Preparing for a Deployment ::
The deployment of a family member or
spouse/significant other can
be a very emotional and difficult time for many families. But by
doing everything you can to get yourself and your family ready, you
may find that you are better able to cope throughout this
challenging time. Families who know when a loved one is scheduled to
be deployed should prepare as soon as possible by talking to
children and extended family members about what will happen during
deployment, adjusting their routines, and reviewing financial and
Separation from a spouse or partner is hard, whether it's for six
weeks or six months. If you know what to expect and come up with a
plan for taking care of your household and yourself, you can be
better prepared to handle the strong emotions that often come with a
Everyone reacts to the news of a deployment differently. You may
a strong sense of denial
Some people may also start to withdraw
from their spouse or partner to try and make the transition easier.
All of these are normal reactions to a deployment. But there are
things you can do to feel better and get ready. You can
Find out as much as you can
about the deployment. Where will your spouse be? How long will
the deployment last? By learning as much as you can about where
your partner will be and what he or she will be doing, you may be
able cope better with feelings of uncertainty. Try to remember
that in some cases, you may not be able to get as much information
as you'd like because of security issues.
Agree on a plan for
communicating. Find out how you'll be able to communicate.
Talk about whether you'll stay in touch by telephone, e-mail, or
letters, and how often or at what times you'll communicate. Will
you be able to send a letter or e-mail each day, or will it be
once a week? How soon can you expect to get a response?
Make a plan for being alone.
Family members who are at home while a loved one is serving in the
military may be able to deal with anxiety and fear if they make
plans to take classes, pick up new hobbies, or spend time doing
things they wouldn't normally do. Set some personal goals to work
toward during the deployment.
Talk about your feelings with
your partner and encourage him or her to do the same. Share
your fears and concerns about the deployment and work together to
come up with a plan for handling them.
Find support for yourself.
Many branches of the service offer support in the form of social
groups, counseling, or advice. Look into what's available for you
as a military family member.
Reach out to other people who
are going through or have already gone through a deployment.
Participate in any predeployment activities offered by your unit.
Military families who have already experienced a deployment may
have valuable tips and advice about handling the separation. By
reaching out to other people who are preparing for a deployment,
you may be able to build a support system for the coming weeks or
Spend special time together
as a couple and as a family. Take the time to be alone with
your spouse or partner before they leave. It's also important for
children to have individual time with a parent in the days leading
up to a deployment. Make time to be together as a family even if
it's just for an ordinary activity like taking a bike ride or
playing a game.
Preparing your home and life for
The absence of a family member may mean that you'll have to do
things differently at home and in the rest of your life. If you take
the time to prepare for these changes, you may find it easier to
adjust. Here are some things you should think about when you're
preparing for deployment:
Review child and elder care
arrangements. If you need help covering your child or elder
care needs, contact any services that may be available to you
through the military, in your community, or through another
employer for support and resources. If you already have a child
care plan in place, review it to make sure that the absence of a
family member will not be a problem.
If there are certain chores
or duties that the deployed family member always does, make sure
you know how to do them, too. In some families, one person is
responsible for maintaining the car or for grocery shopping. If
this is the case in your family, make sure you feel comfortable
taking on that responsibility on your own.
Update and check legal and
financial documents and details. This should include updating
wills and medical directives, creating powers of attorney
documents, and ensuring that family members have access to
accounts and documents.
Make sure all important
contact numbers are easy to find. Gather information about how
to reach the deployed family member, including numbers for
contacting appropriate military officials for information and
updates. Make sure you also know how to contact your spouse's
Create a family emergency
plan. Talk about what you'd do in the case of an emergency,
including where you'd go and how you would get in touch. Involve
children and other family members in these discussions in
Talk about how you'll handle
finances during the deployment. If your deployed spouse
typically takes care of the family finances, make sure that you
feel comfortable assuming these responsibilities. Make sure that
you agree on a plan for accessing and using all checking, savings,
or investment accounts as well as safety deposit boxes. Go over
all bills that will need to be paid during the deployment period,
including taxes. If it's necessary, make arrangements for the
direct deposit of the paycheck of the person who will be deployed.
Helping children prepare for
It's important to involve children in the preparations for
deployment and explain to them exactly what a deployment involves in
a way that they will understand. You may also want to
Go over the "house rules."
Explain to your child that rules will not change during the
deployment just because a parent or family member is gone. Enlist
older children to help around the house by taking over a chore or
duty that the missing parent or family member always did.
Encourage younger children to
talk with older children who have already been through a
deployment. If you don't have older children, help your child
make connections with the children of relatives, friends, or other
military families who are familiar with deployment.
Make time for the family
member or parent who will be deployed to spend "alone time" with
each child in the family.
Take lots of pictures or make
videotapes of your child and the parent who will be deployed doing
everyday activities. Document ordinary things, like getting
ready for bed, reading a story, eating dinner, or playing a game.
Put these pictures in a small album for your child or display them
somewhere your child can easily see them. Many families also make
recordings of the parent or loved one who will be deployed reading
favorite stories so that children can listen to their voices when
they are gone.
Give your child a special
gift before the deployment begins. This could be anything -- a
diary, a scrapbook, a watch, or a bracelet -- as long as it's
something your child can hold and look at when she's missing her
parent or family member.
Make sure your child
understands that he or she will be able to stay in touch with the
deployed parent or family member by writing letters, talking on
the phone, or sending recordings or drawings. Sometimes
children have trouble understanding the idea of a temporary
separation, and they may think that they won't be able to talk to
or communicate with their deployed loved one.
Come up with a way to count
down the time that the parent or family member will be gone that
children can understand. Some families create calendars and
mark off the days while others may come up with other ideas like
filling up a jar with a chocolate or a sticker for each day the
loved one will be gone. If you're not sure how long the parent
will be gone, you can mark the passage of time by making a paper
chain and adding a link each day that the parent is gone, then use
the chain as a decoration when they return.
The time you spend preparing for a
deployment pays off down the road. You'll find that you are better
able to handle the stress of the separation and take care of
yourself and your family.
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