You’ve said your goodbyes, adjusted your routines and tried to get back into the swing of things. But as a military spouse, taking care of kids during deployment can be hard. Children often have trouble adjusting to a parent’s absence and require extra love, attention and reassurance to survive the separation. Here are a few ways to help your children cope:
Staying in Touch
Make a Movie: Plan, edit and produce a family video during deployment. It could be filmed in one night or over a period of several days and events. Send it to your soldier, or save it until he or she returns home.
Record Mini Messages: Using a tape recorder or mobile device app, record your children telling their deployed mom or dad about their day. Have your soldier do the same. Send short messages back and forth.
Document Day to Day: Some soldiers have Internet access and can stay in touch via emails, Skype and blogging. If your kids are young, post pictures and details about your day-to-day activities. If the kids are older, encourage them to post often to keep mom or dad involved. T-Mobile has unlimited 4G data packages, so teenagers with cell phones can upload photos often without running up your bill.
Send Care Packages: Include A+ papers, drawings, love notes and photos in care packages to brighten their deployed mom or dad’s day.
Set milestones for you and your kids to reach during deployment, including personal goals, family vacations and week-to-week activities. Explore your city, learn a new skill together or research the culture and language of where Mom or Dad is serving. Create a family timeline using construction paper and a calendar or map, and track the days until mom or dad comes home. Use a paper chain to count once you hit the three-month mark.
What Kids Need
Consistency and Routine: Don’t slack on the rules because you’re temporarily a single parent. Kids need structure to feel secure, and a predictable home life helps them cope.
Good Communication: Be as honest with your kids as you can. They’ll have questions, and you can help ease the tension and relieve their concerns by answering honestly (yet age appropriately).
A Healthy Lifestyle: Exercise can provide energy-boosting endorphins, which helps your kids feel happier. Everyone needs a lazy day occasionally, but be sure to encourage an active, healthy lifestyle. Maintain one yourself by staying up to speed on the latest health and fitness tips.
Reminders: Include mentions of your spouse in daily conversation with your kids. Say things like, “Mom loves spaghetti, so let’s cook that for dinner tonight,” or “Dad gave me the necklace I’m wearing today.” Regularly talking to your kids about your spouse helps them include mom or dad in their memories.
Attention and Good Times: Deployment can be stressful and lonely for the left-behind spouse. Children pick up on this and can sometimes feel neglected. Though your life may feel like it’s been put on hold, try to make the most of each day. Give each child attention and celebrate good times. It’s OK to be happy, even when your spouse is away.
Reassurance: Continually remind your children that their deployed parent loves them.
To Be a Kid: Your child needs to enjoy being a child. Try not to discuss your fears in depth or force them to grow up quicker than they should. Remember, they’re just kids.