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A Guide to Understanding Deployment

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Being a parent can be a difficult task in itself, but being an active duty military parent can not only be complicated, but also strenuous on a family unit. The United States Armed Forces have taken precautionary measures to insure the safety and well-being of all military dependents.

Why The Family Care Plan Is So Important

This is a requirement for any active duty service members who have children. The reason that this documentation is so important and a mandated requirement for all parents in the military is because it will provide dependents with a stable and safe environment upon a parent’s deployment. In most instances, the child will be temporarily taken care of by a family member or close friend of the family. If this documentation is not updated and current at all times, the service member could potentially face disciplinary action.

There is no easy way to prepare for deployment. As active duty military, it is not an option but a required job description that can be imposed at any time during a service enlistment. So, being prepared and preparing your children for an immediate departure is an important aspect of being a military parent. Your children need to have a comprehensive understanding as to why  their Mother or Father, or in some cases both parents are being deployed. There are many programs that are available on base to military wives, husbands, and children.

On Base Counseling and Support Groups

These on base programs are free and suggested to all family members of a deployed service member. Deployment could be within the continental United States and related to a natural disaster, or overseas to Iraq or Afghanistan. No matter if the deployment is short term or long term, the service member’s unit will offer family support groups that are normally held weekly. This will allow the children to interact with other military children and express their feelings about the absent parent and how to cope with military deployment.

In addition to on base support groups, most local churches have youth services and weekly functions in which military children can participate and receive spiritual counseling or guidance if needed.

A military child needs to understand that he or she is not alone and many children are facing the same situation and asking the same questions. By reaching out and attending on base support groups, church groups and other available resources, a child may be able to understand the parent’s responsibility as an active duty service member.

 Coping with PCS (Permanent Change of Station)

 An active duty service member never knows when he or she will receive orders to relocate. It could be a PCS within the United States or it could be orders for an overseas duty assignment, either way a child must be prepared at all times to relocate. This can be one of the most difficult transactions a military child could be faced with, because the child has most likely made friends, and is comfortable in school and with teachers.

One program that has been implemented in the United States Armed Forces is when a service member and his or her family arrive at the new duty station, they are supplied with information about clubs, sports, and age appropriate group activities. This is a great way for children to meet new people and begin the transaction of a new home, new school, and friends.

 The military is not the only employment that requires job transferring, so why this may seem unhealthy there are many parents throughout the United States that transfer jobs all the time. Thankfully, the United States government has provided these “Meet the People” programs throughout the military.

 There are some instances where both parents are active duty military, and this can be a hardship for not only the parents, but the children. There have been times where both parents are deployed and the child will be sent to close relative such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle. It is important that the attending relative enroll the child in the appropriate support groups, so all the fears and questions can be answers accordingly.

There is nothing remotely simple about explaining to your child that you are being sent off to a faraway land or could be in danger, but having an open policy of communication is one step in the right direction and can relieve any unanswered questions you child may have.