Families and Deployments/Separations
When a Guard member deploys, family members go with them in a sense. For most families a deployment isn’t the happiest of occasions. Long separations are hard on every member of the family, especially those who are left at home. But as Guard families, they learn to cope. Experience has shown that a deployment is much easier on families if they prepare for it and know the tricks of getting along during a separation. By following some of the following suggestions, the deployment may not be as difficult for your family as it might otherwise be.
It is also helpful, especially for older children to sit down as a family and discuss the rules of the house before a deployment. The children are more likely to remember the rules as ‘Family’ or ‘House’ rules rather than ‘Mom’s’ or ‘Dad’s’ rules.
LETTER WRITING – Some people number their letters to eliminate confusion and others send lots of funny card. Letters are a great moral booster. Being away from home is hard and letters and cards seem to easy the stress of being away.
Answer all questions. Write with a picture of your loved one in front of you or the children. This is a way to make your letters more personable and it gives a chance for the kids to remember what mom or dad looks like.
Let your loved one know how much you appreciate the letters, tapes, pictures, etc. Mention one or two things in each communication, which made you, feel especially close.
Remember the need to verbally express affection does not diminish with the miles. ‘I love you’ means just as much when it is written during separation as it does when it is said in person.
Share your feelings as openly as you can without indulging in self-pity. Let them know you’d like to share their feelings.
Above all, express yourself clearly so they won’t have to say, ‘I wonder what was meant by that!’ On the other hand, don’t try to read between the lines or interpret a puzzling remark. If you don’t understand, as questions in your next letter.
TAPE RECORDINGS AND VIDEO RECORDINGS – If letter writing is difficult for you, consider buying a pair of small tape recorders so that talking letters can be shared. Children can also send messages this way.
Record bad times, dinner times, birthdays, holiday’s etc., and have the whole family involved. You might even have neighbors and friends participate.
Record their favorite TV shows movies or sporting events. Their entire unit will enjoy viewing anything from home.
The service member can record some of the children’s favorite stories before they depart. This is a great way to keep mom or dad real in the child’s mind. Later on they can listen or read along with the tapes. In many cases, just hearing their voice will calm a child down.
COMPUTERS (E-mail) – It is very likely that you will be able to communicate via electronic mail either from your home computer or a computer in your service members unit. Check with your unit before departure for all the details.
TELEPHONE CALLS – It is a quick way to communicate and in this day and age with cell phones it is an easy process. However, remember overseas calls are very expensive and your loved one may not always have access to a telephone. A good thing to remember also is the time change. Most overseas countries are in a different time zone.
HUSBAND AND WIFE
Have the parent send postcards or letters to each child
with brief, easy sentences about his or her daily events. Children love
Mealtimes and bedtimes are a good time to talk about what they are going to say on the next tape or letter. They can send drawings and schoolwork they are proud of.
Send schedules of ball games, activities, or special events so they can ask how the game or class play went.
The ‘I want my Daddy’ problem: One mom gave her child a picture of Daddy in plastic so she could carry it with her everywhere. The child then felt that her dad was with her all the time.
Becoming aware of and in touch with your feelings can give you an inside track as to how your children feel. If it’s been tow weeks since the last mail and you’re feeling a bit blue or irritable, your children may be crawling the walls or withdrawing for these same reasons. Talk about how you feel. It won’t change the fact of no mail but it may give you all extra patience and everyone will feel better knowing that it’s OK to feel lonely, isolated, sad, and frustrated.