5 Fun ways to help your child cope with deployment

Aug 26, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. ET

Deployments are hard for everyone in a military family. They are long and lonely for both the parents and the kids. For children of service members, deployments also can be very confusing.

Video chat with family during military deployment

During my husband's deployment, I watched my then 3-year-old son have temper tantrums and frequent crying spells, and my preteen’s mood swings happened much more often than usual. I realized they did not know how to express what they were feeling. All they knew was that Dad was gone for a really long time, and they really had no clue when he would return.

I promised myself that for our next deployment I would look for ways to make this challenging time easier on everyone.

You can do the same by implementing some of the tips below:



Keep the routine on the home front the same. I admit that the first month or so of our family’s first deployment I let a lot of the structure and consistency in my household go. My own emotions got the best of me therefore affecting my children’s feelings. Deployments can cause a feeling of instability and the best thing to do is to keep things as consistent as possible around your home. Simple things matter. For example, if Daddy typically reads the same book to them every night when tucking them in, then continue that same tradition.


Special weekend outings

Weekends tend to be the loneliest time during deployments. One of the fun things my children looked forward to during that time was a weekly outing to the movies or video kiosk. Every Saturday or Sunday they knew without a doubt we were going to catch the latest kid-friendly matinee or rent a new movie. This weekly ritual assured us something to do together as a family. And while we missed Dad, it helped us not to dwell on his temporary absence.


Fun ways to count down

Remember when you were a kid and had a calendar that had a piece of chocolate for every day leading up to Christmas? I created a similar idea for deployments, except we didn't do candy every day. Instead we opted to count down by weeks. I purchased a treasure box from my local dollar store in which I put little notes with fun things to do along with small toys and trinkets. The kids looked forward to pulling an item weekly from the chest and they knew as the number of notes decreased, the closer we were to Daddy coming home.


Skype family dates

Skype is an amazing tool for deployments. It allowed my husband to watch the kids open their presents on Christmas, enjoy birthday parties and even sit with us during dinner a few times. We had a set time on my spouse's days off that he would meet up with the kids online and they would chat away with their dad. Again this was a consistent routine and they had something to look forward to every week with their deployed parent.


Let kids get creative

Kids love to feel like they are helping out — so let them. Allow your kids to decorate items such as care packages and letters to your spouse. Your children will love the idea of designing the inside of a care package box or finding pictures to mail off to Mom or Dad. I even used sharing good grades with Daddy as a way to entice them to keep doing well in school. My little one loved when I sent Dad the occasional school worksheet with a big "100" on it.


How do you help your military child cope with deployments? Leave a comment below and share your ideas.

More about military families

5 Helpful resources for military kids
Moms with a cause: Advocating for military kids worldwide
Saying goodbye: The beginning of deployment