"See You Soon" - How We Helped Our Kids Prepare for Deployment
Updated: Aug 6, 2020
Preparing for deployment is hard enough on adults, but throw some kids in the mix and there's a whole new ballgame.
We have three small boys - ages 4.5, 3 and 1.
Our four year old is mature enough to understand something was happening, so here are 5 key things we did to help make the transition easier for him
We talked about it...a lot.
He knew daddy was in the army, but we're a National Guard family. RARELY does he have to go away for extended periods of time, and for that we are thankful. So we explained to him "daddy has to go on a very long sleepover with the army." Sleepover and army are concepts he understands well so the leap to daddy not being home for a long time wasn't a big one. We also took him to the base he trains at so he could see the tanks and helicopters, got him shirts, and he helped daddy pack. We wanted him to feel like he was involved and it wouldn't be this big surprise for him.
This was probably the single best investment we made.
I took a picture of Daddy in his uniform and uploaded it to HugAHero.com
For the big boys, I ordered two of the larger dolls, each with the print "Daddy loves (name)" so there wouldn't be any fighting and so they each knew daddy loves them individually. I ordered a smaller one for our 1 year old, and put his name on it as well.
As soon as these arrived in the mail, the kids were smitten. They knew exactly who was on them and they could hug these dolls anytime they were missing daddy.
One caveat - the dolls take a few weeks to make/ship so if you know when sendoff is, try to order them a few weeks ahead of time for the kids to have during send off.
Crafts for Daddy
Father's day fell right before send off. Every year the kids make him a craft, but we needed something that was portable, so this year we made bookmarks.
I took photos of each of them with their arms up on a white background, then printed them out on photo paper and cut out the background. I then tied a piece of string to each one. Ideally I would have covered them in contact paper for protection, but we didn't have any, so I used packing tape.
United Through Reading
This is a fantastic app we discovered at a National Guard event.
Daddy can read stories to the boys where ever he is and upload them to a site. At bedtime, I can have the boys choose which story they want daddy to read and press play.
No saving videos to my phone, no trying to figure out time zones.
Most bases have a station set up similar to this with a tripod and a way to record. We recorded 4 books the night before he left so the next day when the kids were sad, I could pull up daddy reading to them as many times as they wanted.
We let them come to send off
It was early. Very early.
But it was important for us to all be there. For the hugs, for the tears, and to see all of our friends off. This solidified for them that daddy's sleepover had begun and it would be a long time before we see him again.
We're a month in now, and the boys are adjusting nicely. We facetime and call as often as we can, soon we'll be putting care packages together and getting ready for our first holidays without daddy. I truly believe the prep we did going into this deployment made the transition easier on them. They understand and are handling it like the little troopers I know they are.
What are your must haves for deployment prep with littles?