Keeping in touch with a parent who is deployed or away from home for training can be a major source of concern for children. Communicating overseas is not easy and at times may seem impossible. It is common for children to feel disconnected from the parent who is away and to have difficulty coping. The Real Warriors Campaign provides tips and resources to help families stay connected and ease the period of separation for the child.
When it’s time for a parent to deploy, children may react differently based on their age. In the early years, children will often distance themselves, cry frequently or have a change in eating and sleeping habits. As they grow older, children may respond with anger, they may act out or even pretend they don’t care.
Here are things you can do to make separation easier for the service member, the parent at home and the child.
1. Communicate about the mission. The parent should talk with the child about why he (or she) is leaving and let him know that the deployment or training is part of the job; not a result of something the child did.
2. Spend time together before hand. Before a parent deploys, be sure to spend plenty of quality time together. It’s a great way to reinforce that the kids are loved and will be missed.
3. Record your voice. Parents that are deploying: record yourself reading children's books, singing, sharing a message or just talking. Your children will be able to play the recordings whenever they need or want.
4. Connect through social media. Social media provides many ways to connect and interact with your loved one. The campaign article "Using Social Media to Stay Connected" highlights ways to use social media safely to communicate real time updates and share photos and videos.
5. Schedule time to talk. Service members can stay up-to-date on their children's lives and maintain steady communication by setting aside time each week to talk to loved ones. Keep the schedule flexible since deployments and training missions can sometimes be unpredictable.
6. Write letters. Handwritten letters offer a sense of comfort. They are easy to hold on to and can act as temporary placeholders during times when it may be difficult to stay in touch.
7. Continue to acknowledge important events. Children in school may sometimes feel as if the deployed parent no longer cares about them. In order to make a positive impact, consistently show support during tough times and acknowledge the great things they accomplish or take part in, such as a good report card, winning a sports game or celebrating a birthday. Communicate with your child's school throughout the separation to help educators better understand the potential stressors your child might be facing outside of the classroom.
Visit www.realwarriors.net/family for more tips and resources to help military families and children cope with separations and transitions.
Published: October 2014