How will my family stay connected?
I often hear someone exclaim, after hearing a particularly good connection idea, "I wish I had done that before he/she left." There are hundreds of things every family can do to keep strong, and technology makes that even easier.
- Set up a connection plan: Your plan will be subject to change based on adjustments in responsibilities and schedules, but set some preliminary expectations for communicating with each other. That makes it a priority, lessens the stress around it, and gives you something to look forward to.
- Make your plan a priority: Nurturing your relationships is a vital part of being a strong family unit when your serviceperson returns.
- I want to remember to tell you: When something special happens (school awards, something funny, a warm thought) jot it down in a small spiral notebook. That way, when you have a chance to talk with your loved one, you can look at your journal and remember to tell them all those small wonderful things that happened since you spoke last.
- Use technology: Stay connected with your loved one through email, web chat, social networks, and SkypeŽ but don't underestimate the power of a written page or care package.
- Talk about how you are feeling: Be honest with your loved one about things you are worried or are excited about. Then the two of you can negotiate and agree on solutions together which can make a stressful situation seem more bearable. Note: Discuss things in a way that does not just shift the burden to your spouse, so pick what you talk about carefully.
For the Serviceperson:
- Great idea: Do you need to leave instructions on changing the furnace filter or a fuse? Create a DVD together showing exactly how these, and other, tasks are done - you do it and your spouse can record it. By creating this reference together you can teach, spend time together, and answer questions as you work. The result is a great visual instructional tool to refer to when needing to perform any of these chores on your own.
- For children: Make a DVD of you reading a favorite story to your children. Make one for each child so they can "be" with you whenever they choose.
- Family favorite: Get a small picture frame that allows you to record 10 seconds of your voice. Put your picture in it and record yourself "waking up" your family with a cheerful greeting to start their day.
- Get others involved: Meet with your children's teachers before you leave and ask them to be a part of helping to keep your child connected. Create an understanding of what your child might be experiencing while you're away.
- Remember that your family is always worried about your safety. When communicating, try to reassure them that you are taking care of yourself to alleviate some of that stress they live with.
Coping with children's personality changes:
Deployment is stressful for everyone involved. It helps to talk about what changes are likely to occur so you can recognize them and be on the same page in how you deal with them. Presenting a united front as parents is extremely important for your child's security.
- Going through the experience of deployment will change your children. Some rise to the occasion and become stronger than you expected. Others regress and become needier than you may feel you have time for.
- Children and teens understand more than you might think when it comes to deployment-they pay attention when adults talk.
- Encourage your children and teens to voice their feelings. They may not think they should share how they feel when they are expected to "be strong" or "be the man of the family" instead.
- Be sure to talk about your service member regularly. Let children have their own means of communication with their deployed parent.
For the Serviceperson: Expect to find a new balance when you return-both you and your child will have changed over the course of the deployment. Before you leave, be open with each other and set the foundation for coping with your changes openly and honestly. Don't expect miracles...expect moments.