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military kids

Military

Connecting Kids And Deployed Parents

April 26, 2017

Happy Wednesday! I am so excited to have a guest post to cap off the Month of the Military Child-Grace is fantastic and has some wonderful tips for helping children deal with deployment.  Make sure to visit her at her blog as well. 

We have all seen those heartwarming pictures and videos of service members meeting their babies for the first time when returning home from deployments. They are the sweetest thing! But most parents know their kids before they leave for deployment. There is already a bond formed there, one that is most often a crucial relationship, an important influence in children’s lives.

Having worked in a couple of different military communities as a family counselor, I have seen how difficult it can be for children with a deployed parent – often there may be some small behavioral issues at home and school, decrease in school performance, decline in sleep leading to crabby and cranky kids, and an increase in anxiety. Most times these behaviors are not severe and often correct themselves after a few weeks or months of the deployed parents’ absence. And since deployment is hard on us spouses as well, often we are more anxious, aren’t getting enough sleep leading to cranky moms, lack a healthy diet, and diverted attention to more responsibilities.

However, there are ways to mitigate some of those negative effects of parental absence due to deployment, TDY, training, or field time. Making sure to keep deployed parents and children connected is crucial to the children’s wellbeing and to decrease the negative effects of parental absence. As you know most military kids grow up without any lasting impact from these separations so know that the effects are temporary, even if it is hard!

Here are some ways I have seen effective at keeping children connected to their deployed parents.

  1. Phone calls and/or video chats as often as possible. I know this depends on the service members’ jobs, locations, if they are deployed, training or in the field. Some service members I have talked to said they would rather not have video or phone contact back home so that they can push family out of their minds and operate unemotionally while deployed. While I understand their reasoning as a soldier/sailor/marine/airman, it makes it so much harder on the family back home. Having little to no contact can make reintegration that much more difficult, if all ties have been cut for that extended length. It is also hard for kids to understand why suddenly they have no contact with mom or dad. By having any communication – phone calls, video chats, texts, emails, or even just letters allows children comfort knowing their parent is safe and can maintain a connection to them. Any connection is better than no connection.
  2. Deployment walls have also become a big thing lately. This is a great way to maintain connection for older children who already read, write and tell time, maybe not as helpful for toddlers. Having folders where kids can leave their school work, letters, and pictures for mom or dad lets them feel like they are still able to share their days with their deployed parent. In addition to that I suggest having the away parent take pictures of them in their new surroundings to share with the kids and put up on the deployment wall. The multiple clocks showing the time in both places helps the kids imagine what their deployed parent is doing – is he sleeping? Is mommy eating a meal? Etc. Having information about the area of the world the parent has been sent to can also help children learn about a new culture but can also understand what their parents are doing while away.
  3. I love the Hallmark books or other books with the voice recorder so that mom or dad can still read to them or tell them stories. Build-a-Bear also has a voice recording device that can be put into the stuffed animals. Having the tangible item to carry with them can be a great comfort to little children, infants and toddlers.
  4. Finally, the last thing you can do to help your child maintain a connection with their deployed parent is talk to them about their absent parent. If you have a conversation with them while they are at school or asleep share it with them. Tell them what daddy said, share how mommy is doing. And remember that if they are acting out they are not doing it to hurt you or make your life harder; they miss mommy or daddy just like you miss your spouse. Be understanding and patient (trust me, I know how hard that is when you are spread so thin) but try your hardest to be patient.

As rough as deployments and separations are there are ways to make it less difficult for both you and our children. By taking steps to ease the worries and stress your children you can help relieve your own anxiety as well. As parents we often feel responsible for our children’s emotions; we want them to be happy and healthy, even when circumstances are not ideal. When they are upset, it upsets us as parents; any way we can help keep our children connected to their deployed parents will help them feel less upset, anxious and stressed throughout the deployment. So find any way you can help your children stay connected, and it will make it an easier deployment for everyone.

Grace Lipscomb is an Army wife and a family counselor with an emphasis in marriage and family counseling. She is trying to get her foot in the door to provide services for troops and family members. She is currently a volunteer intern with the Family Life Chaplain at Fort Benning, seeing service members and their families. You can find her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Military

Books for Military Kids

April 19, 2017

One of the main ways I learned growing up was through books. Whether it was traveling to another place or time or learning about different groups of people, books helped me make sense of parts of the world I didn’t understand. It makes perfect sense that books can work the same way for military kids and their lifestyle. There are a lot of books for military kids out there and I collected a few of my favorites in honor of the Month of the Military Child.

Night Catch has extremely positive online reviews and beautiful illustrations. The story follows a little boy who plays a nightly game of catch with his deployed dad thanks to the North Star.  I think it does a great job reminding little ones that even if daddy isn’t physically present, he’s still thinking of them.

I included Paper Hug because of how neatly it ties into having kids help with care packages. You can read the book with your little one and then work to create your own paper hug to send in your next care package.

I Miss You! is more of an activity book than a storybook and is probably for slightly older children.  I think it would be great for the soon-to-be deployed parent and child to go through it together prior to the deployment. It will be a good conversation starter, especially for children who can’t quite express their concerns yet.

Most books for military kids deal with a deployed father, but My Military Mom focuses on another version of a military family and I really like that. All too often, we forget that those at home may include a dad instead of a mom. If this book fits your family’s situation, I definitely recommend it.

I had to include one about a Navy family and Red, White and Blue Good-Bye is just that.  I like that the little girl is feisty and tries to hide her dad’s boots in order to keep him home. Those little touches make the book and characters more relatable to children who may very well try the same thing.

H is for Honor is last on my list of books for military kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s my least favorite. The illustrations are gorgeous and the book has a lot of information in it. It’s probably a bit long for little kids; it’s recommended for grades 1-4, but I would say it’s probably better for grades 3-5, depending on your kid’s attention span. I like that it covers more topics than just deployment and incorporates all the branches so there’s something for everyone.

Books for military kids may not cover every unknown of the military lifestyle, but they can go a long way to getting the conversation started, especially when they’re about difficult topics. Do you have any favorite books for military kids? Share them in the comments!