Monday, April 4, 2011

How do you prepare kids for deployments?

I thought this question was kind of appropriate given that April is Month of the Military Child! It amazes me how strong and resilient kids are...and especially military kids. My dad has a very VERY busy schedule when tax season rolls around. I can remember being a kid and missing him terribly on his late nights. But I had no clue what it was like to go 9 or 10 months straight without seeing my daddy. I honestly don't know if I would have handled that as well as what military kids do. Lucy always blows my mind like this. There are times when she screams out for her daddy in the middle of the night. That only happens when he is gone. But most of the time she will ask for him and I can say "Daddy's helping the other soldiers right now. He'll be back soon." To that she just smiles from ear to ear and says "Okay Mommy! Lets go to the mall now." Um, yeah...its scary she already knows that phrase!

She has yet to go the full length of a deployment with G.I. Joe though so I'm trying to start ahead of time compiling a list of things to do with her while he's gone and even things the three of us can do together before he leaves. (Its important for me to note something here to family reading this: we do NOT have any dates yet. Don't panic. This is just me trying to be a prepared Mommy because we all know many deployments lie ahead for our family.) 

So those mommies who have done deployments with young do you handle the time leading up to departure? I really can't wait to hear everyone's suggestions!



No Model Lady said...

I do not make it a big deal. I know it sounds callous, but if Spouse sits down with the boys and explains that he's going to be gone for a long time fighting bad guys, the boys will (and did) panic. So this time around we just talked about it pretty nonchalantly. Dad's going to help some people and he'll be gone for a while, but you'll have so much fun this summer visiting Grandma and Pops and we'll set up an email so you can write him!! Focus on the positive.

Anonymous said...

I HIGHLY suggest going to Military OneSource and looking at the Sesame Street video you can order (for FREE) about Daddy/Mommy leaving. We also have a Daddy Doll for Kai, and then I made a calendar for both James Bond and us, we both use stickers to count down until his return. We often take the calendar down just to look at pictures of Daddy.

Finally, everyone we spoke to told us not to tell Kai until almost a few days before James Bond left. Small children are so literal and we didn't want him to think Daddy was leaving right this second. I think that was the hardest part, waiting to tell him.

Best of luck "preparing," but remember there may come a point in the deployment where no amount of preparation will help you make your little one understand that Daddy still has a long time to go before coming home.

Amanda said...

We are preparing right now, today sa I type. My soldier is on Block Leave & we have planned several small family fun days.It's important for my kids to have dad stay here at home with them during the majority of his leave. I take a ton of pictures of them doing everyday things. Last night two of them where in his chair with him listening to music on the laptop & laughing- so I snapped a quick picture. Right before he goes I will compile all these pictures into a photobook on Shutterfly-LOVE THIS SITE!! Then this Photobook will sit out on our coffee table everyday of the deployment so any of my 4 kids can take a peek & remember at any time.
We also do short trips with friends on weekends that within driving distance- the Oregon Shore is a very popular choice- most Hotels do a Military discount. It distracts & makes memories they can tell dad about on Skype.

Brianna Renee said...

We're about a month into our first full length deployment...we have a 2 and a half year old boy and another girl on the way. I've been really surprised at how well the boy has taken it. Last year we had a 6 month separation for training and the boy would have nightmares from time to time and call out for Daddy but so far we haven't had anything like that. I think he was old enough to be better prepared this time. We used the Seasame St Deployment Prep DVD (HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT). We're not big on Seasame St normally, in fact the boy has only seen one real episode so I was a little concerned he wouldn't connect with the characters but he did and it really worked. Now when he misses Daddy, he'll say "Daddy too far away" ...we told him Daddy was going far away to help people and now at night he'll look for the moon and I'll remind him that Daddy can see it too. It's really been great. I wrote a post about the night we told the boy and if you're interested here's the link

Sammie said...

I don't have any suggestions--but thanks for this post! We just found out we have a deployment coming up VERY SOON, and this is our first. Need some suggestions on how to prepare our three year old :)

Jessica said...

The main thing we did leading up to deployments is spend time together as a family talking about what was about to take place. We talked about where daddy was going. We talked about why daddy had to go (because he is protecting our country-tried to keep it in simple terms and on their level) We talked about how long it would be for (though the concept of time is hard for them to grasp)
We asked them questions to make sure they understood (as much as they possibly could) We asked them if they had questions for us (sometimes they did and still do)
The best advise I can give you is communication. Talk to your child and encourage her to talk/ask questions.
Good for you for preparing =)

Mrs. G.I. Joe said...

Those are great ideas! One thing we work really hard at that seems to help each time G.I. Joe leaves for anything is that I take Lucy out of the house anytime he has to pack or load a truck with his stuff. She never sees that so the sense of impending doom seems to skip over her. She's mostly oblivious until he actually has to leave.

Wife on the Roller Coaster said...

This is such a tough question because every kid is different. What might work for one, may not work for another. My kids are 3 and 7, and we've never made a big deal out of daddy "going on a trip." We don't use the word deployment or war. We also wait until about a week before the departure date to tell the kids about the trip. I think about how much anxiety I have with that kind of knowledge floating around in my brain for weeks, and I don't want to burden the kids.

I know this doesn't help much, but my best advice is follow your Lucy's lead. Give hugs when she needs them. Give information (however limited) when she asks for it. Spend lots of quality time together and take lots of pictures so she can look at them.

I loved the other comments, and I'm looking forward to seeing what other people say. Good luck!

The Heart of the Home said...

Mostly it depends on your child's personality and what you do to prepare them. They understand more than we think they do even as little ones.
For us telling our son and talking with him helped him and it still does.
I highly recommend Operation We Are Here's website. It was started by a friend and fellow Chaplain's wife and is full of great resources.
Our first deployment was when our son was not quite 3 years old and we were new to active duty. Below are some things we did for that deployment.

~My husband made a video talking to our son like he would talk to him every day. It was almost an hour long and our son watched it numerous times during the deployment.
~My husband also made a tape recording reading several of our son's favorite books. That way Daddy could "read to him" each night if he wanted.
~We hung a world map in our son's room, next to his bed. We taped pictures of family and Daddy with a thin ribbon pointing to the places everyone was. It also helped him to see Daddy was "over the ocean." We would look at that map a lot.
~My husband left in the wee hours of the morning the first deployment. We woke our son up so he would know and see Daddy leaving. Though he was sleepy he did remember that. We chose that because had he woken up the next morning and Daddy was suddenly gone he would have been so upset...Ballistic is a term that comes to mind. *grin*
~One of our friends did something I thought was precious. Their Dad told them that every night they saw the moon to go get their kisses he had left for them and they could leave kisses for him on it. It helped their girls understand that Daddy was where he saw the moon before them. Even on cloudy nights he told them they could still get their kisses because the moon would leave the kisses for them in the clouds. If it was raining, then the moon was sending their kisses in the rain to them. It was sweet. That way they could get something from Daddy no matter where they were. :-)

On our second deployment our son was older but we did all the above plus we ordered him a Daddy Doll. You can find out about them on OWAH's site. That was perhaps one of the best things we ever did. Our son still has his Daddy Doll and though he's 11 years old now we still find it in bed with him sometimes. :-)

Every child is different so you do have to know your child's personality but these were some of the things we did. I just wish I had OWAH for the first deployment but she and I were in our first deployments as spouses together! :-)

Hope any of this helps.