My oldest son has been through three deployments plus a long separation that was pretty much as long as our 3rd deployment. He is 8 years old and Daddy has been gone a lot during those years. I feel lucky since my husband has now been home for about 20 months. That is a long time for us but not quite long enough. I also have a 6 and 2-year-old that have been through deployments as well. Deployments can be very difficult for small children.
Issues small children can face
Where is mom or dad?
They don’t understand why their Mom or Dad has to be away from them. All they know is that they are missing an important person in their lives and that can be hard to take. They might not be able to communicate how they are feeling and that might come out in extra tantrums or extra tears. They might become more difficult for the parent who is at home with them.
This can be challenging for everyone because you just don’t know what you can say or do to make it better. And really, you can’t make it 100% better. Until the parent returns it is going to be difficult for the child. And it is going to be difficult for you if you are the one at home. It can be heartbreaking to see your child miss their parent so much and you can’t do anything to bring them home. “Why can’t Daddy come home? Where is Daddy? When will Daddy be home?” are common questions in a Military family.
Create Fun Memories
I have found that if I can create happy and fun memories with my kids when Daddy is gone, it makes for an easier time. Keeping the kids busy is a great way to not only pass the time but to help with the child missing their Mom or Dad. You can also surround them with photos of the deployed parent. Being able to see the parent even in pictures can be a great comfort to the child. It might be smart to make a small photo book for them as well. Even babies can have these as you can find waterproof photo books that are made for smaller children.
Kids can cope
It can be easy to think that a deployment will ruin a child’s life or that they will never be able to get over it. While the deployments can be stressful and you might need to seek additional help for children, not every deployment will ruin a child’s life. As much as my husband has been gone I don’t think my 8-year-old would say that he doesn’t remember him being there. I know he remembers missing him a lot but he also has a lot of great memories of my husband being home. It is important to make the most of your time together when they are home so that your kids have a childhood full of memories of their parent, even if they were deployed a lot.
Deployments are not easy and are even more difficult for the children but you and your kids can make it through and come out stronger on the other side.