Military families often are subject to sacrificing the typical household dynamic. Instead of standard 9 to 5 working hours, individuals often work extended periods in the field, away from their little ones. Most importantly, military parents may also face the uncertainties of deployment, keeping them overseas for more than six months.
Deployment is a heart-wrenching experience for those directly involved and their families. While service members leave to fulfill missions overseas, the other parent or caregiver must take both parenting roles to continue raising their family as best they can.
With the experience being a blend of positive memories and challenges, here are some ways military deployment can affect families.
Having a partner deployed for up to 15 months is a rollercoaster ride of different emotions! While you’re taking on an additional parenting role to deter as much change in routine, you’re only human! Little ones may start to ask questions about where their other parent is, when they will come back, and what they’re doing.
Try to answer questions as honestly and clearly as you can to help the family understand this time. Other tips to help parents while their partner is on deployment can include limiting media coverage of their whereabouts, maintaining routines, and practicing self-care, so you can face each day with the best intentions.
Other adults like grandparents, uncles, and aunts may experience the same concerns as direct parents when caring for the household. At home, they may experience emotional turmoil relating to having a family member overseas.
With their only parent being away, you may witness the cycle of emotions they experience upon learning their loved one may miss their birthday and major holidays.
When this happens, consider talking to the child and describing the details surrounding their parent’s absence and why it’s okay to have negative feelings. You can also reassure them that it’s okay to talk through their feelings so they don’t feel alienated.
Often, younger children don’t typically understand deployment and all details surrounding it, so they may struggle with adapting to family dynamics after one parent leaves.
With many believing they were the cause of their parent’s departure, toddlers and preschoolers may require additional reassurance of being told they are loved and will always be safe.
School-age children may experience other concerns that affect their psychological well-being and their sleep. In adolescents, anxiety may develop; however, teenagers may also exhibit a greater sense of responsibility and maturity.
Military deployment affects families in several ways; while they seldom get easier to endure on both fronts, these occurrences may take a toll on a household. However, what matters is that families maintain open, honest communication with one another to facilitate adjusting during this time and give each other grace when managing emotions.