It can be hard for military brats to feel connected with deployed parents. When you leave, they often face confusion and sadness at the loss of such a prominent person in their lives. However, the good news is that there are things you can do to bridge the distance.
Here are six creative ways to stay connected to your kids during deployment.
1. Make a deployment wall.
Before you leave, set up a deployment wall. Choose some space and put up items that may help your child feel close to you. Some people put up two clocks: one for home, and one for the deployed parent. A map is popular as well — allowing your child to trace where in the world you are. Other people use a countdown. As a parent, you know the way your child copes and will likely know the best things to put on their deployment wall. If you’re looking for inspiration, Pinterest has a number of creative ideas.
2. Create personalized care packages.
While children love to receive gifts of any sort, whether candy or toys from your travels, a personalized care package will go a long way. Know what your child likes and send them special things that only they will appreciate.
3. Keep a family calendar.
A family calendar can help your child know what you are doing, but more importantly you will know what they are doing. Being aware of when they have soccer practice, ballet recitals, or even a test in school will allow them to feel like you are still a part of their daily lives. Just asking how their day went helps children feel connected even though you may not be there to see these events. There are several group calendar apps you can use to collaborate, like Google Calendar, UpTo, or Skedj.
Related: Here are 7 tools that have changed deployments for military families
4. Write letters.
Even though you may see your kids via video chat, or speak to them on the phone, the tangibility of a letter can go a long way. Whether you draw them pictures or write stories, children will enjoy holding onto letters as mementos while you are away. Before you leave, you can even establish a “deployment mailbox” where your letters can be found by them, or they can leave you letters (with the help of a spouse or guardian, of course). Some families even send digital letters using apps like Sandboxx or Postagram.
5. Set times for video holiday celebrations.
Holidays on deployment are especially hard for children. The normal traditions you have may fall victim to distance, but there are things you can do. Scheduling a video celebration, whether you skype during Thanksgiving dinner, or open Christmas gifts together, this will help children feel like you are still there even if you are hundreds of miles away.
6. Read together.
Whether via Skype or recording, reading to your younger kids will allow them to feel connected to you the same way a physically present parent would be. Especially for younger children, this will help them feel close to you. There are even groups like United Through Reading that will help you videotape a storybook reading if you don’t have the resources to make a tape on your own.
Whether you are gone for the weekend or deployed for six months, these creative tips can help you stay connected with your kids.