If your child is a teenager, you may want to engage him in a dialogue about some of the changes that the deployed parent may experience before she comes home. This conversation can be simple but should cover the possibility that the service member parent could be irritable, sad, short-tempered, or "different." Empower your teenager by enlisting his aid in talking to the deployed parent when she returns. Let your teen know that he can come to you if he notices anything different or out of the ordinary. Share information, as appropriate, with your teenager about combat stress, depression, and anxiety, and talk to your teenager about any concerns he might have.
You should also create time to talk to your teenager about the coping skills that he has adopted while his deployed parent is away. It is important to acknowledge your teenager's sense of growing self-esteem and the positive choices that he has made during the parent's deployment. Continue to encourage your teenager to participate in age-appropriate, positive activities that will contribute to a sense of mastery in school, social relationships, family relationships, work, and recreation.
For younger children, you probably don't want to discuss these issues in depth. As mentioned, there are terrific resources you can turn to that touch on how a parent may change during a deployment. For a majority of your service member's deployment, you'll probably want to focus on touching base with your child and assessing how she is feeling—or helping the child figure out how she is feeling and validating those feelings before providing her with reassurances that the deployed parent is safe and will be coming home soon.
Helping younger children be informed is really a matter of keeping them engaged in a dialogue about the deployment and recognizing that they are an important part of this experience. Continue your routine and rituals. If you don't already have a countdown ritual for them, it's never too late to start one.
This excerpt is provided courtesy of the acclaimed free digital resource "Everyone Serves." Download your free copy with additional media content today at everyoneservesbook.com.