Making Deployment a Time of Growth for Young Children:The Homecoming Box

June 16, 2008 | Categrory: celebrations, kids and deployment, making deployment a time of growth for young children, military families, parenting

This is about a project I showed to some parents at Ft. Carson this past weekend. I call it the Homecoming Box. The idea is to get a good sized box, maybe a covered one, or one you create with the kids, just as long as it looks special. The one I used has red, white and blue theme on it. Over the time of deployment, say a year, you will collect tangible symbols of important events, thoughts, stories, that you would like to share with the deployed parent.

When the parent returns (thus the name homecoming box) you can take one symbol out of the box at dinnertime, and tell the stories that go with it.

The purpose of the Homecoming box is multiple. One, the deployed parent knows you are collecting memories on their behalf, they will not miss out on everything. Secondly, the spouse and children have an ongoing project that causes them to think about their loved one in every situation…”What can we put in the box to help Dad know what this day was like?” Another benefit is that when a child wants dad there, and is not consoled by words, the search for the best possible symbol for the box allows the child to actively do something to preserve the memory.

For example when the child loses a tooth, you can do the tooth fairy thing, but ask the tooth fairy to leave the tooth. The tooth goes into the Homecoming Box. Later when the tooth is brought forth, not only can the child express to the parent, that he has lost his tooth, but the parent can participate in this little milestone, by a repeat tooth fairy visit!

The box will be unique to your family, here are a few more ideas:small symbolic items like a little wooden canoe, for a trip to the lake,the bracelet from the hospital that was on your newborns wrist, the ribbon from field day, a photo of the prize winning artwork, or the paper with a good grade from school. Birthday candles from the cake, or a favor that tells the theme, the binky the 3 year old gave up while the parent was away, a note that tells a cute thing a child said, a photo of a special day, a toy that reminds the child of a story he wanted dad to read him when he got home….you get the idea…
The question to your child when he/she is missing daddy, “what can we put in the box to let him know how you feel?”, maybe its a small paper heart, a drawing of what the child is missing, a note. You will think of many things we can’t even imagine, some things become a family joke, or an “inside story”, that is what you are aiming for. Kids participate as you ask, what can we put in our homecoming box? They will have their own good ideas!

These boxes can fill some space, bring a moment back that seemed lost because of deployment. It does not have to be gone, if you choose to capture a bit of it to share.