Deployment and extension, how do we tell the kids? Making deployment a time of growth for young children

August 28, 2008 | Categrory: being an American, kids and deployment, making deployment a time of growth for young children, military families, military kids, parenting

In reading several posts lately, I have seen the struggle of young families that have weathered the time of deployment only to find that the time has been extended. Now their parent will not be coming home on the long awaited day. It has made me rethink, and adjust a bit, some of the things that a parent can do while preparing a child for deployment. When a parent is preparing to deploy, the child needs to hear the truth, talk, be allowed to ask questions, to cry, or be angry, but, quickly upon the heels of that needs to be

” how will we cope with this together?” and ” a military family is resilient” (we bounce back!)

Try ro resist the common psycobabble of focusing on the child’s fears and feelings. They are looking to you to see if this is going to be alright, if they will survive this new life hurdle. You, as a parent will set the tone for how the child accepts deployment. Not that you ignore the fears and feelings, just don’t dwell there and indulge the child in that place.

In an earlier post I mentioned a paper chain that can be symbolic of each week a parent is gone. I am now thinking that the chain, and the weekly note to their daddy , is still good,  I would not let them believe that the last link of the chain will bring him dancing through the door.

Be honest with children. You can say ;”we are making a chain , it is about how long daddy will be gone, but we really do not know for sure how long the  (army, navy marines,air force, ) will need him”. Teach children that there are some things that can be promises, like ” I promise to love you everyday”;,” I promise to write to you while I am gone “(not everyday, you won’t be able to do that) .” I promise that I will pray for you, will you pray for me?” These are promises you can keep, and that is how your child learns to trust you. Whatever you say “I promise” to (and there should not be very many things) you need to carry out.

When a child says, “promise you will not die”, that is not a promise any of us can keep. At war or at home we have no control over that one. You can tell a child ” well, I will be careful and do everything I can to be safe” Please  do it!

Focus on the sacrifice you all make as a military family, the honor in serving our nation, the fact that important things cannot always come to an end, until they come to an end. Focus on the purpose of being a military family and give the children meaningful work to help out. Even very young children can fold a towel, dust a table or feed the cat, tell them that it makes it easier when the other parent is gone when they do these things. Let them feel proud of a real contribution .

Talk about the word promise, and remind a child, you cannot promise what day you will return home, but you can promise to love him every day. You can promise that they will not be forgotten by you. You can be real in that , there may be days you plan to call, but things can get busy and you may have to wait. Tell them, that if they have to wait, it is not becasue they are not important, but becasue they are, and you are defending the things they enjoy in living in America. Acknowledge that it is not easy to be a military kid, but you are proud of them, and they really do serve too!

If you have already made a promise that has been broken by circumstances beyond your control, just tell them that a promise is different from a hope. It was a hope that you would be home, but now you are sorry, and need to finish this important job. If you are honest, and reassure them of your love and commitment to them, they will learn valuable lessons about what can be promised and what can not. It will begin to teach them that they can bounce back again and again!