Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ways to help kids feel connected during a deployment

Deployments are hard.

No one to chase at the park, no one to sneak you candy when you've already brushed your teeth, no one to give you breath stealing hugs when you feel a little glum ...
And it's rough on the kids too.

Since we are in the midst of our 4th deployment now, with Sarge thousands of miles and many time zones away, I thought I'd put out a few ideas that have helped my kids feel more connected to their dad when he's a world away.

The kiss jar - Have the deploying parent fill a big jar full of Hershey Kisses (one for every day they will be away) and each night the child gets to pull one out, and get a "Kiss" from the one they miss.

Daddy Dolls - While a little creepy, this has saved my sanity more than once. My littlest one can still give her daddy a hug when she really misses him. We bring ours along when we go out and then take pictures with it doing whatever we are doing (similar to the Flat Stanley projects that kids do in school). The kids get to send the pictures to Sarge, and show him what we did.

Skype - Twice a week we get online at the same time, and we all get to see and talk together. The kids run around and play, tell him how their day went, or sometimes even eat lunch with him while he eats dinner.

Paper chain - They were fun to make in kindergarten and they work great to help kids understand exactly how long 6 months (or whatever you're dealing with) really is. There are many ways to do this. I've seen people add a link for every day the deployed parent is away - sort of a counting up till the big day. Or you can make a link for every day before they leave, and take one off each evening in a count down sort of way. That's how we do it. Before Sarge left, I cut 197 strips of colored paper and labeled each with the date it would correspond with. Different months are different colors, and special days (holidays, birthdays, etc.) are a special color. Then each night we take off a link, and the kids write or draw pictures to Sarge telling him what they did that day. Each week we put the links we've written on in the mail, and send them to Sarge so he can keep up to date on all their doings.

Video stories - Record the deploying parent reading some of your kids favorite books before they leave. Then the kids can watch whenever they want or get a bedtime story. If you're very lucky, some deployed bases have a USO location that can do this. They record the parent reading a story, and then send the DVD and the book they read back home to the kids. Gracie has books memorized word for word just because she likes to listen to Sarge tell them so often.


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