When parents have decided that divorce is the best decision for their relationship, children must deal with the emotional and physical changes that they will undergo in their daily lives. Military deployment presents even more challenges for both the parents and the children as it could cause stress, doubt, and uncertainty to develop within the family unit.
Since deployed parents will not be there to watch their children play in a sports game or hear about all the fun they had at a party or during the school day, children are incredibly vulnerable when separated from their parents. However, deployed parents can certainly stay connected with their children through various methods.
With some creativity, even while deployed, there are many ways that parents can be a major part of their children’s lives.
Ways for deployed parents to stay connected
If you have been deployed and have access to a laptop or smartphone with Wi-Fi, FaceTime and Skype are great and free communication tools. As your schedule allows, arrange regular times to connect face-to-face using these tools. Mark them on your calendar, and set that time aside. The parent or guardian at home with the children should not let anything get in the way of this bonding time.
If scheduling a specific time is difficult because of your assignment, you can record yourself reading a favorite bedtime story or singing a song so it can be played before bed. It is very important for young children and infants to hear their parents’ voices on a regular basis, and this will be a way for them to hear you even when you cannot be there.
You can take notes and document special messages to your children. These can be either emailed or texted as their schedule allows during deployment.
You can mail a written letter or note every couple of weeks and include a photo of them. Children will look forward to receiving the mail written out to them personally. Consider including a tshirt or a scarf with your cologne or perfume, or even just your regular detergent. There is science that shows the link between smell and emotion, so something that “smells like you” may be comforting while you’re away.
Ways to help children cope at home
Children at home will react in a variety of ways to a parent being away on duty. The guardian or parent at home watching the children at the time that their parent is away on duty should talk about their deployed parent daily to keep their memory present. Family will need to be there for them to support their feelings and help them understand. Here are some ways:
- Be sure to help the child stay in contact with their deployed parent as much as possible.
- Let children know that they have family support if they need to talk or feel stressed and alone.
- The guardian or parent at home should seek advice from a counselor if they feel a child is not coping well and needs additional support.
- Photos of the children’s deployed parent should be visible around the house and included in their school bag during their school day (for school-age children).
- The parent or guardian home with the children should help them make notes or keep a journal on what they have done each day so they can go over them when they have a scheduled phone or video call with their deployed parent.
- Children can mail drawings and artwork they made to their deployed parent as a special gift for them that they can display in their room while they are away.
- Children can gather photos and videos of day-to-day activities and special events and share them with their deployed parent on their face-to-face calls with them.
- Children at home can make a book of memories and share with them on their return to relive these special moments together.
- Keep a countdown calendar for their return from duty so children can visually see how many days are left for their return.
- Have a countdown with the children for the next face-to-face call with their deployed parent. Make an effort to make it special for them in some way.
- Plan a special vacation when the deployed parent returns home.
- Always answer children’s questions honestly if they ask about their deployed parents’ role while away. Be brief but keep them informed at an age appropriate level if they ask questions. Talk with them openly about the deployed parents location and job and why their role is so important.
- Since this time will be challenging for children of any age, it is best to keep their routine as normal as possible. Do not make any major changes at home or at school. Keep normal family traditions and rituals the same at home to keep these memories alive.
Since the deployment will affect the children emotionally, you may notice a change in their behavior and/or attitude. The best thing to do when this occurs is to have an open conversation often with your child both before and during deployment so they know that they are loved, supported, and cared for even while away. Parents should still be their shelter during this time. It is important to let them know that they are sad and miss them too. It is okay to talk about it, be upset about the situation, and cry.
Even though deployment makes the physical connection of parenting difficult, there are still a variety of ways to keep that parent-child connection alive and strong!
A quick note for parents: The parent or guardian at home should always keep the deployed parent involved in any health issues, sicknesses, school issues, etc. Although the parent away on duty may not be there for their children in-person, they still need to be a part of their children’s lives and any important decisions.
Do you have questions about family law issues as they relate to serving in the military? The military family law attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter have experience with military divorces and all other military family law issues. We are here for you in Knoxville if you need us. Call our office at (865) 637-6258, or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.
Patrick Slaughter is an experienced Knoxville attorney passionate about helping families resolve legal issues including divorce, family law matters and immigration. Patrick graduated from Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law, summa cum laude and is a published author. Patrick is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association. Contact Patrick Slaughter at (865) 637-6258 or by filling out a case evaluation below.
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