Many things will change once a parent has been deployed. In getting through deployment, you’ll find yourself creating new routines and adjusting old ones to fit new circumstances. But in time–and with patience–your family will adjust, and take pride in doing so.
Stick to routines
- Routines will help your child feel secure. Use the Every Day, Every Night printable as a way of talking about routines with younger children.
- As time goes on and your child begins to feel more comfortable, ask her to help establish new family routines. For instance, make Thursdays “Breakfast for Dinner” days, spend every Saturday afternoon at the park together, or set aside Sunday nights for writing letters to loved ones far away.
- When a parent is deployed, older children can give younger ones comfort and be terrific role models. Let your older children know that they’re an important part of the team, and encourage them to help out. But make sure to let them be kids, too!
- Take care of yourself by including physical activity in your routines: a family walk, a game of tag, or dancing to your favorite tunes. Also, be sure to prepare healthy meals and get plenty of sleep. By keeping yourself physically fit, you’ll keep yourself emotionally fit as well.
- Use the We Can Do It printable to keep track of your family routines and individual responsibilities.
Keep connected to the deployed parent
- Reassure your child by keeping connected to the deployed parent with e-mails and phone calls.
- Create a special ritual that the family and the deployed parent can both share while away from each other. For instance, your little one and her deployed mom or dad can look up at the sky each night as a reminder that they are underneath the same moon and stars. An older child and his parent might choose a word or phrase that will be their secret message–when they hear or say it, they’ll think of each other.
Leave the homecoming date open-ended
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- Your child might ask, “When is Dad coming home?” or “Why can’t he come home now?” When answering these questions, leave the homecoming date as open-ended as possible while giving your child something hopeful to hang on to: “Dad will be home as soon as his job is finished. He loves us all very much and can’t wait to be with us again.”
- Help your child keep track of the days Dad is away. For example, start a paper chain and add a colorful link each day, to be presented to him or used as a decoration at homecomings. Put some change in a jar for each day apart. When Dad returns, your child can use the money to buy something special for him or for the family to enjoy together.