When my husband left for his last deployment our two older boys were only four and two years old. We tried to explain as best we could that Daddy was going away for a while, but at such young ages there was no real way they could grasp the concept of a deployment and what a year apart would entail.
As the weeks turned to months they slowly began to wonder why Daddy “only lives in the computer” and when he would be home. They showed a wide range of emotions from crying for him at night to refusing to talk with him when he would Skype us. I found that books were one of the best ways to help them understand about Daddy’s absence and help them to deal with all their feelings about the situation.
Here are five wonderful books to help preschoolers deal with deployment:
Over There by Dorinda Silver Williams
These books are given out for free from Army Community Service at our post’s deployment fairs. It is a wonderfully simple book describing how the soldier does the same things “over there” as we do here-eat, brush his teeth, sleep, etc. This was one of my boy’s favorite books during the deployment. It also reiterates that the soldier misses his child but has an important job to do. It comes in a Mommy or a Daddy version and is suitable for even the youngest children.
Night Catch by Brenda Ehrmantraut
This is a eloquent story about a soldier and his son playing a game of catch with stars from across the world. It is beautifully written but best suited for older children, ages 4 and up.
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
A beautiful story that shows how we are connected to our loved ones by “an invisible string” of love. Wonderful for children dealing with any kind of separation including death of a loved one.
The Paper Hug by Stephanie Skolmoski
This book chronicles all the stages of a deployment-from preparation and packing, travel and lapses of contact, all the way to redeployment and welcoming home. It depicts a father/son relationship and it shows a variety of different emotions which is important for children who may feel a wide range of emotions during deployments.
While you Are Away by Eileen Spinelli
This book tells the story of three children of different ethnicities with parents from different services (Air Force, Navy, and Army) and their time being separated. It addresses many of the concerns young children have about separation in language that is clear and simple and shows both mother and father servicemembers. Each story ends with the service member returning home to their child safely.
Have you used books to help your young children deal with deployments? What deployment books would you recommend to parents dealing with their first time away from their young children?