Being a military child can be very challenging. The deployment stage can be a difficult transition for them, which sometimes, may last a lifetime. But, through this unfortunate period, it’s not impossible for a child to be okay.
You might be wondering:
What are the ways I could prepare my child when the time comes?
Will they get used to it? Ever?
What will happen when my partner comes back?
It’s very important to remember that both children and parents need to work on this transition together. In this article, we’re breaking down the deployment transition at different ages.
Babies and Toddlers
Babies and Toddlers are quite young to comprehend this transition. Yet, they do feel things. So, here are some important points to bear in mind.
Dealing with babies can be a bit tough. If the deployment happens during their infancy, then there’ll be concerns about how the baby will adjust to the parent when they come back home.
Fear not, here are a couple of things you can do to prepare them while your partner is deployed:
Show your baby photos of the absent parent. You can hang them around the baby’s room.
● Audio Clips:
Play recorded audio clips of their dad. They’ll be acquainted with his voice.
● Video Calls:
Use the internet! Skype! Seeing and hearing their dad/mom’s face and voice may affect the baby far more than you think.
Wrap your baby around with their absent parent’s clothes. Let your baby get used to the scent.
Even though babies are too young to process deployment, however, they’ll still notice the absence of one of their parents. Babies can feel their parent’s stress and anxiety.
They become ten times crankier when they sense it. So, it’s supremely important you stay calm and take good care of yourself first.
Toddlers can be a handful even if there is no deployed parent in the picture. It shouldn’t be too hard to imagine how they will behave when the parent IS deployed.
Unlike babies, toddlers can understand and remember things. They might not understand exactly what deployment is, but they’ll realize the absence of one of their parents. It’s a difficult conversation to have with a toddler.
It’s essential to sit with them before the deployment. Being in touch with them is also very important.
They need to be reassured that their deployed parent loves them immensely and will come back soon. Video calls, photographs, and messages go a long way for toddlers as well.
A kindergarten going military kid can be a different type of challenge to handle altogether. At this age, kids usually already have formed an attachment with their deployed parent.
It can be stressful for the parent staying behind. Having to play the role of an absent father/mother is no mean feat.
All the special games they might have played together, all the secrets shared, and the behavioral patterns they have associated with the absent parent can be a lot to take in.
Thus, have a one-on-one with your child. Explain to them as clearly as possible that this is a temporary phase and that their deployed parent will be back. Encourage them to stay connected.
Here are a few ways that can be done:
● Letters or Emails – Encourage them to write a letter to their dad/mom. Help them type up an email if they can process it.
● Performance charts – Make a chart listing all their achievements. It can be a little achievement like playing a new game, learning to swim, etc.
It’s a knotty situation to be in. Disciplining them can be complicated, especially when they’re testing your patience. They’ll often be unruly and rebellious at this age.
Kids act out when they are unable to express themselves properly. Having your partner be active throughout the deployment stage can help your kids be more compliant.
Plan with your partner to send occasional gifts to keep the kids in line. It’ll be an incentive for them to be in their best behavior.
School Going Kids
School going kids know what deployment is. It’s likely they’ll friends whose parents are also being deployed. So they’ll have a mutual understanding of the situation.
For your kids to understand what deployment is wins you half the battle. The best thing you both can do is be open to your children. It’s vital you and your partner do this before and also during the stages of deployment.
The goal here is to make your children understand that you’re cooperating as much as you can. They need your support and love to work through this.
Be their rock during these tough times and try to answer whatever questions they throw at you as gently and as patiently as possible. Be honest about who their dad or mom is, what they do, where he/she might be, and why.
At this age, kids follow routines comfortably. Keeping the environment just as it was during the pre-deployment days can pacify the matter.
Let them do what they normally did and try not to change anything too much. It helps them have a healthier mindset and less bitter towards you or their deployed parent.
It can be overwhelming for both father/mother and child after he comes home. Your child will want to spend time with him/her constantly. Let’s face it, parents need time to adjust as well.
Children, however, don’t really understand this. It’ll help to make a list of things they’ll want to do with the deployed parent after he/she gets back. They can both go over the list and choose what they’ll do that day. This will help them realize their parent’s effort and love.
The most important thing you need to remember is that communication is key. For this transition to work, it’s essential both parents participate together. Patience and a whole lot of faith go a long, long way.
*This is a guest post sent to Military Shoppers by Shawn R.
Stepheny is a content writer at FeedFond. Being a military spouse and an aspiring author, her life is like a jagged graph
-full of ups and downs! To read more of her articles, visit Feedfond.com.