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Aug
24

Ideas and resources to help kids cope with deployment

By

momcomfortsdaughter

by Jocelyn Green

In all my conversations with military wives, it seems one of the biggest trials of deployment is helping children cope. (Understandably so—it’s hard enough for adults to get through it!) Just last month, the Department of Defense released new research findings showing that the number of mental health visits by military children has doubled since the Iraq War first started, from 1 million to 2 million.

But don’t let those numbers make you feel helpless; you’re not. As moms, you can have the greatest positive influence on your children than anyone else in the world. Faith Deployed contributor and Navy Reserves wife Sara Horn recently wrote an article for cinchouse.com on the topic, where she shared these great ideas to help ease deployment blues for children:

“Write notes. Assuming there would be times when Cliff couldn’t call or write home on a regular basis, I bought some miniature note cards and asked him to write short little notes to Caleb that I could pull out and give him on especially hard days. The notes said things like “I love you monkey,” his pet name for our son, or “When I get home, we’ll go to a hockey game.” Though these notes didn’t replace his dad, they did help keep Caleb feeling close to him.

“Create a bulletin board. We put a large bulletin board over Caleb’s bed which had a map of Iraq and thumb tacks to mark the areas Cliff was in. Notes, letters and postcards went up there as well, including the bulldozer picture. Every night before Caleb went to sleep, he could look up at his board and remember how much his daddy loved him.

“Keep reminders close by. Right before Cliff left, I gave him and Caleb both dog tags that had special pictures printed on them. Caleb’s was a pic of he and his dad at a hockey game where we’d had a lot of fun. Any time he was really missing his dad, he would wear it to school. You could do the same for little girls, perhaps even using a locket in place of a dog tag. We also made a trip to the mall where Cliff recorded his voice in a special stuffed monkey made just for Caleb.

“Make special videos. One of our favorite ways Cliff stayed connected to Caleb was a series of short videos we recorded before he deployed. He did special messages for Caleb’s birthday, the last day of school, the first day of school and for times when Caleb might be sad. I played these at the appropriate times and Caleb loved being able to see his dad’s face and hear his voice.

“Pack care packages together. Let your children help put packages together. Ask them to draw pictures or write special letters. If you have older teens, ask them to write a family newsletter or make a special scrapbook to mail.” Read the original article in its entirety here.

For literally dozens of resources to help children cope with deployments, check out this resource page from OperationWeAreHere.com .  If you take the time to scroll through them all, I’m sure you’ll find several worth trying.

But to make things even easier, I’ve asked my friend Benita Koeman, founder and owner of the Web site, to recommend her Top 5 Resources for Kids out of that entire selection. Here’s what she said:

“My favorite books:

#1 We Serve Too! (deals with deployment)

#2 We Serve Too! 2 (deals with reunion)

both by Kathleen Edick and Paula J. Johnson. For more info on the books, visit the Web site.

Love the content, pictures are bright and captivating. Can’t say enough about these books!

#3 Flat Daddies I highly recommend for perhaps up to age 5 but beyond that maybe not — we don’t have one because I don’t want us to be seeing him big and huge on the wall and always thinking about him being gone; with little ones I think it’s great because you want them to remember Daddy and what he looks like.

#4 United Through Reading Military Program Last week we received a surprise DVD my husband sent…it was a video of him reading a story, holding up the book to the camera after he read each portion so we could see the pictures, and afterwards he talked for a bit. This was new for us…I highly recommend soldiers do this. Some USO’s offer this service, and most deploying installations offer this through their library. I will be having the kids go to the library and have a video recorded of them reading to Dad.

#5 Daddy Dolls or any other huggable doll or teddy bear that has the option of a voice recording. (For our family, instead of using Daddy Dolls, Dad took each of the kids on an outing to Build-a-Bear Workshop as a surprise, one at a time. It was his special time with each of the kids.) I love that they have something to hug and that they can hear Dad’s voice at their pleasure.

Each of our kids also has a cheap photo box from Michael’s. We plan to decorate it and put things in there that the kids want to save and show Dad when he gets back. (I got the idea from the Homecoming Box from the authors of the books listed above.) We also have a Deployment Journal that we made by decorating the cover of a cheap notebook to make it personal. I am trying to be disciplined in having the kids write or draw things in there to share with dad when he comes home. They will also use it to have a list of questions to ask Dad when he calls so we don’t have dead-end conversations. (There is a Deployment Journal for Kids, but I have not seen it yet.) 

I also recommend The Military Father: A Hands-on Guide for Deployed Dads by Armin A. Brott (former U.S. Marine), a new book that is very thorough in dealing with deployment for each age group and offers a lot of helpful advice.”

About the Author:
Jocelyn Green is the author of Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (Moody Publishers 2008) and co-author of Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq and Afghanistan (forthcoming, AMG Publishers fall 2009). She maintains a Web site and blog offering support and resources for military wives at www.faithdeployed.com and is an award-winning freelance writer who pens articles for dozens of magazines, including Christianity Today, Today’s Pentecostal Evangel, InSite, EFCA Today, Baptist Bulletin, Campus Life, Today’s Christian, BestSemester and more. She also writes for nonprofits, universities and corporations such as Juicy Juice, Nestle, Publix and General Mills. Her devotions also appear at christianmilitarywives.com, InternetCafeDevotions.com and ChristianDevotions.us. Jocelyn is an active member of the Evangelical Press Association and the Christian Authors Network. She and her husband have two children, a dog and a cat, and make their home in Cedar Falls, Iowa. For more about Jocelyn, visit www.jocelyngreen.com.

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