Military families are often left to cope with the absence of deployed family members.
The departure is never easy on a family.
A home tends to become a bit more chaotic, and each family member deals with the upcoming transition in varying ways. However, with the right preparation, you and your family can better cope with the absence of deployed family members.
Prior to Deployment
Coping with the deployment of a parent shouldn’t occur only after the parent has left. Preparation needs to begin prior to deployment to make the transition run much more smoothly for both the remaining parent and children.
A few tips to help you cope with the absence of deployed family members:
Cope with the absence of deployed family members by keeping the routine normal
When news of deployment is heard, a home, especially those experiencing a first time deployment, it is easy to break free from your normal routine to focus on the upcoming event. While certain changes in routine are sure to be necessary, you want to maintain your family’s regular schedule as much as possible to keep your children feeling secure.
Cope with the absence of deployed family members by making sure time together is quality
When you go about your regular days, it is easy to grab a quick meal instead of sitting down together or watching TV instead of interacting. However, prior to deployment, try to make sure that your interactions are more meaningful and family oriented. This will reassure your children that even though one of their parents is leaving, your family bond is still strong.
Cope with the absence of deployed family members by opening the floor for questions
Before a parent leaves, your kids are sure to have plenty of questions. Reassure them that they are more than welcome to ask anything about the deployment, or any changes surrounding the deployment, that they may have. This will allow your kids to be more sure in the change that is about to take place, as well as help to alleviate any of their general fears.
Cope with the absence of deployed family members during deployment
Once a spouse has been deployed, the remaining parent will be met with a whole new set of challenges. Even with the preparations that were made, there will still be a few speed bumps that will occur as your family transitions into being a single parent household. To make life during deployment easier, do the following:
Cope with the absence of deployed family members by maintaining your prior routine
While some major changes will have to take place due to the single parent status of the household, these changes should have already been discussed prior to deployment.
Aside from the changes discussed, you will want to keep your family’s routine as regular as it was before your spouse left, including adequate communication. This will allow your children to feel more secure and normal in spite of one parent being absent.
Cope with the absence of deployed family members by allowing time for grieving
Children react differently to deployment. Some will act out, others will try to isolate themselves, and others will acclimate to the change quite easily.
Because children all have unique personalities and needs, be sure to give your kids the attention, time, and space they need to grieve. Respect their needs and let them know that grieving is okay so that your children aren’t inclined to withdraw.
Cope with the absence of deployed family members by getting creative
The arts are often one of the best ways for children to boost their moods and express themselves when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. To help your children cope with the departure of their parent, have them get creative.
Let them draw pictures to send to dad, or write cards to send to mom. Create projects that allow them to express themselves while also showing support for the loved one abroad.
This will help your children feel as though they are reaching out in positive ways, and will also help ease any pains of homesickness for the one abroad.
Although you may be focused on your children after the deployment of your spouse, also be prepared to take adequate time for yourself.
Transitioning from a two-parent to single parent household is no easy task, and can easily become overwhelming. If at all possible, try to establish a strong support system prior to your spouse’s departure.
However, if close friends and family are not nearby, don’t be afraid to reach out to military support groups. These organizations have members whom understand deployment and can offer you the strength and support you and your family need.
Maya Szydlowski is the community manager for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s leading VA loan provider and primary news source for the military community.