Although reactions will vary based on a child’s personality and age, a parent’s deployment will be a confusing time for most children. It’s best to begin communication about the deployment early. Take small steps. Instead of concentrating on the total length of deployment, break up the time into manageable chunks. Military leaders and family readiness groups suggest speaking about deployments in three stages:
Pre-deployment: receiving orders to day of departure
Deployment: day of departure to homecoming
Post-deployment and reunion: homecoming and reunion
During pre-deployment, do things to make sure your kids fully understand the idea of deployment. Get maps and show your children where in the world their Soldier parent will be while away. Spend as much time with them as they need to grasp this idea.
Once deployed, do fun activities like keeping track of the days to post-deployment with a calendar and construction paper chain where they can rip off a piece for each day the parent is gone. The excitement of seeing the pieces disappear can make the passing of time a bit easier.
The DoDLive website offers more tips for preparing children for deployment at DoDLive.mil/2011/08/12/family-focus-friday-preparing-children-for-deployment, and Sesame Street for Military Families offers a host of resources for helping young children deal with parent deployments at SesameStreetForMilitaryFamilies.org/topic/deployments.
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