Advance planning and open communication, along with a big dose of reassurance, can help everyone get through the difficult time leading up to a service member’s departure. Here are some ideas to get you started:
How to plan and prepare together for being deployed again
- Let the important people in your family’s life, especially those involved in your children’s care, know that a parent will be leaving. Establish a support network you can count on for help whenever it’s needed. (It’s okay to seek counseling if you feel overwhelmed–you can even do so anonymously if you prefer.)
- Help older children build their own extended support systems, which might include school counselors, teachers, and trusted peers.
- Talk to your children about being deployed again. Encourage questions. Without discussing how to get through the experience, children may imagine the worst. Young children may even fret about their parent’s basic needs being met. To the fullest extent possible, describe what the deployed mom or dad’s everyday life will be like–”Here’s what I’ll be doing.” “This is what I’ll be eating.” And so on. No matter the age of the child, it’s helpful to give a reminder that the parent who is going to serve is highly trained. Say: “Your mom/dad knows how to do her/his job well, and s/he’s not alone. S/he’s working with others who also do their jobs well.”
Be aware of different reactions from your children
- If you have more than one child, don’t be surprised if each reacts differently to the upcoming assignment. The Faces and Feelings printable can help younger children understand their feelings better about dealing with a parent being deployed again. Remind older children that they should share their worries and concerns, too.
Keep family connections strong
Next: What to Do During a Military Deployment
- Assure your children that regular family activities such as bedtime stories, game nights, or family dinners will continue.
- Create a “thinking of you” item, like a “hug-me” pillow. Stuff one of the deploying parent’s t-shirts and sew it closed. When the need arises, the pillow is just right for wrapping the child in a hug!
- As a family, complete the Family Puzzle printable. To make the pieces of the puzzle sturdier, you can laminate individual pieces or glue the sheet to cardstock before cutting the pieces out.