I am contemplating a small booklet to address an issue that has come up in our own family twice, and I am guessing may have come up in yours. My grandson who is 4, refuses to talk to his deployed Daddy on the phone.
Our granddaughter also did this when he was deployed the first time, and she was about the same age. Now at 7 she can’t wait to talk to her Dad, but our son sure feels bad when his little boy will not talk with him.
Kids need to know that we hear what they are saying ( or not saying!) . When our granddaughter refused, I told her, I knew that she was unhappy about Daddy being gone but that Daddy was very sad not to talk to her. Her job as a military child, was to give him the gift of hearing her voice. This worked ,and she did begin to talk with him.
I can think of some reason the kids do this, maybe they do not want to feel what they feel, when they talk to Daddy and he is still gone.
Maybe they think, as our granddaughter confessed, that they will force Daddy to come home if they won’t talk.
A conversion about the realities of the military…that Dad is not choosing to be gone, but is required to fulfill his promise to defend our nation, can at least let them know it is not them.
Helping kids to connect with the deployed parent as much as is possible is the best thing to do. Keep the parents photo readily available, talk about him or her, make a homecoming box (see blog on homecoming box) and talk about things that will be shared once the parent returns home.
Kids do need to offer the gift of gab to their deployed parent, and though you cannot make them do it, you can let them know that it is hurtful behavior.
Help them by giving them things to say, after all if dad has been gone awhile , the child may not know what to say. Tell them that when the absent parent calls, they just need to say “I love you Daddy” and be content with that at first. Encourage them , when something great happens at daycare or elsewhere, say something like:”wow, lets tell dad about that when he calls next!” Then, you can remind them of what they wanted to tell, when he does call.
Don’t indulge the feelings of the little ones on this issue. Yes, they have a hard time, but it is never to early to help them see that their choices effect everyone around them, and they can choose to be compassionate helpers. Their job of giving love and encouragement to others is in their power!
I would love to hear if you have ever had to deal with this. What did you do? Did it help?