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Preparing for Deployment: Helping children cope

Hello, and happy Friday to you!  If you’re new to this series, you might want to check out the previous posts before delving into today’s topic.

Today, I have ideas for you to help your children cope during the separation.

For several weeks before Michael left, I collected ideas and the items necessary to make the ideas work for us.

Here’s what we’re doing, in no particular order:

~ I saw a suggestion in one of the deployment packets we received from the A&FRC (Airman and Family Readiness Center) for a pillow case with a family photo on it for the deploying member to take with him.  So, that gave me the idea for these for the boys:

I read several tutorials online and determined that this would be an easy project. I purchased inexpensive, white pillow cases on sale at Target and purchased a 6 pack of iron on, inkjet transfers, took a photo of the boys with Michael and followed the instructions that came with the transfers. I only messed up one transfer, and that was simply a printing error. This was a VERY simple project and cost under $15.

~ I also came up with a “countdown” plan for the boys that would be somewhat of a treat for them.
Jelly bean jars! I purchased two matching candy jars and a bag of Jelly Belly knockoffs to fill the jars. Michael’s orders listed his deployment as 185 days (not including travel time) so I started off with 195 jelly beans in each jar (they are at less than half of that now!!). The boys have enjoyed having a daily jelly bean and watching the level in the jar decrease. Note: the amount of jelly beans in the jars can be “adjusted”, if necessary, while your children are sleeping!

~ The A&FRC also provided Michael with these:They’re cute, huh!  But they are made even more special, because of this:


Note: If your A&FRC or FRG (Family Readiness Group) doesn’t provide these or vouchers for them or any other recordable toy – stuffed animals and Daddy Dolls with recorders can be purchased through the Hug a Hero website.

~ We took a family photo in the airport the day Michael left. I now have that photo as my background on the desktop computer. Any time one of the kids wants to see daddy, all they have to do is come over and move the mouse to get the screen saver to go off and voila – there’s the whole family.

We have other family photos around the house, but this one seems to be the favorite! Even Rachael (19 mo.) has figured out how to get the screen saver to go off!

You could also hang each child’s favorite photo of dad, in a place he/she chooses.

~ We have created some special new activities to do while Michael is away. Try to make it things that your children have never or have rarely done before. For us, this is a young childrens’ roller skating class (just the boys) and also a class called “Mini Movement” at one of our local YMCA’s. We rotate these, because they both occur on Friday mornings. They are inexpensive and the boys know it’s just for them and it’s a special treat since daddy is away.

~ Sign up to receive emails for all deployment related activities held on your base/post.  This is usually done through the A&FRC, FRG or even your unit/squadron.  Our base has special deployed families dinners each month, and my children really enjoy those (there was a magic show in March).  There are also a number of other activities that I’ve received invitations for or attended.  Some examples are a special Easter egg hunt, Valentine’s Day craft afternoon (which also included drop-off child care of toddlers and up) and free movie nights at the base theater, to name only a few.

~ Michael also had a great idea before he left, and I have thanked him numerous times for being so forward-thinking and caring about my sanity enough to do this… He purchased two used Nintendo DS’s (original version) and a few used games, some educational and some just for fun, for the boys.  As with any video game, I recommend monitoring use and having some very firm rules about it. These have saved my sanity on more than one occasion!  I have since purchased ear buds/headphones for them and they have come in very handy for doctor’s appointments (especially a specialist appointment where we waited over two hours and they really ran out of patience for the other activities I brought), chiropractor appointments, “paperwork” appointments in relation to our big move and a few other mommy-needs-a-break moments!

And, yes, even Eli (he’s almost 4) can play most of the same games Jacob (6) can play!

Some things I wish I had done:

~ Create a large calendar to mark off the days.  A piece of poster board with printed monthly calendars would have been sufficient for my boys to have a better visual of the days being marked off.

~ Have Michael record videos of him reading Bible stories and bedtime stories to the children for them to watch each night before bed.

Some other ideas:

~ Have dad sleep with several small receiving or baby blankets for several nights each, then give a blanket to younger children or babies to sleep with while dad is away.  If you do several blankets (who doesn’t have a ton of receiving blankets lying around?), this would hopefully avoid the problem of washing them and then dad’s scent being gone from them.  You could just move on to a new one if one gets dirty, etc.

~ I’ve seen insulated child cups that have a customizable insert.  You could print a family photo or one of dad with the child to place inside the cup.  This way, dad could always be with the child.

I hope you have found some of these suggestions helpful.  I would love to hear your input if you’ve tried any of these ideas, or if you have a different suggestion that has been beneficial to your children.

Please be sure to join me next week for a discussion on all of the different modes of communication available to us and how we like to use them.


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7 comments to Preparing for Deployment: Helping children cope

  • We had a paper chain. I would have to add to it late at night because the date for him to come home kept changing (and never for the better).

    Great ideas!
    Amy
    Amy @ Raising Arrows´s last blog ..Making Your FLYlady Subscription Less Annoying My ComLuv Profile

  • Leene

    What great ideas – we used many of those when my husband was gone on deployment. One of the things my husband did before he left was record himself reading some of the girls favorite stories and before bed they’d pop in a cassette and read along with Dad. I also included the girls in putting together care packages that we sent every 2 weeks or so – they would pick out special things they knew Daddy would like such as freezer pops, sunflower seeds and his favorite shampoo. I also would include in the boxes paperwork that the girls got from school – tests they did really well on and stories they had written. Another idea that we did was I bought two spiral notebooks on sale at Target and almost every night my oldest (8) would write a note to Dad and my youngest (5) would draw a picture of something fun we did that day. Again you had some great ideas – love the pillowcase and will remember that for our next deployment.

    • Laura

      Your notebook idea is great. Adding that to my list for next time!

      I have some care package ideas in store for next week’s post, also!

      • Laura

        Leene,

        I wanted to reply to this old comment and let you know that I am using your suggestion for the journal/notebook with my older two during our current deployment. My boys are 8 and 5 and they are loving creating an entry of what we do during the day. My intention was to fill up a whole notebook and then send them to him, but we’re more than half way through this one and haven’t quite filled the notebooks yet. May still send them soon, anyway!

        Thank you so much for sharing this idea. I know it has helped my sons feel like they’re sharing their lives with dad!

  • Katie

    Here are some things that I did for my 2 year-old before his daddy left (he’s on a 6-month deployment and should be home in August):

    -made a Shutterfly album (8×8) of just pictures of the two of them – I bought one for DS and one for DH
    -we let DS (dear son, for those who don’t know) pick out an animal at Build-A-Bear and we recorded my DH’s voice in it
    -I bought a recordable book from Hallmark and DH recorded his voice reading the book to DS

    Some other things that my friends have done and/or I want to do:

    -print pictures of DS & Daddy and hang them at DS’s eye level in the hallway next to his room
    -make a Daddy Doll! My friend’s girls love theirs. Now I just have to convince my husband to send me a full-body picture of himself. Here’s the link: https://www.hugahero.com/store/hugahero-dolls

    We also Skype pretty frequently with DH. It makes such a big difference! Even though the connection is not always good, it’s good to see him, and DS loves to sing songs with him and show him stuff.

    Thank you so much for creating this!

  • Before my husband’s last deployment, I video taped him reading the boys favorite books/bed time stories. They LOVED to sit and watch Daddy read them a story. Even the youngest one (5 months when he left) babbled and laughed at the TV screen.
    Kathryn´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday- Self Timer Masterpieces My ComLuv Profile

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