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Helping Children Prepare for a Deployment

It's important to involve children in the preparations for deployment and explain to them exactly what a deployment involves in a way that they will understand. You may also want to:

Go over the "house rules." Explain to your child that rules will not change during the deployment just because a parent or family member is gone. Enlist older children to help around the house by taking over a chore or duty that the missing parent or family member always did.

Encourage younger children to talk with older children who have already been through a deployment. If you don't have older children, help your child make connections with the children of relatives, friends, or other military families who are familiar with deployment.

Make time for the family member or parent who will be deployed to spend "alone time" with each child in the family.

Take lots of pictures or make videotapes of your child and the parent who will be deployed doing everyday activities. Document ordinary things, like getting ready for bed, reading a story, eating dinner, or playing a game. Put these pictures in a small album for your child or display them somewhere your child can easily see them. Many families also make recordings of the parent or loved one who will be deployed reading favorite stories so that children can listen to their voices when they are gone.

Give your child a special gift before the deployment begins. This could be anything -- a diary, a scrapbook, a watch, or a bracelet -- as long as it's something your child can hold and look at when she's missing her parent or family member.

Make sure your child understands that he or she will be able to stay in touch with the deployed parent or family member by writing letters, talking on the phone, or sending recordings or drawings. Sometimes children have trouble understanding the idea of a temporary separation, and they may think that they won't be able to talk to or communicate with their deployed loved one.

Come up with a way to count down the time that the parent or family member will be gone that children can understand. Some families create calendars and mark off the days while others may come up with other ideas like filling up a jar with a chocolate or a sticker for each day the loved one will be gone. If you're not sure how long the parent will be gone, you can mark the passage of time by making a paper chain and adding a link each day that the parent is gone, then use the chain as a decoration when they return.

Other Articles on Preparing for a Deployment

- Coping with the Deployment of a Spouse or Partner

- Staying or Moving when a Spouse is Deployed?

- In Love and Deployed - Making the Marriage Decision

- Having a baby while your Spouse is Deployed

- Coping with a Deployment Extension