional help is the best way to cope with the challenges of deployment and life in the military.