Approximately two million military children have experienced a parental deployment since 2001. While deployment is a shared reality for military children, the experience is very individual for each child.
Helping your child through a deployment is a big job for the parent who remains at home. Understanding the child’s perspective and the emotions your child may be feeling as a separation occurs can be vital in helping your child through deployment. A great tool for helping your child with the emotions during deployment is reading together. Using the book Daddy Left with Mr. Army, by Chandelle Walker, a family child from any branch of the military can easily relate to the child’s perspective of the feelings experienced during a time of separation.
As an Army wife who has persevered through five yearlong deployments with kids who ranged from toddlers to tweens, Chandelle uses her family’s experiences to help others facing the same separation. While there are many ideas in the Daddy Left with Mr. Army book, Chandelle shared with us three of her favorite tips to help children with an upcoming parent deployment:
Daddy Photo Album
Find pictures of just Daddy (Mommy) and your child or of Daddy alone. Make a special ‘Daddy Photo Album’ for your child. Have Daddy write a special message at the front of the album so when the child looks through the photo album, they also have a message from Dad just for them.
“Open When” Cards
Have Dad (or Mom) write ‘Open When’ cards for each child. These are more like letters but for a certain event or time the child(ren) may especially need to hear from Dad (Mom). You can make these cards for holidays, birthday, special events that the parent will miss during the deployment, when the child might be sad or need a joke, for losing a tooth or when needing encouragement just from that parent. It could be a child’s first soccer/baseball game or for a great report card, etc. Find days in the upcoming year when you know it would have been especially great to have the deployed parent be there and write the cards for those times.
Another example was last year when my husband was in Korea, my daughter turned 16 so my husband wrote her a special ‘Open When’ card for her Sweet 16th birthday & for before her first date.
A Special Gift
Have Dad (Mom) pick out a special item your child will love to help them remember and think of him/her each time they see it. For example, my husband gave our daughter a pretty heart necklace each time he deployed and she would refer to them as her ‘Daddy Deployment Necklaces.’ Another time he had dog tags personalized with a special message for each child.
More Fun Ideas
We love how simple but meaningful each of these ideas are! Do you have a deployment coming up in your family? I strongly suggest you order Daddy Left with Mr. Army as a resource to share with your child and to provide you with even more fun ideas from Chandelle for your family’s time of separation.
To learn more about Chandelle’s adventure as an Army wife and how Daddy Left with Mr. Army came to be, visit the Kids Books by Chandelle website today!