While my husband is deployed, how can I help my children cope?
No two children — even within the same family — will react to a parent's deployment in exactly the same way. There are a few things, though, that all children seem to benefit from when their world suddenly changes.
The first is a sense of stability. In the face of big changes, even small things that stay the same — like a simple bedtime or mealtime routine — can be extremely reassuring.
The second is an acknowledgment of their feelings — both the good and the bad. When a parent leaves, kids may experience a whole range of emotions, from pride to fear to anger. Help yours express their strongest feelings. Drawing pictures, writing letters, or keeping a journal are all great ways to do this.
Keep in mind that kids who feel angry usually are upset by the situation and those perceived as causing it, even though they might express their anger toward others.
Third, kids need to maintain a bond with the parent who's away. Whether it's writing letters, looking at pictures and videos, saying a special prayer, counting down days on a calendar, finding where mommy or daddy is on a map, or making a scrapbook, creative ways to stay connected are important.
And finally, children need the remaining parent to stay emotionally healthy. It's easy to feel exhausted and overwhelmed when you're handling everything on your own. Offset those negative feelings by taking good care of yourself and getting extra support from relatives, friends, and other military families who've been in your shoes — particularly if you're finding it hard to give your kids the positive attention they need.
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: July 2013