When my husband deployed, I thanked my lucky stars that we were living in the 21st century. My beloved was often just a keyboard and computer screen away.
I immediately thought about my grandparents: continents away during World War II and communicating through unreliable snail mail. Deployments were a lot longer then, too. The troops were gone for years sometimes, with very little communication to the folks back home.
Today, we have an app for that!
There are more ways to connect than you can imagine and military families have found or tried many of them. From video chats to instant messaging services, from email to virtual reading programs, there is something out there for everyone. Most of these online communication services can be accessed right from a smartphone or laptop, anywhere in the world!
The benefits of online communication really boil down to just one thing: connections.
Every time a unit deploys, that means that many military families are operating without one parent for months at a time. The parent at home takes on twice the work with less down time. Suddenly, one person is in charge instead of two.
For that parent, being able to reach out to their deployed spouse can help to make solo parenting that much easier. When a child has a great success, it can be shared and cheered together. Or when a child has a not-so-great moment, the parents can plan together on how to handle it and show a united front.
For military children, online communication keeps them connected to their deployed parent.
When there is a big win or a bad day, a child can immediately email Mom or Dad to share their feelings. Or they can message them. Or use a video call.
Just seeing their parent’s face keeps those channels of communication open and operational. When a child relies on one parent for so long, it could be easy to see the other as not a part of the game. This can make it harder for everyone when the deployment is finally over.
With quality online communication, both parents are on the team at the same time. They are making joint decisions and working together as a family to handle every situation.
That online connection can start even before or at birth. With the heavy deployment cycle of the last 15 years, many service members have been “present” for the birth of a child via video. Sharing something so precious, from so far away, is priceless.
While a parent deploys, families often are also far from grandparents, aunts and uncles. Virtual connections via online communication can help here too. Many military children grow up seeing Grandma and Grandpa via video chat or through shared online photo albums. Having these avenues open, during deployments or not, is vital to keeping extended families connected across the miles. Online communication provides networks and resources to draw on, no matter where military families are located.
Even small things, like the locations of documents or tools, can be almost instantly shared through online messages or emails. So when the car inevitably breaks down or the washer needs a part, searching for the insurance or manuals won’t add another stressor to the situation.
Ultimately, the benefits of online communication come down to one main thing: connections. Yes, there are thousands of little intangibles that make up the idea. The soccer game live streamed to the middle of the Pacific. Christmas morning presents via Skype. Seeing a family vacation from across the world. All of these little moments that are shared together online create connections through communication.
For military families, keeping their connections alive during deployment is the biggest benefit of all.