Helping Children Cope with a Parent’s Deployment

Military deployment occurs every month for military parents and spouses. They are deployed for several months at a time. If fortunate, these military parents and spouses could return home in six months. However, 12 to 18 month military deployments are common. Although military deployments are hard for all family members, adults can generally find ways to cope. On the other hand, the absence of a parent can be emotionally draining for children. Here are six effective ways to help children cope with a parent’s military deployment.

1. Make a Scrapbook. Prior to a military deployment, the family should engage in regular outings. Some families choose to take a vacation before a spouse and parent is scheduled to leave. However, outings can also consist of inexpensive ventures around town. For example, spend the day at the local park, visit an amusement park, etc. While participating in the activities, have a camera or video recorder handy. Make recordings of all the happy family moments. Once the parent is deployed, children can refer to the scrapbook and reminisce.

2. Post a Map. Younger children are unable to visualize in their mind where mommy or daddy is going. To assist, the parent remaining at home may choose to buy a globe or large map. If using a map, circle your home and the region where mom or dad is stationed. Next, purchase a calendar and circle the parent’s return date. For each day that passes, have the child mark an X on the calendar.

3. Make a Voice or Video Recording. In addition to creating a scrapbook of happy memories, it may help if the deploying parent creates a personal message for their child or children before leaving. For example, if the child is accustomed to their parent reading a story before bedtime, the deploying parent might record themselves reading a storybook. If an infant is involved, the deploying parent could record a few spoken words or a lullaby. This way, the baby becomes familiar with the absent parent’s voice.

4. Communicate. Although military deployments are equally different for spouses, parents should encourage open talk about the deployed parent. Missing a person can create a lot of strong emotions. Thus, some spouses avoid talking about their deployed mate. However, if children become inquisitive and begin inquiring about mom or dad, honestly address their concerns. Include the deployed parent in everyday conversations. Furthermore, allow children to express their feelings.

5. Maintain Household Routine. Once a parent is deployed, it is important for the remaining parent to remain consistent with daily routines. Mistakenly, some parents become more lenient when their spouse is deployed. However, bending the house rules will not make the adjustment period any easier.

6. Monitoring Television Programs. Each day there are reports of car bombings, suicide bombings, and U.S. troops being killed. Thus, it is vital for parents to limit their children’s television time. Moreover, avoid viewing news reports of war with your children watching. Even if their parent is not in any immediate danger, children have a difficult time making distinctions.

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