Deployment and Children
I can already sense the difference. I’ve been told that each deployment brings with it new challenges and that no two are the same. This time, I’m pretty sure, is going to be all about the children.
Daddy left for a month. And they fell apart. We entered the world of baby talk, bed wetting, and continuous tears (a world we had exited along with diapers over 2 years ago). One night our middle daughter nearly hyperventilated just desiring a hug from Dad.
I remember when John returned from his last deployment. Our then-2-year-old sat on his lap for an hour staring at him and then at the phone, then at him, then at the phone. It continued for a full hour until she seemed to realize that, yes, Daddy wasn’t just a voice. He was real and he was holding her. They were so little the last time. This time they know what’s coming and I see the fear in their eyes.
I’m searching the books on my shelves, the links I’ve been given, and calling to mind the advice I received before. One thing I do know. Being real about my emotions, seeking strength from my faith, and taking care of myself were essential components of surviving the first time around. Those same lessons I learned for my own well-being are the ones that I hope to pass on to my children.
There are some great resources out there. Both HealthyChildren.org and the US Department of Veterans Affairs give brief descriptions of what to look for in your children’s behavior and how to listen, protect, and openly discuss their feelings. The thing my children seem to love the most is when Daddy leaves a small army item in their care. It may be a camo pillow, an army cap, or an old PT shirt to sleep in. While he is gone, they enjoy receiving letters and trinkets as well as videos of him reading their favorite books.
What are some ways you have helped your children cope with deployment?