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Preparing our kids for separation

My question for this post: How do you prepare your children for separation (deployments, TDY, weekend trainings, etc)?

We have talked a lot about deployments and reintegration here on SB, but I wonder how other milspouses prepare their children when a parent has to "go away" for a period of time.  I think this is important due to my own "lessons learned" with my kids, as well as helping other milspouses prepare their children.  Especially new spouses, or spouses who have kids that are "at the age" where some preparation needs to be done.  We're all different and do things our own ways, but your "way of doing things" may help another milspouse.  So, please share your experiences.

When DH deployed to Iraq we told our kids a few months before he was due to leave.  They were quite young (1 1/2 and 4 1/2 years old), but we didn't know what to expect (from the kids) when DH did deploy.  We showed the kids a couple of different maps and pointed out where we were and where DH would be.  We tried to explain what DH would be doing (i.e. helping the people of Iraq, keeping them safe, making sure the "bad guys" went to "jail" where they belonged, etc.).  We openly talked about the deployment - we didn't hide it from them or tell them last minute.

After DH was wounded and he and I spent MANY months away from the kids, we realized they need to be "prepped" for ALL separations, even if I am staying home and it's just DH who is leaving.  My kids are 7 and 4 now.  They get VERY upset when we aren't home and they think we should be (i.e. late from work).  It really screws up their routine. 

Even though DH is currently in a non-deployable assignment, he is gone A LOT of weekends.  We usually tell the kids a day or two before: where DH is going and why, when he is leaving and is due home, etc.  It gives them (and me) some peace of mind. 

My 4-yr.-old daughter often asks, "Why does the Army need Daddy to go ______?" 

Me: "It's part of is job, sweetie."

Daughter: "When is he going to get a new job?"

Me: "When the Army no longer needs him or when Daddy is ready to get out of the Army."

It's interesting, to me, what goes through the minds of my kids with all of this "Army stuff."  We do our best to prepare them... and adjust accordingly.  Not always easy...

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