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Empower Your Little Heroes During Dad’s Deployment with These 10 Proven Strategies.

Military kids are heroes for coping with the difficulty of deployments. Deployment is hard on everyone but can be especially challenging for the kids because they often cannot verbalize or process their feelings. The main brunt of supporting the kids at home falls on the military spouse. Here are some proven strategies to help the kids affected by deployment cope while Dad is gone.  Many of these strategies encourage a connection between the Dad and the kid(s).


1)    Create a Visual.  You’ll want to invest in a way to avoid the repetitive (and annoying) question of when Dad is coming home. It’s easier for the kids if you create something visible. Fill a jar with chocolate kisses – one for every day he’ll be gone. Take one out each morning (or night) and watch the jar get less full as his return home approaches.

Or you can make a huge paper chain for every day their father will be gone.  Each day, one child gets to tear off a chain.

 


2)    Hang a Map on the Wall to Visualize Dad at his Deployed Location. Hang a simple map on the wall with a star or arrow to indicate the deployed location of Dad. You could also hang a clock that would show the time in the location. Periodically, google the weather of his deployed location. For older kids, consider looking up information about the culture of the location where their father is deployed. Maybe even have an evening where you sample food from the location where Dad is deployed.



3)    Get Kids Involved. Involve the kids in creating care packages for Dad.  Ask their help in shopping for treats and things to do and have them make special notes or cards for Dad to include in the package. If you are going to send baked goods (which I highly recommend), involve the kids in the baking. Ask them to decorate the box. 

 





4)    Be Intentional to Create Time for Connect Between Dad and Kids.  Consider one or more of these ways to create connection time with Dad.


Book Reading. Buy two copies of books you want Dad to read aloud to the kids during deployment.  Send one copy with Dad while keeping the other at home.  Have Dad read to the kids via video call and allow the kids to follow along as he reads with their copy. 



Video Calls. Make it a point to schedule regular video calls with Dad to allow them to catch up and connect.  It might be a good idea to allow one-on-one “dates” with Dad periodically.







Cuddly Items. Kids crave connection, so a special doll created with Dad’s body image and face might be comforting.  Operation Kid Comfort also created a personalized quilt or pillowcase with family pictures. You could also send a special stuffed toy along with the deployed parent and have the parent take photos with it in various places where they are deployed. Besides just texting the photos back home, consider creating a small album for the kid to keep in their room for a private way to feel close to Dad.

 

5)    Invest in Resources to Let Your Kids Know They Aren’t Alone.

a.     For younger kids, you can purchase (or borrow) picture books that can help your kids make sense of the hard and overwhelming job of being without Dad for a while. You could even record the voice of Dad reading the book before he leaves and let him “read” the book to your child while he is gone. Here are a few books on deployment you can check out:

  • “Night Catch” by Brenda Ehrmantraut

  • “A Paper Hug” by Stephanie Skolmoski  “Superheroes’ Kids: When Dad is Deployed” by Heather Carson

  • “Never Goodbye: A Love Letter to the Military Child” by Valerie McNulty

  • “I’ll Lend You My Daddy” by Becky King

  •  “The Soldier’s Night Before Christmas” by Christine Ford and Trish Holland

  • “My Mom’s Boots” by Elizabeth Gordon

 

b.     For older kids, have them listen to podcasts that highlight topics important to military kids.  Consider these podcasts:  

  • Grace of a Military Child and Life Podcast

  • Military Child Education Collective (MCEC Podcast) (Conversations about the Challenges military-connected kids make).

  • The Shannon Show Podcast (a podcast about military kids)

 


6)    Counseling is a Good Option.

There were several times when

we used the services of counselors to help our kids adjust to the constant transition of military life. The Military employs special counselors just to engage with the kids who are trained in helping kids cope with many of the challenges of military life, like deployment. Some of these counselors may even be working at your kid’s school. The Military and Family Life Counselors is a free service for any children of active duty, guard, or reserves. For more information, see the Child and Youth Behavioral Military and Family Life website.



7)    Point Out They Aren’t the Only Ones. Help your kids realize that they aren’t the only ones dealing with a parent who is away on deployment. Try to find other families that are also dealing with deployment and get together with them periodically. If your husband’s unit isn’t deploying as a group, you can connect with other families who have a deployed spouse through activities offered by the Military and Family Readiness Center, which may be called the Military Family Support Center on some posts. I recommend you attend the dinners and other monthly activities offered for deployed families at your installation. These programs are often called “Hearts Apart.” Check out this website for information on which of your base facilities would offer these programs (depending on the branch of the military). https://www.militaryonesource.mil/relationships/support-community/connecting-to-the-community/

 

8)    Children Thrive with Routine. Especially when a parent is gone, routine provides reassurance. After the first few weeks of adjustment, come up with a plan that you can stick to consistently. It eases a kid’s mind to know what to expect.

 

As a 25-year military wife, I speak to military groups on topics relevant to military life. Check out more here.



9)    Cut Yourself Some Slack. Having a spouse deployed is hard. Not only is your life partner and best friend gone, but you are juggling all the responsibilities of your house and family back home. One of the ways I showed myself grace was by using the extra money we were getting from my hubby not having to pay taxes to invest that money in household help for me. I outsourced the yardwork and brought in some childcare once a week for sanity. My patience increased dramatically when I was able to get a break. Sometimes I just went to the grocery store by myself with no arguing (an absolute luxury normally), others I met a friend for coffee or a meal. Cereal is an acceptable dinner during deployment. So is mac and cheese. Add in more movie-watching than normal to give yourself a break. It’s ok, you aren’t going to ruin your kids in the time of the deployment.


10)    Pray with Your Kids for Dad’s Safety. You want to be careful not to give too many details when talking about the danger Dad is facing. But it is also good to lead the kids in praying for Dad’s physical safety and mental health while he is gone. He is usually working longer hours than normal and often works 6-7 days a week when down range. It’s great to pray with your kids and help them release their father into the loving hands of a completely Sovereign God.


I am releasing a book this year written for Military Wives based on the life of the biblical character, Sarah, called "Another Move, God? 30 Encouragements for Embracing Your Life as a Military Wife.". You can preorder the book here from Amazon, and here from LifeWay.

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