Children And Deployment
Listed below are short summaries about helping children deal with deployment issues.
Talk honestly and openly with the children and try to understand how they are feeling about the separation. Constant reassurances of the departing parent's eventual return are vital. Children will worry as much as the rest of us and their concerns are legitimate. Involve them as much as possible in the deployment by discussing the work you will be doing; give them a map, if you are going on a ship consider using the RN website's interactive programmes that show the ship and its internal layout etc. Equally, NPFS produces a workbook for young children, which they can complete while their parent is away.
Downloadable File: When a Special Person Goes Away Workbook (PDF)
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Children need extra support and attention during the separation. It is important to keep the absent parent in the family's everyday emotional life. Talk about the separation and what they miss. This can make feelings seem more painful to start with but it helps the subsequent reunion.
Children lose part of their security when a parent leaves. This can show up in varying degrees of unacceptable behaviour such as temper tantrums, bed-wetting, fall-off in school performance etc. Expect some questioning about death, e.g.; "Will daddy kill people or be shot?" It is necessary to address these concerns calmly and honestly - even if you are worried about the same thing.
Older children may 'take it out' on their younger brothers and sisters. Some may become more protective of their mother/father. Some may become upset or emotionally withdrawn. Any of these could indicate the child may be having difficulty with separation; it could on the other hand just be a part of adolescence. The key is to discuss the child's feelings about the separation rather than focus on the behaviour alone.
Some suggestions that might help:
Keep roughly the same rules for children during the separation.
Try to spend individual time with each child - although as a single parent this can be difficult.
The absent parent should write separate letters to each child.
The children should also be encouraged to write to the absent parent and can include work done at school.
Keep photographs of the absent parent by the child's bed and use them as part of the going to bed routine e.g., "say goodnight to Daddy."
Inform teachers of the absence so any changes in behaviour or performance at school are not handled inappropriately.
This can be harder than you think and you should expect:
Both positive and negative reactions from your children. Try to show understanding with negative reactions.
Your children to have changed.
To 'win back' your children's affections.
Spend as much time as possible with your family after your return. Let the children set the pace of getting to know you again. Be careful to avoid making any changes in their routine for a few weeks after your return.
Go slow and be available for them with your time and emotions. Be sensitive about showing favouritism. Encourage them to tell you what has been happening in their lives whilst you have been away. Focus on their achievements, however small and limit criticism.
Accept changes and adapt to it. Learn from how your partner manages the children including the routines and rules in place. Do not give in to demands just because you feel guilty.