Your spouse just left for a six-month deployment. Fear bubbles up inside. You think of all the possible scenarios, and you pray for his safe return. Then you look down to see your children’s little tear-stained faces. Again, you think of all the possible scenarios, and you pray for them (and for your own sanity). You turn around, and you whisper to yourself, “S— just got real.” But guess what, you can do this! And, you can do more than just keep yourself and your children afloat during this challenge. You can own that deployment with kids!
Talk to People
Even if you enjoy your quiet little bubble, you may find your bubble a little too quiet with your spouse gone. Find people to connect with, even if you don’t really need anything (advice, wine refills, etc.). Do it for your own sanity. Your family, friends, colleagues, and, perhaps most importantly, all those wives within your spouse’s unit can be great resources.
Make a Deployment Wall
Newsflash: Teaching the concept of time and distance to a 4-year-old is not easy, but Pinterest is your friend. To make a deployment wall, you have to first pick a wall. Hang two inexpensive wall clocks up near the top, one set to your time, the other to daddy’s time. Your children may not know what the clock says, but using a visual aid — something you can point to — really helps.
Next, find a dry-erase world map. Track daddy’s journey, make a heart or circle around his deployment location and draw a line connecting home and daddy. Below the map, you can hang a small calendar and mark the important dates with words or pictures. Every night before bed, cross out the day to show you’re one day closer to daddy coming home.
Finally, next to the calendar, hang a file folder. This is where your kids can drop pictures or trinkets to send to daddy. Once a month, put them in a care package and send them to daddy.
Get a Daddy Doll
Silly and gimmicky? Maybe. But, they work. You can even get them with a prerecorded message, so not only can your kids see a mini version of daddy, they can hear his voice with the push of a button.
Read Books, Books, and More Books
Not sure how to explain deployments? No problem, someone has already found the words and published them. You actually have a lot of titles to choose from. Order a few kid-friendly deployment books or snag the free books on Military OneSource, your local installation, or the at the library.
Skype and FaceTime are perhaps two of the best inventions that ever hit military life, and they make a deployment with kids more manageable than ever before. There’s no more slumming it by putting the phone directly to your ear (anyone remember satellite phones — yuck) or penning a letter like grandma used to. Today, our military kids can actually see daddy.
No matter how excited your kids are — especially the younger ones — to see and talk to daddy, it usually lasts all of two seconds. Here’s how it goes: “Hi, Daddy! I had a good day. I lov—” then they’re off to find something else to do. So, turn video chats into playtime. Slip a Lego set (or your child’s favorite toy) into the next care package and buy the same set for home. The next time you chat, your kids and husband can build and play together, buying time for a conversation longer than seven words.
Find a Routine and Keep Busy
Being busy makes it harder to worry about your husband and feel sorry for yourself, and getting into a new routine quickly makes a world of difference for your kiddos. You may even notice it helps your deployed spouse — knowing everyone back home is busy having fun makes it easier to focus on the mission.
School, sports, lessons, playdates, story time, annual passes to museums or aquariums, and seasonal events, like strawberry picking or holiday festivities, can fill your days and pass the time without wasting it. No matter where you are, you can always find something to do!
Let’s face it; deployments are hard. A deployment with kids is like next-level challenging. But, deployments don’t have to be miserable! By establishing a routine, finding things to do, talking to others, and helping your kiddos understand and cope with a parent being gone, you can survive a deployment with kids. And — dare I say it — you may even have some fun!
Photo Credits: Deep Blue Iris Photography