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I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I helped my son, Adam through my husband’s first deployment. As I thought about it, I realized my answer is going to change as he grows older and as we go through more deployments. And that’s ok! Because my son was pretty young when my husband left for his first deployment, my answers may vary from someone who has a 5 year old or an 8 year old.
My son was 16 months old when my husband left. He also has specials needs so it was hard for me to tell how much it really bothered him or how much he noticed that his daddy was gone. I am sure he noticed, but for me I didn’t see much of a change after he left. I think 16 months is still kind of young to really understand what’s going on, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything to help him remember his daddy. There were still a lot of things I did to keep Adam involved in the deployment process and to help him keep in touch with daddy while he was away.
I also think that it’s important for the military member to feel close to the child as well. Even at this young age, while your children may not remember the deployment or understand what’s happening, the military member does and he still needs that connection with the child. I know my husband was so worried about our son not remembering who he was when he got home. I think because of both of our efforts our reintegration was easier and Adam had an easier time once daddy did come home. There was no problem when daddy came home and Adam seemed happy to see him again.
7 Ways to help Your Child Through Deployment:
1. Use Photos.
Keep a “Photo a Day While Daddy is Away” album either on Facebook or on a private page where you can post a photo of your child every day for your military member to see. Try to capture one memory per day either of what you did that day or just of your child being cute. My husband loved being able to see the photos of my son doing new or cute things. The hard thing is remembering to take a picture every day. I was really good about it in the beginning, but then I forgot during the second half of the deployment.
Hang up photos of daddy in your child’s room or around the house where your child can see them. A friend of mine had a huge poster of daddy she hung in her son’s room during deployment. It was right at his level so he could give daddy “kisses” every day. You can also make a small non-breakable album filled with pictures of daddy or of your child and daddy together so that your child can look at it. I know my son loves looking at photos of us and is always dragging our albums around the house!
Also, use your camera or your phone’s camera to capture little videos throughout the day. I would post videos of new things my son was doing on Facebook and my husband could log on and watch them when he had time. He loved seeing those little bits of home and it made him feel closer to us.