Any spouse who has ever been through a deployment on the home-front will tell you that it’s even more heartbreaking watching your children go through it as well. Children are far less understanding about why their parent must leave for a while. After explaining to them that “daddy is working” and “will be home soon”, it can still be difficult to see how they’ve accepted what’s happening although they don’t quite understand why…
Here are a few things that I have experience with, and other ideas that friends have done with their kids as well. The intention is to offer some support, encouragement, hope, and comfort to children; especially to the ones that may not quite understand what deployment means and why.
7 Tips to Help Kids When Parent is Deployed:
1.) Kiss Pillow: This is a cute little pillow sewn by a group of volunteers for military families. The purpose of these little pillows is for the deploying parent to kiss the pillow for the child to sleep with and receive a “kiss” when they’re missing them. These pillows usually have the words “I love you” written on them.
2.) Countdown/Calendar: Keeping a calendar or some sort of countdown on display is helpful as well. Some people choose to count how many days have passed, versus how many days they still have left. Deployment time frames are always uncertain especially in the beginning, so keep it liberal to be safe. (For example, count 8 months if it’s a typical 7 month deployment, and so on.)
3.) Recorded Stories: Have your spouse videotape themselves reading a story. It’s a good idea to pack a book with them before they leave, record it ahead of time, or send books frequently for them to record. That way, at anytime of the day, your child can hear their mom or dad reading them a book. This is incredibly comforting for them because it establishes their presence, although they’re miles away.
4.) Recorded Bedtime Prayers: In the same way, videotape bedtime prayers to be watched right before bedtime. This is an adorable idea and something I recommend doing before your spouse leaves. That way, they can still see that parent every night, even when communication is poor. There is nothing better than enjoying today’s technology in this way!
5.) Kiss Jar: What child doesn’t love Hershey Kisses? Grab a giant jar and fill it with as many kisses as you can. Each kiss represents a day (or week, however you choose) that your spouse will be away. Every day your child will get a “kiss” in remembrance of that parent and can have something to enjoy in their absence. It also gives them something to look forward to every day.
6.) Deployment Tree: Creating a bare tree out of construction paper, tape it to a large wall in your house. Cut out leaves to represent each day that your spouse will be away. Every day, your child(ren) can write their favorite part of the day and tape it to the wall. Before long, you’ll start to see the beautiful tree taking shape and your spouse will have something to read and catch-up on when they get back! This is a great way for your spouse, when they return, to get caught up on the day-to-day things they weren’t home for.
7.) Bear or Daddy Doll (with their picture on it): I’ve seen this everywhere lately! Some people find it a little creepy to be carrying around a doll with the image of their deployed parent, but I believe it’s truly beneficial to kids. The younger kids have another comfort to cherish while their parent is deployed. It really seems to make that sudden change in their lives feel a bit more manageable for them.
I hope these tips help you out and that they are helpful to your child(ren) as well.
If you have any other creative ideas, please feel free to share in a comment below!
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