How to Help Kids Prepare for a Parent's Deployment
Guest Blogger: Daniela Baker
Helping kids deploy for a parent’s departure is a tough and sometimes heartbreaking process, but it has to be done every day by many military families. When done right, kids can feel more secure before and during the deployment of mom or dad, and they can adjust more easily during the deployment.
There’s no easy way to prepare kids for a parent’s deployment, but there are some things that can make the process easier. Here are some tips to help kids get ready for a parent’s deployment:
- Talk about it early and often, but not so often that it becomes the only topic of family conversation. As soon as you know about when deployment will start, talk with your children, especially if deployment will mean major changes to their routine. Talk about it often enough that they know it’s okay to bring it up if they have concerns or fears as the time draws nearer.
- Be honest, but not too honest. The weeks leading up to deployment are emotional and scary for parents, as well as for children. It’s okay to let your children know a little about what you’re feeling, too, but you do need a good balance here. Above all, make sure children can’t sense nervousness that you’re trying to hide, since this can just make the problem work.
- Speak in their language. Talk to each of your children in an age-appropriate way about what will happen when mom or dad leaves. Older children are big enough to understand some of the real truth, but for the younger ones, just telling them mommy or daddy has to leave to help other people can be enough.
- Spend extra time together as deployment gets closer, but don’t disrupt the routine too much. Eat lunch at school with your kids, and go to all their soccer games. Help them make a photo collage of you for their bedroom, and one of them for you to take along with you. Special activities and time together can be touchstone memories while you’re gone.
- Alert support people in their lives about your upcoming absence. Teachers, coaches, and friends’ parents should all know about your upcoming deployment, since these people can often notice something wrong when your child feels down. Plus, they can help keep the routine the same when you’re gone, which is helpful for most children.
- Talk about the new routine, and try to help them settle into it before you leave. If a relative is coming to stay with you, your children are switching schools, or kids are going to live with their grandparents while you’re deployed, try to make the changes happen a while before you leave. That way, you can be there to help kids settle into their new routine, and they’ll feel more comfortable with it when you’re gone.
- Give older kids dates. Like counting down until Christmas, older kids will enjoy counting down until you come home. Letting them know the date of your deployment a little ahead of time can help them feel more prepared and at ease with the idea, as well.
- Make sure there’s emergency money for the family in place, so you have less to worry about. If you can’t save up an emergency fund, provide your child’s primary caregiver with a low-interest credit card to be used for emergencies or even basic expenses, like new school clothes.
These tips come from military families who have built their lives around parents who are deployed – sometimes both parents are gone at the same time! Before your deployment, use these strategies to get kids prepared and to help them settle more easily into a new routine when you’re gone.
About the Author
Daniela Baker is a social media advocate at CreditDonkey, a cash rewards credit cards comparison website. She is also a mother of two and the spouse of a veteran. She hopes this post will help your family cope with deployment.