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Managing a Family Member’s Deployment

Published on: December 4, 2013  

Managing a Family Member’s Deployment

Military life is stressful for all members of the family but it can be a big source of psychological stress for children. Multiple deployments and frequent moves is a reality for many children in military families and these things can take their toll. Military children have experienced emotional and behavioral difficulties at rates above national average. When a family member deploys, many changes in a child’s behavior can occur such as a difference in school performance, lashing out in anger, worrying, hiding emotions, feeling a sense of loss, and displaying symptoms consistent with Depression.

Family dynamics change when a parent deploys. Routines change and the mood of the parent at home changes. So much change can be overwhelming for a child so it’s important to do what you can to support your child during this difficult time. Below are some different things you can do as parent/caregivers to help you and your family get through this challenging time.

Consistency and Routine Children can become insecure because of all the uncertainties regarding deployment so providing a daily routine is important to give your family needed structure.

Good CommunicationKids will often have questions about the deployment. So be honest and provide as much information as appropriate when answering their questions. Let them know you are always available to talk to when needed.

Attention and Fun Plan special events and start new hobbies. With one parent gone, often the other parent might be busy or stressed causing a child to feel neglected. Doing fun activities with your child and regularly spending time together is important in helping the child feel loved.

Provide Reassurance Deployment can bring a sense of a loss of control and stability so reassuring your child that you love them and that you will get through the deployment together will help relieve their anxiety. Also, with so many emotions be prepared to reassure your child that their feelings are important.

Let Them Be a Kid Do not discuss your fears in depth with your child and do not give them too many extra responsibilities. They should have time to play, be worry free, and be like other kids their own age.

Good Behavior Plan Misbehavior during deployment can be a result of negative feelings so it make sure to set limits and have consequences for bad behavior.

Physical and Emotional Expressions of Love Hugs, kisses, high-fives and “I love you” will help a child feel secure and loved during this tough time

Talk to the Absent Parent Keeping in touch with the absent parent helps in maintaining that relationships and keeps them involved and updated on the family happenings.

Have Resources Available Teens are more independent and sometimes want to seek help for dealing with the deployment on their own so keep lists of hotlines, mental health professionals, and guidance counselors around.

Ways for Kids and Teens to Deal with Emotional Stress:

  • Write poetry and stories
  • Practice relation techniques
  • Exercise
  • Listen to music
  • Do art activities
  • Start a new hobby or take up a new sport
  • Find a military children support group
  • Share your feelings with your parent
  • Write letters and emails to your absent parent to share what’s going on in your life

Please visit the Resources page on our website for more information about many behavior health issues including resources or family members on Deployment and Reunification. If your child is having difficulty adjusting to a parent or family member being away or are new to the area please give us a call – we’re here to help!

Very Respectfully,

Gyro Psychology Services

Lacey, Washington

360.236.0206

866.616.GYRO (4976)

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