As the holidays approach many of our military families will be spending them apart, some for the first time. While deployments inherently have an enormous amount of challenges the holidays can be even more stressful. Here are six ways families can connect when separated during the holidays.
If your service member has access to Skype, try to arrange to open presents together on Christmas morning, bring the laptop to the Thanksgiving table, decorate the tree “together.” While not there in person, witnessing these special holiday traditions can help maintain the togetherness of the family.
Keep a “Thankful” List
It can sometimes be difficult during deployments to stay optimistic. It can help to turn your focus away from the hardships of separation and instead find things to be thankful for. Maintaining a list of things to be thankful for and adding to it as a family can be a wonderful way to maintain good spirits despite the deployment.
Order two copies of the same book or devotional and send one to your service member. Assign reading each day/week and talk about what you are reading together. Not only will the reading help pass the time but also open up new dialogues between you and your loved one.
Adapt An Old Tradition
There are so many different ways families celebrate the holidays. Adapt your regular practices to include your service member. If you have good communication a deployed parent could read a favorite holiday story on Christmas Eve, or include ideas from a deployed service member in your advent activities.
Start a New Tradition
Find a fun new tradition to help take everyone’s mind off the holiday separation. Trying the “Elf on the Shelf” and incorporating notes/surprises from the deployed service member could be a fun way to distract from an absent parent.
You may not be able to send that new bowling ball overseas but look for small, lightweight gifts to send your service member. Think sentiment over monetary value. Wrap the presents just as you would at home-how about sending a small novelty Christmas tree? Or a holiday music CD? A home video on DVD? Small things can bring a much-missed touch of the holidays to your deployed family member.
Have you dealt with deployments over the holidays? What other ways do you try to stay connected during deployments?