Tips To Help Your Child With Deployment

>> Monday, May 25, 2015

Many military families are facing deployment on a regular basis and some of the most affected are the children that have a difficult time grasping what is happening in the world around them  -  especially when it comes to a family member deploying.  The confusion and chaos can affect life on the playground, in school, and in other social situations.  The most important thing an adult can do to help children deal with deployment is to educate them about what is happening. Following these easy steps can help:

Define Deployment
Making sure children understand what the word “deployment” means is incredibly important. The word is used in the media, at the dinner table, and in everyday conversation. Explaining where mommy/daddy is going (with a general overview of the region or country) and what he/she will be doing (without going into incredible detail) will help children gain an understanding of what is happening.  For the soldier, if you can, let your child help you pack.  Letting your child help you pack will allow him/her to be more involved in the process and also allow them to "care" for you.  Ask your child to draw some pictures so that you can hang them once you get settled.  Not only will they have great fun but you will enjoy their artwork for days and months to come.

Assure Children and Answer Questions
Children will worry about the safety of the deployed parent.  It is incredibly important to the child to know that their loved one has been well-trained at the job that he/she will do.  Children, at any age, will ask questions. The important thing to remember is that brushing off a question will not make it go away. Even the hardest questions need to be answered, but they should be answered in an age appropriate manner.  Be honest. Be fair. Children going through deployment deserve to have questions answered just as much as adults do. Not knowing how to answer every question is ok, but know that there are many resources available that can help to answer even the most challenging questions.  Reassure your children that you will always love them no matter what and that you will get through this deployment together.

Consistency and Routine
At any time, children need routine and structure….but more so during deployments.  They feel insecure because of all the uncertainties regarding deployment and a predictable routine and home life makes them feel secure and safe.  Give your children a few extra responsibilities.  When children have responsibilities, they cope better. Informing the children that they have a job to do while their loved one is deployed is an excellent way to make sure they feel included and important. Assigning an age-appropriate tasks can help ease fear associated with being separated from a loved one for a long period of time.

Stay Connected
Kids need to maintain a bond with the parent who is away.  Whether it’s writing letters, saying a special prayer, counting down the days on a calendar, or finding where mommy or daddy is on a map, staying connected is very important.  Kids also need to maintain a bond with the parent who is still at home.  Daily discussions about their feelings and/or fears is important.  It allows the child to express his/her thoughts in a safe environment without being judged.

Communicate with Teachers, Coaches, Etc.
If your child is school-age and/or has extra-curricular activities, be sure to talk with the teachers, coaches, etc. to let them know what is going on at home.  It’s always helpful to have as many supporters in your child’s corner!

Good Behavior/Bad Behavior
Children have a tendency to test the boundaries and the parent at home may feel guilty about having to be both mom and dad and give in more often than you should.  Misbehavior during deployment CAN be a result of negative feelings, it is important to set limits and have consequences.  Problems can be eliminated by making a chart and pre-determining consequences for bad behavior.  On the flip side, it is also recommended to set up positive behavior rewards such as sticker charts or marble jars.  Again—try to remember to be age-appropriate.

When in doubt—just remember to let your child know that he/she is not alone and that, as a family, you will get through this together! 


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