Deployment and young kids – our top ten tips.

One of our close family members who our little girl, A, has a very, very close relationship is currently away on deployment. He left when A was three, missing her birthday and Christmas. This was quite a challenge for her – coming to terms with the fact her favourite person in the world would be gone for six months. Here’s what we have done to get through it:

  1. Start prepping early. As soon as the deployment was confirmed, we started telling A that her family member was going away for a long time to go to work – and this meant that he would not be home for her birthday or for christmas. We talked about why people work – just like her Mummy and Daddy – to make money to pay the bills. We also talked about what an important job her family member had. Right before he went, we encouraged sleepovers and special outings. He also took the time to remind her that he was just working and was definitely coming back.
  2. Inform childcare or school. When he left, we made sure to chat with A’s school, so they knew she might be a bit out of sorts.
  3. Give a special photo of their family member. We gave A a framed photo of her family member dressed in uniform to remind her where he was. We often have found her chatting to his photo or asleep cuddling his picture.
  4. Involve them in creating care packages. In Australia, packages under 2kg are free to post to defence personnel who are deployed. A had a great time going through catalouges looking for treats to send and then going to the shops to buy them.
  5. Get in touch with Defence Families for resources – we received a teddy in uniform and some books about deployment that helped explain what was going to happen.
  6. Start a special countdown – how many days until they come home. Every day, we check how many days until they come home!
  7. Talk about feelings. We have the books ‘When I’m feeling’ by Tracey Moroney, so we focused a lot on talking about feelings. We discussed how it is okay to feel sad that someone you love has gone away for a long time and how to manage those feelings.
  8. Keep talking about them in day to day life. We often talk about what A will do with her family member when he returns home.
  9. Make a book to send in a package. Every month we put together a beautiful book together full of photos and her art work. We don’t just take photos of the good things – we take photos of, for example, our dog being naughty. A often sits down to create artwork with him in mind, detailing what she has been up to and asking me to write descriptions on it.
  10. Reassurance and lots of cuddles!
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