Kylee Kids TreeI just love the magic that comes with this season. I love the sparkle in the eyes of my little ones when they see the holiday lights, the tin of “Christmas Muffins” that my mom sends us every year, and knowing we’re making memories that are going to stick with my kids for the rest of their lives. For me, the holidays had always been a time to come together as a family- the annual Christmas party at my grandmother’s house, the family photo taken EVERY year in front of the fireplace, and coconut cake. Oh, my grandmother’s coconut cake!

This is our 10th holiday season as a military family. Only three out of those 10 have we been lucky enough to spend together with family. I had high hopes for my first holiday season as a newlywed and military spouse. I decorated our house and tree with the ornaments I received at my bridal shower and made cookies for the neighbors. Despite my best efforts, it wasn’t as magical as I had hoped. It was the first Christmas I was spending away from my family. I was sad, lonely and moped around.

I’m sure many of you can relate. As military families, we grow accustomed to spending special times apart from the ones we love. Sometimes it’s a deployment, sometimes it’s a TDY, and sometimes it’s just too darn expensive to fly my family of six across the country to celebrate a special occasion.

Chances are, either you or someone you know is braving this holiday season alone this year. Let’s be real, spending the holidays away from the ones you love is never ideal. However, there are some really great ways you can make the ones you love seem a little closer. Here’s our top 5 ways to stay connected during the holidays!

Meghan Christmas Card

5.  If your family does the Elf on the Shelf, send an extra one in a care package to your servicemember.  Have the elf visit during one of your chats. Visit our Military Elf Pinterest board for ideas.  I know my kids would get a kick out of this one!

4. Let your deployed spouse help you buy presents. If you normally reserve some special time to shop for family gifts together, schedule a phone date to do the shopping together online.

3. Include your distant loved one in on a holiday tradition. When my husband was deployed one year, we changed things up a bit. We set up Skype so he could see the kids running down the hall, excited to see what Santa left (Santa came at nap time that year). If your family reads a book, let your servicemember or distant family member read it to the kids. There are recordable holiday books you can purchase that allow you to record yourself reading the book. My in-laws did this for “The Night Before Christmas” one year, and my kids still love hearing Grammy recite one of their favorite stories.

2. Include your deployed spouse in your holiday card. We just LOVE this card by one of our own staff members. Her husband is currently deployed, and she got creative with the holiday card instead of sending one without him.

1. You know the saying: if you can’t be with the ones you love, love the ones you’re with! Sounds cliché, but it’s so true.  Bake your favorite holiday treat and share it with your neighbors or coworkers. Open your home, open your hearts and share the holiday season with the people around you. Military families can be an amazing source of support and comfort for each other. We know what it’s like because we’ve all been there, so don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re one of the lucky ones sharing this holiday with your loved ones, invite another family over to celebrate and share your traditions. It might just be the best gift you can give this holiday!

Wishing you and yours (wherever they may be) a truly magical holiday season!

Thank you Blue Star Families and Jenny Felsen!