1. Keep a schedule. One things that children thrive on is the knowledge that their schedule will not change. It keeps one area in their lives consistent thereby giving them the security of knowing one thing won’t change drastically.
2. Let them talk about it. It is way too easy to try to keep things upbeat and neglect allowing your children to vent and express how the deployment is affecting them. Just like you have waves of highs and lows during the deployment, your child does as well. Don’t be afraid to let them see that it bothers you too from time to time.
3. Stay away from the news. If your children see news from abroad chances are it will be in a very negative light. They do not need to hear about the cities being bombed, soldiers dying, etc. This will give them a huge worry they are not old enough to process. These issues have an emotional toll on even some of the strongest adults.
4. Stay away from war movies. This is equally as important for you too! Movies are designed to elicit an emotional response. These responses can be very dramatic and are not good for you or your children’s emotional well-being. These type of movies can be exponentially worse for your child than the news.
5. Buy some books that will help your child cope. Here are some suggestions:
Having parents in the military can be challenging. Those challenges can intensify when a loved one is deployed. Despite the love and reassurance of family at home, children can be overwhelmed by questions, concerns and anxiety. “Heroes!” is a beautifully designed and produced activity book offering a loving, creative and healthy way for kids 4-14 to deal with their parent’s deployment. The author gently walks children and ‘tweens’ through carefully structured activities like drawing pictures, gathering photos and finding new ways to relax, express anger and keep in touch. “Heroes!” makes a loving gift that helps reassure children while also helping them understand the important work their parent is doing. As children work through their worries, questions and loneliness, they also create a keepsake scrapbook both the child and the parent will treasure always.
Countdown ’til Daddy Comes Home is the story of a young boy waiting for his daddy to come home from a trip. To make their separation easier, his family creates rituals to stay connected and make the countdown fly by. A perfect book for military kids who have a parent deployed or kids who have a parent that is a frequent business traveler. After reading this warmly illustrated story you will find ideas on various ways to countdown ’til your daddy comes home and discussion questions to set expectations and alleviate any fears your child may have because of their parent’s deployment or trip.
When a soldier’s work takes him half-way around the world, he enlists the help of the North Star for a nightly game of catch with his son.
Night Catch is a timeless story that connects families while they are apart and offers comforting hope for their reunion.
Deployment Journal for Kids is a special journal created for children to record feelings and events during a loved one’s military deployment. A variety of proven journaling techniques provide a framework for children to better understand deployments, express and communicate their feelings, and tell their own story. Contains calendar pages, writing prompts, interesting facts about common deployment locations, military definitions, helpful ideas, and a pocket to keep mementos. A companion web site, www.deploymentkids.com, offers time zone and distance calculators, games, and more.
6. Build a Bear. Build a Bear has an option to put a recording in the stuffed animal. Put the deployed parent’s voice on it.
7. The same can be done with a book. Does your spouse or loved one read to the child? Record their voice so the child can hear them every night.
8. Create a deployment pillow case or t-shirt with mommy or daddy’s face on it.
What ideas would you add?