Military deployment is hard for the whole family. While the military service member is the one most affected by the separation, the whole family feels the loss. As the service member prepares to move out and be separated from the family, anxiety can start to build up. You know that you will not see each other for a few months, sometimes a year. The prospect of a very long separation can make one feel very depressed.
You spouse or partner who will be left behind will have to bear the brunt of raising the family alone. Your kids will have to deal with the absence of a parent. And your parents, they will have to get used to the constant worry that comes with having a child in the middle of a battlefield.
The truth is, the sacrifice that comes with your deployment is not exclusive. Everyone who loves you will feel the pain, worry, and danger that you will have to face. This is why preparing for deployment should be a family affair.
Here are a few things you can look into to help you manage this difficult time in your life.
Preparing your emotions
The days leading to a deployment can be emotionally distressing. It can affect your mood and relationship. Instead of having a good time during the days leading up to your deployment, you will feel a sense of dread, anxiety, and stress.
Here are a few tips to get a hold of your emotions as you manage your deployment issues.
Get as much details as you can
A great way to manage your stress before deployment is to let the family know as much as they can about the deployment. Discuss where you will be deployed or how long you will be there. Try to look at the beautiful sights in the area and do not dwell too much on the hostile territory. Admittedly, it might be tough to get enough information about the details of the deployment because of security protocols so concentrate on the location instead.
Talk about communication plans
Before deployment, you need to agree on how you will communicate with each other. Will you send an email every day or once a week? Will you have regular chat dates or use regular mail?
Plan activities in the coming months
Discuss what you will do while the other is deployed. For the one left behind, you can start a new hobby, work at home or come up with fun activities with the kids. Create a schedule of activities that will span the period of deployment. That should help the family live on and look forward to something rather than just idly sitting by and waiting for the days to go by.
Be transparent with your emotions
You need to talk to your partner about how you truly feel and ask them to do the same. Acknowledging your feelings can help both of you work together in resolving any issues that may arise while one of you is deployed.
Seek out support groups
A military spouse can benefit from social groups and even counseling services. These can help you cope while your partner is away. Some of these are available specifically for a military family members.
Meet other people who went through the same ordeal
Identify other people who already went through deployment and talk to them about how they coped with the situation. You might even find a military family with a deployed loved one in the same unit as yours. Talking to them can help you manage your anxiety and worry. This is a great way to build relationships and a support system.
Spend quality time as a couple
Stock up on some quality time with your spouse or partner. This does not have to a very expensive vacation. You simply have to be together. Go on several dates together – just the two of you. Choose to spend time doing everyday things like cooking and watching tv so you can hold on to these memories as you go through your normal day.
Spend time with the kids
If you have kids, make sure you spend quality time with them as well. Go and play with them in the backyard or help them with their school work. This will help them cope with the months that they will be away.
Spend time with extended family
Do not forget your extended family too. Your parents, siblings, and even close friends. Allot some bonding time with them because these are the people who will help the family during deployment. They can be a great support network for your loved ones.
Preparing your home
There are also some tasks that you need to complete or prepare before deployment. Ideally, you want to take care of these things because it will help everyone adjust to the coming changes that the family will go through. Here are a few items you need to discuss with your loved one before deployment.
Make sure all your legal documents are organized, filed properly, and signed. This is necessary for worst case scenarios. If you have a will, make sure it is updated. Special power of attorney, or bank account access should also be up to date.
Communication is important to make a long distance relationship thrive. You need to be in constant contact with each other. Thankfully, that is easier to do in the digital age. Those who will be left at home should have the details of who to call on base in case of an emergency. Not all deployments are the same. That means the contact details will change as well. Make sure your family is updated before deployment date.
An emergency can happen anytime. Make sure the whole family is aware of what to do when there is an emergency situation. In case it happens during school hours, the kids should know where to go to reunite with the rest of the family. And in case of a fire, even the kids should be aware of how to use a fire extinguisher. These emergency plans will help everyone keep safe and calm.
During deployment, the spouse that stays back home will have to shoulder most of the financial management tasks. All the bills have to be paid and all financial responsibilities met. Any car loans, mortgage, credit card bills, and other loan accounts should be taken cared of. Of course, there is the option to set up automatic payments – this will make financial management easier to accomplish.
Explore second-income opportunities
There are so many options to earn extra income. You can set up an online career. You can also opt to capitalize on your hobby like baking or cooking. Admittedly, this is easier if there are no kids around but the funny part is that you need it more when there are actually children at home. With some time management skills and a couple of sacrifices, this can be done.
Learn basic home repair skills
Does your spouse attend to any specific repairs at home such as the ac unit or even the oven? It might be a good idea to learn how to repair those that regularly break down around the house while they are away. This saves you money from having to call for service.
Preparing the children
If adults find it hard to adjust to deployment, you can be certain that the kids will feel the same way. They will feel hurt and anxious about the whole thing. Make sure you address their needs too. Here are a few ways to prepare them for deployment and make the transition as smooth as possible.
Discuss the house rules
Some kids feel like the rules around the house will change after deployment. It should not change. It is also a good time to make the kids help around the house. Ask the older kids for help in taking over some chores around the house.
Set up a support system for kids
Regardless if they are older siblings or children of other military families, your children can learn how to manage their emotions if they get to talk to other kids who has been in that situation before. Look for support groups that involve the whole family and try to do activities together. That should open the door for kids to support each other while their loved one is deployed.
Allot time for each of the children
Spend enough time with each kid before deployment. Let them establish a relationship with the parent who will be deployed. It helps them create memories they hold on to until homecoming.
Capture the memories
We are all highly visual people. This is even more true for kids. This is why you need to capture all the memories with your family so you can look back on it when you miss the other. Watching videos of the family simply doing everyday things can help everyone cope with the distance. It can help with homesickness and put a smile on your face.
Give the kids a gift
This is to give them something concrete to hold on to that would remind them of the parent in deployment. It can be a teddy bear to a bracelet as long as they can hold on to it and help them remember that you will be home in a few month’s time.
Involve them in the communication plans
Make the kids understand that they can still talk to their parent. Technology has come a long way and communication has vastly improved. Make the children understand that they can talk to daddy or mommy either through phone, chat or even by writing them letters.
Create a countdown before homecoming
Have a visual representation of the countdown before homecoming. You can also come up with an activity with your children where you all try to count down to the day your service member comes home from deployment. It can be a calendar that you cross out or a jar that fill up with chocolate for each day they are away. You can even foa video log every night so you can tell them how your day went.
Talk about deployment even before it happens
You need to slowly ease your kids with the idea of deployment. Involve them in the process of preparation. You can get them to help pack clothes or even prepare some going away package so they slowly understand what is going to happen.
Monitor your kid’s behavior
This is important before, during, and after deployment. This will help you address any behavioral issues as soon as they manifest. They may become withdrawn or something. Make sure you conduct some research to find out what you need to do when things like this happens.
Stick to a schedule
You need to maintain a schedule around the house to put some order to an otherwise chaotic household.
Find hacks that will help make things easier around the house
Things like having cereals for dinner during a very busy day can help you cope with managing a military family alone. This will ease the burden of being alone while the other is deployed. See if there are other hacks that you can find that will help you around the house.