We are military families, and deployments or extended separations are something that we deal with as part of our lives.
It was hard when it was just the two of you, a couple of lovebirds in a government ordered long-distance relationship. Then you had a baby and it became even more challenging as one of you became a full-time single parent juggling a mandated separation.
Now, those babies are in school, and one parent will be gone for a long period of time. You just entered a whole new ballgame, friend.
How kids deal with stress
Kids are dealing with a lot of stress, and according to KidsHealth, 32% of stressors are related to family.
Deployments affect families. And generate stress.
Older children are painfully aware of other kids who have had a parent come home injured, or their friend’s parent might not have come home at all. So they worry, they stress, and they carry on.
The KidsHealth poll also showed that kids are handling their stress well. Fifty-five percent get active to burn off steam. Other kids listen to music, watch TV, or talk to a friend or family member. But 29% of kids ignore the stress or worry; 26% eat something; 23% lose their tempers. This means that about 25% of children are handling stress in unhealthy ways.
Get the teacher involved
Kids often behave differently at school or day care than they do at home. A good teacher will take note of a student’s typical behavior, and let you know if something is off.
This could be anything: a sudden decline in quality of work, going silent, fights or quarrels with friends, aggressive behavior, sudden attention issues, impulsive behaviors. These are things that many children do on a regular basis. For other children, these are unusual behaviors.
A great first step is to schedule a meeting with the teacher about a month before deployment. Bring your spouse if you can. Sit down and explain, as much as OPSEC allows, what will be happening. Try to figure out a good plan for your child if she seems upset, worried, or if her behavior changes drastically just before or during the deployment. A good resource is the school psychologist or counselor. At a religious school, a chaplain or priest might be someone who can help.
Another choice might be to create a signal or option to take a break from school when it all becomes too much. Even a five-minute walk to the water fountain or to the bathroom or to the library can make a huge difference to a child who is struggling.
Let the teacher know approximately when pre-deployment leave might be happening, and don’t be afraid to pull your children out of school for a portion of that time. You need time as a family to create memories and cement your relationships. Send a formal letter to the school administration explaining the absences, and follow up with an email or phone call. Ask the teacher for light work to do during the
Send a formal letter to the school administration explaining the absences, and follow up with an email or phone call. Ask the teacher for light work to do during the leave block that way your child can keep up with the general topics covered. Repeat this procedure during post-deployment leave.
In some cases, schools and their mental health resources are unable to fully address the emotional conflict in your child. If this is the case, please seek help from a mental health professional. Social
If this is the case, please seek help from a mental health professional. Social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists are all excellent resources available to you and your child. Military One Source is an amazing service the provides limited FREE confidential mental health consultations. Call them, they really can help!
Hire a tutor
If your child’s grades take a nose dive, or even if she’s doing ok but could use another adult to talk to, hire a tutor. There are many center-based tutoring centers around the country, but for the most bang for your buck, hire a private tutor. Many of these tutors are college students studying education or licensed educators who want to earn a little bit of extra cash. Look for someone that has experience with your child’s age range, grade, or specific subject area.
Many tutors are college students studying education or licensed educators who want to earn a little bit of extra cash. Look for someone that has experience with your child’s age range, grade, or specific subject area.
Get the class involved
While military children after often surrounded by other military children, this is not always the case. Classmates might not understand what a deployment is, or what it means for military families.
You can teach them! Ask the class to make holiday cards or write cheery letters to your family’s unit. This can help to create connections and reminds deployed troops that they are loved and remembered back home.
The class could also make care packages, and not just for service members. Many units are deployed on humanitarian missions, like to Haiti after the massive earthquake several years ago. Sending items to help the troops help others assists their mission, and teaches students about the ripple effect of positive actions. This will also help students make connections to other communities and world events.
Get your school involved and on board during deployment. They need to be on the lookout for behavioral or academic changes, and can provide counseling services. A good teacher will be your best ally during this stressful time. Use this resource.