SEPTEMBER 22, 2021 – Being a military family isn’t easy, especially when one or both parents are service members on deployment. Every child needs their parent, but when duty calls, you have to answer. This doesn’t mean you can’t be present for your family despite your physical absence. The best way to prepare for deployment is to take all the steps you can now to ensure your family will be well cared for while you’re away.
No matter how well you prepare, it will never be easy to leave, but you can help ease the stress, anxiety and effect of deployment on your spouse and children before you leave. Knowing you’ve done everything to help them in the interim can also bring you some peace of mind, allowing you to focus more on your mission and getting home safely.
Plan Your Affairs
No one wants to imagine not coming home from deployment, but it’s a reality military members have to face. You may not intend on leaving your loved ones anytime soon, but you should still make sure all your affairs are in order prior to deployment. This means drawing up a will, making sure your beneficiaries are appropriately designated and getting the right level of life insurance coverage.
Someone with a dependent spouse and children will want a much higher death benefit than someone who is single. Investing in a whole or permanent life insurance policy also comes with the added benefit of generating a cash value that you can surrender later on. This lump sum payment can then be put toward anything from retirement to paying off a mortgage. Review a guide on everything you need to know about selling a life insurance policy for cash before you buy coverage. Other deployment paperwork to consider is a living will and medical power of attorney. If you’re injured in the line of duty and cannot make decisions about your own health, who do you want in charge? This is an often-overlooked document that many soldiers need to have in place.
Set Up a Care Plan
Military Family Care Plans help provide structure and routine for children and spouses during deployment. U.S. Army soldiers who have dependents are required to have a Family Care Plan whether they are single or in a dual-military couple. This plan helps protect their children in the event of sudden deployment orders by appointing a power of attorney, designating appointed legal guardians or caretakers and issuing personal instructions to the person who will be caring for their family in their absence.
Be Honest with Your Kids
It can be traumatic for a child to wake up one morning and suddenly be told that their parent is gone and not coming back for a long time. Telling them ahead of time gives them time to work through their fear and get reassurance from you. Anxiety can manifest in a variety of ways, especially among school-age children. They could resort to more childlike behavior, start throwing tantrums or complain of headaches or stomach aches.
It can be hard facing your own sadness about leaving, but it’s best to work through it as a family. Talk to your spouse, colleagues and other service members who have been through deployment. Ask them how they handled the situation. You can also reach out to the Military and Family Life Counseling program services on base and let a counselor give you some tips. Every child will react differently. Just be patient, answer their questions with age-appropriate responses and let them know that there will be ways for you to stay connected despite the distance.