How Military Families Cope

Marcelina Hardy, MSEd, BCC
Leaving Soldier

Being flexible, optimistic and patient are just some of the ways of how military families cope. Raising a family and taking care of the home front while your loved one is serving the country can be a great strain on everyone in the family. Learning about how military families cope can give you confidence during seemingly endless times away from your service member.

How Military Families Cope

Every military family is different, but most of them use the same coping strategies to deal with their loved one(s) being away. Handling separation effectively will help a family stay strong and connected, which means that when the loved one returns and has to leave again, the transitions are much less devastating.

Change Your Perspective

While it can be traumatic to have your partner leave for a year or more, it's important to keep in mind the reason why he has to go. He is not leaving because he wants to leave you and the rest of the family, he is leaving because he has a job to do. Putting the situation in perspective will help you feel better about his absence because it shows you that the real reason he has to be gone is to take care of his family as well as to protect many other families around the world.

Maintain the Connection

Just because your loved one is gone doesn't mean you don't need to connect with him. Try to contact him as often as possible. Fill your service member in on what is going on at home, what the kids are doing and what has been going on in the community. This will help him stay in the loop and when he comes home, he will feel like he never left because he didn't miss much.

It's also important to include other family members in the connection. Take pictures of everyone to send to your partner, or if you have the technology, make videos and send those. Have your children make pictures and either send them in a care package or take a photo of it to send in an email.

Skyping and Facetime are popular ways to remain in touch with someone at a distance. While the connections can be unreliable, whatever time you get to speak to your family member and see them is valuable. Set up a time that works best for your loved one and do it as frequently as you can.

Missing holidays can really make you, your loved one and the rest of the family upset. Try to make the holidays as special as you can. Be creative in the way you spend the time with your service member. This might be through a specially made care package with presents, a scrapbook, videos, and pictures. Plan to video chat with each other that day, or talk on the phone. Just make an extra effort to include your partner in your day as much as possible.

Help Your Children

While you are dealing with your separation anxiety, your children are also struggling with it. Their mommy or daddy being away means that they need extra reassurance that everything is going to be okay and that mommy or daddy will be home again. Do special things with your kids to help them stay positive and connected during one parent's deployment.

Make Cards

Have your children make cards about how much they miss and love their parent.

Take Pictures

Life from a child's point of view is always amazing and can be a funny set of photos. Have your child take pictures of the things she wants to take pictures of and send them via email or in a care package.

Make Video Messages

Record your child giving a message to his mommy or daddy. If it's short, you can upload it to send it to your service member. If it's too long, you can send it through the mail.

Talk About It

Talk with your child about his feelings. It might take some time to get him to express how much he misses your husband or wife, but it's important to keep your child communicating so that you can help him feel better about the situation.

Some children start to dislike their parent who is deployed because he has to be gone a lot and for a long time, which is perfectly normal. It's important to understand why your child feels this way and reassure him that the reasons why he dislikes his other parent aren't true. Daddy or mommy isn't gone because they don't want to be around him, it's because he has a job to do, because daddy or mommy is a hero.

It also helps to discuss the service member every day. Such as, "Daddy would love to be with us having ice cream." or "When daddy gets home, we will have to go camping and do other special things with him." Keeping your partner present in daily life will help the child understand that the separation is only temporary.

A Family Helps Each Other

Everyone should help each other during this time of separation. By keeping in mind your own struggles as well as the challenges of the service member and the rest of the family, you will all have the support you need.

Seeking Help from the Military

If you or your family is having trouble dealing with deployments, there are many resources for the military family on base. You can seek family services for therapy and counseling services, and some bases have support groups. Meeting new people in the military can also be a good way to seek support. Dependents know how military families cope because they do it themselves. Seek advice and comfort from them and you will quickly learn how to cope better with military life, making the realities of life in the military much easier to handle for your whole family.

How Military Families Cope