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Connect With Your Kids During Deployment

130126-Z-XH297-545		A soldier shares a hug and says his goodbye during a farewell ceremony at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., on Jan. 26, 2013.  The soldier, assigned to the South Carolina Army National Guard, will head to Fort Hood, Texas, to train before deploying to Afghanistan.  DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago, U.S. Army.  (Released)

Serving in the armed forces comes with a unique set of circumstances for each member, but it is especially difficult for those who are actively deployed in either different parts of the United States, or throughout the world. Adding your own family into the mix, such as a spouse or children, can make it even more difficult to deal with the prospects of staying away for months and even years at a time in some circumstances. With children, it can be especially difficult, even more so when they are young. They will have lots of questions regarding why their parent is away, when will they be able to see them again and what they are doing.

As a parent serving in the military, it will be doubly important that you establish connections with your children before, during and after your deployment. Fostering these connections can help create a bond that will extend even when you cannot see your children every day. Fortunately, technology also plays a large part in being able to speak or communicate with your children regularly. Let’s take a look at some ways to build relationships and connect during deployment.

Once you find out that your deployment is coming, one of the first things you should do is take the time to plan specific moments or hangouts with your children. Plan in advance to engage in activities together as a family, such as going to a theme park, or choosing an event that requires you to spend time in a fun and bonding way.

In addition, take some time to sit down with your children and explain to them what your job is, or as much as you are allowed to explain. Tell them where you are going, talk to them about the reason for your deployment and allow them to ask questions. When you get your children involved and help them to understand the nature of why you are leaving, it can usually help bring you closer together and improve how they respond to the situation. Also make sure to give them information on how they can reach you while you are away.

Social media and technology can also play a very important role in maintaining a close connection with your child or children. Skype or FaceTime allows one to speak to each other through video chat capabilities, which is a very useful and allows you to experience facial expressions, voice and feel at home. Email is also a useful alternative, as well as hand-written letters or sending packages. Social media can sometimes be useful as well, such as Facebook or Instagram; it will largely depend on the secrecy and nature of your deployment, so it will make sense to check ahead of time on what the regulations will be concerning what you will be able to engage in due to security concerns.

Spending time alone with each child, if you have several, could provide a unique bonding opportunity for them, and bring you closer together for the set amount of time that you will be away on deployment. Get creative with what each child specifically likes, and try to set up times to find some activities they will really enjoy.

Counseling is another good avenue to take in order to help deal with the emotions that come along with leaving for a deployment. Mental health facilities such as SBC Wilmington are able to provide resources for family counseling: http://sbcwilmington.com/families/ .

Deployment is never easy, but if you are able to spend time planning on ways to connect better with your children, it will likely provide a better experience, for you, your children and your family.

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