Our guest post today is from Ann Marie, an Army wife, who is currently stationed in Germany. A SAHM of 3 children under age 4, her hobbies (when she has time!) include blogging, photography, cooking, sewing, and gardening. You can find her at her writing at Thoughts and Musings of Ann Marie.
Deployments with small children
I am a relatively “new” military wife, in that we’ve only been married about 5 years… but you could call me a somewhat “seasoned” army wife, in that my husband has deployed to Iraq 3 times and we just had our third baby! For this article I will often be referring to my “soldier” and “daddy” being deployed – I do realize there are both men and women deployed in all the branches of our armed forces – it’s just for simplicities sake. 🙂
I am no expert when it comes to deployments… but I can share what we have done in our family to help our children cope with Daddy being away. One important lesson I have learned is that I have to take care of myself in order to care for our children – this doesn’t mean a daily facial and large portions of chocolate covered strawberries…. Getting enough rest, some sort of exercise routine, eating healthy, and spending time with other spouses are a few good suggestions. Once a week during this last deployment, I would put my two boys in daycare for 4 hours. This was MY time… I could run errands, catch up on household chores, or just take a hot bubble bath and paint my toes… As parents, we often put ourselves last on the list – but if you don’t keep refilling your cup, you can’t overflow into your children.
Infants (birth to 2yrs.)
While I was pregnant with our first child, I recorded my husband reading stories to my belly. While Daddy is deployed, I play it at bedtime – so our children fall asleep listening to him tell stories. I also saved some of his worn t-shirts, put them in freezer Ziploc bags, and periodically pull them out during the deployment so our children are familiar with his smell… (not stinky BO smell! but nice Daddy-Man smell!) I also have pictures everywhere… literally everywhere… I print 8×10 pictures with our printer, and hang them on the fridge, closet doors, and even sideways by the changing table… everywhere our little people spend time.
Young children (2-4yrs)
Sesame street has created a wonderful video series called “Talk, Listen, Connect” to help young children understand deployment. (They are free to download from their website.) The also have great suggestions for activities for while your soldier is deployed – print out calendars and make Xs on days until homecoming or talk to Daddy on the phone or via webcam if possible.
There are lots of different organizations such as Operation Hug-a-Hero and Dog Tags for Kids where you can order things to help your children stay connected with their deployed soldier. There are also many new children’s books about deployment that can help your child express some of what they are going through (search children deployment on amazon and you’ll find a ton).
The internet is a good place to find information and resources to help you and your child cope with deployment. Here are a few good links I discovered while researching this post:
If you are a military family who has been through a deployment – What are the things that really helped you? What did you learn about your children? How did you stay connected?