Flexibility, optimism, and patience are just some of the ways that military families cope when faced with their favorite soldier leaving the family. Raising a family and balancing the immense task of serving the country can be a great strain on everyone involved. Learning about how military families cope can give everyone in the family the confidence they need to endure the seemingly endless times away from deployed family members.
How Military Families Cope With a Soldier Leaving the Family
Every military family is different, but one thing that they all have in common is their need for coping strategies when a loved one is 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 they have to go. He/she is not leaving because they want to leave you and the rest of the family, he/she is leaving because there is a job to be done. Putting the situation in perspective may help you feel better about the absence. Reminding yourself why your partner isn't present highlights the real reason he/she has to be gone. They are away in an effort to take care of the family and to protect many other families around the world. A positive perspective can help you remember why you became a military family in the first place.
Maintain the Connection
Just because your loved one is gone doesn't mean the connection is gone too. Try to contact your deployed partner as often as possible. Fill your service member in on what is happening at home, what the kids are doing, and what is new in the community. This will help your loved one stay in the loop while on deployment. When he/she returns home, they will feel like they never left.
Include other family members and close friends in the connection that you establish with your military partner. Take pictures of everyone to send to your partner, or if you have the technology, make videos and send those. Have your children create pictures and send them in a care package or take a photo of creations and send them in an email. Make sure anyone close to your deployed partner has the contacts that they need to stay in touch with your loved one while they are away.
Skype, Zoom, and Facetime are popular ways to remain in touch with someone at a distance, and in the current world climate, everyone is getting in on the virtual connection action. While the connections can be unreliable, whatever time you get to speak to your family member and see them is valuable. A bit of spotty face-to-face is better than none at all. Set up a time that works best for your loved one and do it as frequently as you can. Make sure that your kids and parents are around when you have the chance to connect virtually so that your loved one can see everyone on a single screen.
Put Extra Effort Into Special Occasions
Missing holidays are especially hard on loved ones who have to be away. Try to make the holidays and birthdays 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 Through a Deployment
While you are dealing with your separation anxiety, remember that your children are also probably struggling with it. Their mommy or daddy being away means that they need extra reassurance that everything is going to be okay and that parent will be home again soon. Do special things with your kids to help them stay positive and connected during one parent's deployment.
Have your children make cards about how much they miss and love their parent.
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 is short, you can upload it to send to your service member. If the message is too long, you can send it through the mail.
Talk, Talk, Talk
Talk with your child about his feelings. It might take some time to get him to express how much he misses mom or dad, but it's important to keep your child communicating openly.
Some children start to dislike or resent a deployed parent, and this is perfectly normal. It's important to understand and validate your child's feelings. Reassure him/her that the reasons why he dislikes his other parent aren't true. Remind them that their daddy or mommy is a hero.
Keep Loved Ones at the Conversation Forefront
It also helps to discuss the service member every day. Include phrases 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.
Seeking Help From the Military
The military has resources for families to help them through deployments.
Connect With Free Services
If you or your family are having trouble dealing with deployments, there is help out there. You can seek family services for therapy and counseling services, and some bases have support groups.
- Militaryonesource.mil - Offers free face-to-face counseling for military families
- Opencounseling.com - Free or low-cost counseling for active military families and veterans
- Branchta.org - Military parent technical assistance
- Marine Corps Community Services - Military and family life counselors
Create a Community
Meeting new people in the military circle can also be a good way to seek support. Create a circle of support by connecting with other spouses and families who know the feelings of deployment all too well. Having like-minded friends will help you quickly learn how to cope better with the military world, making the realities of life in the military much easier to handle for your whole family. The tight-knit military community is one of the many pros to serving the country.
There Is Hope in Cope
Truly, the best way to get through a difficult deployment is to stay positive and realistic. Focus on all the good and know when you need to learn on the love, kindness, and expertise of others. Like so much in life, this too shall pass.