Parenting ideas for all phases of deployment
- Maintain routines.
During a parent’s deployment it’s important to maintain your family’s daily routine. In the event that your child’s routine will need to be changed, talk to them about the changes ahead of time. This will allow them to think about the changes and ask any questions.
- Stay calm and in-control.
When sharing deployment information or news it’s important to stay calm and be reassuring. Children will model your behavior and reactions, and are learning from you how to cope with difficult situations and strong emotions.
- Talk with your kids.
Listen to their concerns and find out what they know first. Ask them what they think. Answer their questions truthfully but at their age level. Keep conversations brief with younger children. Not all kids or teens are good at talking, so talk while you’re doing some activity together and their hands are busy.
- Monitor media exposure to war and terrorism.
Be aware of individual children’s sensitivities and developmental level. Protect children from anxiety-provoking information, including overheard conversations and media coverage related to war. Help older children and teens balance their interest in news coverage with the need for anxiety-free time. Talk together about media stories your child encounters.
- Teach appropriate emotional expression.
Remind children to use their words when expressing their feelings rather than acting out those feelings. Teach younger kids “feeling words” and connect those words to their behavior, for example: “I see you’re hitting the floor and stomping around — you must be mad.” With older kids, this idea works just as well, for example: “You’re yelling at everyone about losing your study guide — are you stressed about this test?” Teach and model “I-language,” for example: “I get worried when you don’t call me because I’m unsure if you’re safe.” Suggest keeping a journal and writing down thoughts and feelings to adolescents. Younger kids can be encouraged to draw a picture to show how they feel, and then talk with you about their picture. Young children often work out their feelings in play, so unless they are not being safe, allow them to act out their concerns during their playtime.
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