During deployments and long separations, as parents, we take on a lot more responsibility and stress. The same is true for our kids.
Our worries for our spouse’s safety are shared by our children. They are also taking on more responsibility at home. Your children are missing their parent and learning to navigate a one-parent household. On top of all of that, they are going to school 5 days a week and working extremely hard.
These stressors cause different reactions. For children, they could experience increased anxiety or depression. Your child may begin acting out, exhibiting aggression and anger or even retreating from socializing with friends. Grades could take a dip or a dive. Or your child might become obsessed with making everything perfect, from grades to appearance to emotions.
Often our children’s teachers are the first to notice these changes in behavior and academic achievements.
That’s why it’s super important to keep your school and teachers in the loop as your family preps for deployment. However, deployments and even long TAD/TDY assignments come with risks and need-to-know information.
How to Talk with Your Military Child’s Teacher About a Deployment Without Violating OPSEC/PERSEC
At least as honest as you can be. You should share the basics:
- The general deployment window, but not a specific date. Say: “My spouse will be deploying within the next 2 months.”
- The general deployment length. Say: “We expect she will be gone for 6 to 9 months.”
- Your plans for pre-deployment. Say: “We will be taking a trip before my spouse leaves. My children will miss about a week of school. Please let me know how they can best make up the work they will miss.”
- The general homecoming window, as it approaches. Say: “We expect that he will return in a month.”
- More homecoming details, as they are released and cleared by your unit’s public affairs office. Say: “We think she might be home in March.”
- Your plans for the period right after the homecoming. Say: “I will email you the day before our scheduled homecoming. I will be keeping our children home for a day or so to spend time as a family. Please let me know how they can complete any work they might miss.”
It’s super important that you not share exact locations, troop movements or departure/return dates. The fewer people who know these details, the better. Share what you must, when you must, in order to make sure your child’s teacher and school are on the same page.
Include Others as Needed
It’s also important to include administration and school counselors, psychologists or social workers. You can share even less information to these people. Generally, they will only get involved if there is a major issue or concern. Your child might see a school mental health counselor, psychologist or social worker if there is a deployment support group at their school.
If you need to share, you should:
- Give the basics. Say: “My spouse is currently away on assignment for several months.”
- Address the situation at hand. Say: “I wonder if my spouse’s absence might be one of the causes behind (concern). I would like to explore this further and find ways to support my child as a team.”
When you share your family’s deployment with school faculty and staff, you also need to include a request for confidentiality. Even if your spouse is in a “safe” area, your family is still down a person and open to additional concerns at home. It’s very easy to let information slip out about troop movements, return dates, ship names and families that are missing an adult.
Ask your teacher, school administrators and mental health staff to keep all deployment information strictly confidential. Explain:
“My spouse will be away from home. This is need-to-know information that I am sharing with you so that we can work together to help my child through this challenging time.”
Occasionally, sharing information with other teachers can help your child’s teacher to find new solutions to challenges. Request:
“If you feel like asking another staff member for advice or solutions is necessary, I would ask that you let me know before you share information. If you can make such requests without sharing my child’s identity or other specific details, that would be great. If you do need to share personal information, I would like to be included in the email chain or be told what will be shared.”
Generally, help teachers and others to understand that what you are sharing is not for public discussion or knowledge. It is need-to-know only.