How to survive the holidays as a military family with challenges and obstacles.

DO: Have a Family of Friends 

Your spouse may not even be home for Christmas, but you can still count on your friends and other family members to share in the holiday spirit.

Every year my kids get a kick out of hanging two special Christmas ornaments on our tree.  One Christmas ornament reads “Our First Christmas Together 1998” and the other  reads, “Our First Christmas Together 1999”.  A few weeks after my husband and I were married on August 1, 1998, he deployed with his squadron overseas until January 1999.  So our “first married Christmas” is 1998, however our “first Christmas spent together” was 1999.  This scenario is all too common for military families.

surviving the holidays

I attended all the squadron holiday events with the other spouses whose husbands were deployed and I remember all the fun we had!

On New Year’s Eve I had a beautiful candle-lit dinner in a restaurant with my friend Jen, whose husband was also deployed, and she was about 7 months pregnant.   We kept laughing that everyone must have thought we were a couple.  I truly believe humor is the way to get you through – everything!


DON’T : Be Miserable if You Can’t be Together

There are plenty of ways to make the season bright even if you can’t be together over the holidays. Try starting some traditions of your own!

An idea from Kate Fosson, MilitaryOneClick Web Designer and Navy Spouse whose husband was in Afghanistan for the majority of the year… Make a t-shirt with a funny photo of your spouse and wear it to all of your holiday events.  Take photos of you wearing the t-shirt with all the people you visit and then make an album to send to your loved one.  It’s priceless!

surviving the holidays

During my husband’s 1998 deployment, since we did not have children yet,  it was just my lab Sydney and me.   So I took her to visit Santa, I put her picture on the Christmas card, visited friends and family and we decorated the tree together – well I decorated – she ate the cookies.

Find fun ways to share the holiday spirit with your service member, whether near or far! Being miserable is no fun for either one of you!

DO: Take Leave

If your spouse is around this year make sure he/she takes leave, even if you don’t plan on “leaving”. The time you spend in your own home is worth every amount of leave time and your family will be grateful to have your full attention.  Most commands will have a holiday stand-down time for this purpose, and of course to take a break from working… Take advantage of it!

DON’T: Wait Until the Last Minute to Decide How to Spend the Holiday

If your spouse is not deployed, where do you spend the holidays?  Before we had children it was much easier to travel during the holidays and “home for the holidays” felt more like my parents house in NJ, than our apartment in Jacksonville, Florida.  Being a Jersey girl my whole life, I had a hard time hanging Christmas lights on a palm tree in 85 degree weather.  However, once we had children, home is definitely where the military sends us.  We want our children to wake up in their house on Christmas morning and find the presents Santa left under the Christmas tree we decorated together. However,  where to spend Christmas is a very stressful topic for military families.  Milfamilies usually live far away from the relatives, therefore we can’t open presents under our tree in the morning and end up at the Grandparents for dinner.  It’s usually all or nothing – which makes it hard.  So here’s how to reduce the disagreements – notice I said reduce – not resolve – that’s where you come in.

Talk about this early and make a decision:   preferably around the 4th of July, not the week before Christmas!  Make a decision that works for your family  – the people living in your home.  Of course, every mother in law wants to see her little sonny boy, so this is a decision that needs to be made between you and your spouse.   Every family is different and you have to find what works for you.  You can take turns; one year your home, one year his parents, one year your parents and one year on a tropical island, then start over!

DO: Make Rules About Company

“Fish and Company start to stink after Three Days” Benjamin Franklin:  Set up a specific period of time that you are going away or you are hosting company.  My husband has a 10 day rule and I know many friends who thinks this is way too long and others who have their families stay with no expiration date.  Pick a time frame and make it known to all.

Wherever in the world you decide to spend the holidays, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  If your spouse is deployed, we know it’s a tough time to get through, and we are sending you hugs.  Try starting a new tradition – one just for you!  If you are fortunate enough to be together this year – enjoy this precious time of the holidays.

Love, Jen and The MilitaryOneClick Team