M.W. asks from Nampa, ID on November 16, 2010
Any military moms know how to help little kids deal with it better? No offense to nonmilitary. Usually nonmilitary moms suggest the same things and honestly, they don't work. Count down calendars, skype, videos of daddy, pictures of daddy are all upsetting to them. The stuffed animals with Daddy's picture? No. My husband gave them all a giant stuffed animal to hug while he was gone and they don't touch them. Talking to him on the phone upsets them. I am a National Guard wife so I don't live on base. The few other military moms that I talk to have the same or similar issues. My friend's son refused to watch his daddy on the computer or tv and would scream in anger when he saw him. My daughter hides during skype and my others run away or just make faces at him. When I hand them the phone to talk to him, they say they don't want to talk to him.They like coloring him pictures to send. They keep asking me when he is coming home. Well, it is not for almost a year, so it is not like I can say, "Soon, kids!" They have more nightmares, they are fighting more, they are disobeying me more, they are not acting their age. I know this is all due to stress and anxiety and sadness, but is there something I can do to help them? I know they need more love and attention, but I am SPREAD THIN! You know how it is. They don't have grandpas that live close or that would want to play with them even if they did live closeby. They have one uncle nearby that did take them to the park and they loved that. He is super, super busy -3 jobs and 4 kids so I don't feel like I can ask him to step in a lot and play with them.
So What Happened?™
Thank you for all of your kind words. My kids are ages 6, 6, and 4. I do have a deployment coping workshop a few Saturdays from now that the Guard is putting on. I also signed my kids up for lots of classes, trying to keep busy but instead was too busy, so I am going to cut down on the classes. I also like the idea of doing a countdown 3 months before he gets home, rather than 13 months before. I also have been too pushy with the kids to get them to talk on the phone or skype, so I will back off (I never thought of it that way, thank you.) I also like the box of things idea. I will do that one too. I do have 3 military wives that I hang out with, but we haven't seen each other for over a month so that is part of the problem, so we will do more, plus part of the problem was my mom calling me up recently to tell me that she thought I was not being patient enough or loving (she has never been positive about me or thought I was cool so I guess I should just ignore her advice, but it really, really hurt). I don't think I am angry, just really frustrated with watching my kids in pain and not knowing or feeling like I could fix it. Maybe I am angry? If there is anyone I am angry with, it is my mom. Thanks to all of you and I am saving all of your advice and reading it again.
L.C. answers from Dover on November 17, 2010
First of all, God bless your husband and God bless you and your kids. Spouses and families are the unsung heros of the military. My husband and I have been married for 11 years and he has been deployed 4 times and TDY so many times I can't begin to count. When our military members serve, their families serve right along with them. So my heart and prayers go out to you and your kids and I will pray for your husband's safety.
Every deployment is different for every kid. The things you mentioned are often what we do but sometimes we have to think outside the box. I have found some links for you and I am putting them on here for you. One is to a message board for military wives that copes strictly with managing the deployment with and for your kids. I bet you'll find a mom on there who has been through just what you are going through and will have brilliant ideas. One is to military one source that gives information about counseling available to you. They even have phone consultations. I am also posting theweb address to big brothers big sisters. I would definitely give them a call and see what they can offer your kids so that you have a more consistent involvement with your kids by someone who can mentor them.
If you just need to talk you can always message me. It's hard, so hard, to balance not just your life but everyone else's when a parent is deployed. I hope these are helpful.
update - you are also about an hour away from Mountain Home AFB in Idaho and it might be worth a call to the Family Readiness Center to see if you can receive services there.
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S.G. answers from Jacksonville on November 17, 2010
Do a paper chain. For each day daddy is gone you write the date and something that the kids did that day on a strip of paper and add to it every day and hang it up around the house. It will be part of the welcome home deco and it will give daddy something special to read during his down time when he comes home.
Everything you are saying the kids are doing is normal behavior for them. You need to let them express themselves no matter what-mad, sad, happy at you, at daddy at the world!! You need to give them the tools and words to express themselves and that it's ok to feel that way too.
Go to www.militaryonesource.com. They are a free service for military and full of great information from free H and R block tax filing, dealing with deployments and weight loss.
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M.R. answers from Columbus on November 17, 2010
We always had a box on the table that we were filling with stuff. Pictures, hand prints, rocks they liked, it really didn't matter what it was. Dad liked it, and it was something to do on a kid level to feel attached. Make that a focus, when they are thinking about what they can actually do to be connected to Dad, it is helpful.
A year is a long time, and they can't really even process time well yet anyway. Here is what I did when I had little ones trying to deal with it. I purchased a small American flag for each week Dad was supposed to be gone. We found a tree in our yard (in the back is best, you don't want to draw attention to your husband's absence) and we planted a Daddy garden. We put a yellow ribbon around the tree. Every sunday, one of my kids got to pull out a flag, and we put it into a Navy coffee mug on the mantle by his picture. They got to see the flags slowly be fewer and fewer in the yard, and more and more in the house. It made the time more tangeble to them. We would talk about Daddy when we pulled the flags, and it made Sunday afternoons special. We might go to lunch someplace Daddy liked, or put on the three stooges on TV and talk about how much Daddy would laugh (his fave) just something that made sense to them that was like there Dad. We had an excuse to have milkshakes, because Dad likes then, and so on. Sunday became our time to let it all out, and if Dad could call on Sunday, all the better. I think that the kids kind of got it out of their system for the week to come.
Don't feel guilty about being spread thin, it will pass, and the behavior is typical for deployment. We are reserves, so we don't have a community close by either, but what I did, is I carried a list of things I needed done, that I could not do myself. Like, relace a cracked pane of glass, un clog a slow drain, put in a new disposal, baby sit for a hair appointment, and when ever anybody said "if there is ever anything I can do to help..." I pulled out my list and got something checked off. Usually, people really mean it when they say this to a service person's family, and they like to feel like they have done something because of thier gratetude for your families service and sacrifice, and you won't ask when the items come up, but if you get them when they say it, they will come through and your life will be easier. Put, take my kids to the park for some good play time and undivided attention on your list, and that will help you out too. Count it up, how many times have you heard that? It really is huge.
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M.M. answers from Washington DC on November 17, 2010
You do what you can to survive. A year is long. We were done at 9 months and I still had 4 to get through. It's tough.
Get involved in activities. Make a routine for you and the kids.
DON'T bemoan the fact that daddy is gone. Just say he comes home after Suzie's 5th birthday or something like that.
I was able to say after our second Valentine's Day. They knew that Valentine's Day was in February. But I would name the holidays and birthdays that came before it. So I would say after Christmas and Philip's next birthday then after Valentine's Day.
Have the kids give daddy a big group HI from across the room and let them be to do what they are doing. My kids didn't even talk to daddy when he called unless they had something they wanted to tell him or they answered the phone.
Relax your standards, eat pancakes for dinner and cake for breakfast.
Let them, or one of them at a time, sleep with you. Mine was 5 the first Iraq deployment and slept with me every night.
We did our countdown 100 days before. We made up a song, 100 days of deployment left over to the tune of 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. We sang that at dinner. But we sang it just unitl that days chain piece we were tearing off.
Find restaurants that have kids eat free nights and go once a month or so. It breaks up the monotony of the days.
Do you get along with his mom and dad? I went to his moms; and to my mom's. We are over 1000 miles away but it also broke up the deployment.
Hire a babysitter for Saturday afternoon and go shopping. Have one of your other deployment moms take them Chirstmas shopping and you take her kids out.
I just reread your post. It is OK to be angry. If the kids are in school, take an exercise class or go for a good long walk. And if mom is belittling you just telll her you have to go the kids need you and hang up. My mom is very antimilitary. For my sanity I have to cut our conversations short quite a bit.
And you will get through this. You will be stronger for it too. Believe in yourself.
You can be Santa, if hubby makes a stocking for you then put dog bones and toys in a stocking that you open. Or cat toys, guniea pig toys, whatever animal you have. Or if you need hand cream put some of that in. My 9 yo still thinks that Santa brought me a stocking for both Christmases hubby was gone.
Birthday parties are hard too. I didn't have any while he was deployed at the time I had four at home.
You'll make it.
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C.W. answers from Boise on November 17, 2010
I am a new military mom - My husband joined the Army this year and is currently doing his training. He has only been gone 4 months with 2 more to go - I can't imagine him gone a whole year but I know that deployment is probably in our future. I currently have 2 little boys, with another little boy due to arrive about the same time Daddy comes home. I feel like my boys are out of control and I know it is just their way of dealing with Daddy being gone but it is hard to deal with the behavior issues on a daily basis. They don't like to talk to him on the phone either - I think I have managed to get them to talk to him once each since he left...they always seem sadder after the phone calls. I understand the feelings of being spread thin...I am tired all the time and I feel like I don't give the boys all of the attention I need but I also know that it is important to take time for myself everyday. You just have to remember that you are doing the best you can - even when it doesn't feel like it! I know that I don't have any real advice but I want you to also know that you are not alone out there. I also live in Nampa - feel free to send me a private message if you would like to meet up sometime and let the kids play, as I found a change of pace from the daily routine helps a lot.
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A.G. answers from Norfolk on November 17, 2010
So I don't know how old your kids are, my oldest are three and a half and though my husband has already been gone 6 months this year he has not been gone longer than 2 months at a time that they can remember (however, he will deploy soon). However, my best friends are military wives of course and I have been thier shoulder when they were dealing with the same thing.
Here's what I have gathered, and had to use on some shorter deployments:
I would not start the countdown calendar until the last three months or so, almost a year is too long and too overwhelming.
Sadly we won't have skype or even really phone calls when my husband is deployed as Naval Ships aren't often equiped for it. I don't know if your husband is somewhere that he can wear civilian clothes on his off time, but I would ask him to try to always be in uniform on skype, videos etc. It assures that your children know that he is working, not out having fun.
Keep to a schedule and try to always have something to look forward to every month, a visit to or from a friend, a special outing etc.
There comes a time when you have to sit down with your kids - probably each individually and just explain that this is the way life is right now, and that it won't always be that way. You need to tell them that you know that its hard to have Daddy away and that you know that they hate it. Be honest, tell them that you hate it, that Daddy hates it, but that it is the way life is. You need to tell them "Its ok for them to be sad and its ok for them to be angry, but they are responsible for how they act. If they choose to miss out on the fun things because they are angry then they are the ones who are missing out." Its very important to acknowledge thier feelings and to not force them to skype etc, I would just tell them how much fun it is for me and share my excitement. You need to tell them over and over again that Daddy loves them and that you guys have each other while he is gone and that you are there for them. I would always let them know that because Daddy can't be here he still wants to read to them, the videos are available when they are ready. Let them know that they can and should tell you how they feel about it and you need to keep explaining that Daddy is gone to protect not just our country, but to protect you and them. I also remind my kids that this is what pays for the house we live in and the food we eat, that Daddy loves us all very much but that he has to go so that he can give us these things.
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R.M. answers from Topeka on November 17, 2010
I am a military wife, my husband is retired after 30 years in the Army and our Son is getting ready to head to Afghanistan in January for his 4th war zone tour. A lot of the things that you say non-military wives have suggested are the very same things that I would suggest. Skype is such a wonderful gift to the entire world!!! I used it so often when our youngest daughter was teaching overseas and we will certainly be using it when our son heads back to Afghanistan. That being said...young children react to things differently than we adults do...so maybe for your children Skype is not the blessing that it has been for our family. I wonder if you could just talk to your husband on Skype and not try to make the children be the center of the interaction? Let them be in the room, so he can see them, but don't force them to come over and talk with him on the screen...maybe they would become interested in it on their own after a while and just do it naturally? It is really very natural for them to be reacting by hiding from him or making faces at him...they don't understand why they see Daddy in that computer....lol.
Could they get involved in projects that have them doing something or making something to mail to their Daddy? Could they help you bake cookies ( even the youngest child can help with measuring and stirring...packaging) to mail to him? Does he have some favorite foods that he can't get where ever he is stationed that you could take them to the store on a shopping adventure and stock up on for him? Even something as simple as picking out which flavor of pre-sweetened kool aid to send him ( My son always asks for that to make the treated water more palatable) could be fun for them. Maybe you could take some pictures of them in everyday activities and then have them dictate a "story" to you, to go with the pictures and help them produce a "book" to send to their Dad.
I think the best thing you can do for them right now is to take care of YOU!!! I sense a lot of ( very understandable) tension and anger in your letter. Do you have some good friends with children the same ages that you could arrange to do child care swaps with? That way you could have a few hours to yourself every week to go and do what YOU want to do...recharge your batteries and come home with a fresh new energy. As you know, our children are like little sponges...they soak up our attitudes, our fears, our anxieties...if you can do something to change your outlook and make yourself feel more positive and ready to look at life as a great adventure...then they will start to feel that way too. I am not trying to tell you that you don't have a right to feel alone and frustrated and overwhelmed...you DO!!! It is hard being a military spouse while the military member is away doing their job...I remember it so very well. You say your husband is a member of a National Guard Unit...then there are other men and women in the very same situation that you are in...you just need to figure out how to connect with them. My husband served his last 17 years as a full time National Guardsman and I can tell you that there SHOULD be an organization in place to help give support and encouragement to the family members who have been left at home during the units' deployment. Call your National Guard State Headquarters and just tell them who you are and who your husband is stationed with and ask them for some names and telephone numbers or email addresses of the people who can be of the most help to you!! There used to be an organization called Army Community Support, I am sure that the name has changed since I was involved with it, but there has to be something similar to it now. If it weren't 3:00 in the morning and if my husband weren't sound asleep upstairs I would ask him for more detailed information on it. If you would like to, message me and I will talk with him tomorrow and find out exactly who you need to talk to....he will know the names of the offices that can be of assistance to you.
Is there a Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization in your area? Maybe you could look into that and see if there isn't someone who would interact with your children on a regular basis and give them that male presence in their life that they are craving right now. Do you have a church family? If so, I bet that there are men and women in your church who would love to "adopt" your children and build a relationship with them to help fill the void until Daddy comes home.
Again, I don't know how old your children are, but a lot of the fighting and acting out is probably something that would be happening even if your husband were not stationed away from home. Of course it would be easier to deal with if you had him there to help you step in and take care of things part of the time....but at least you can comfort yourself with the fact the a lot of the behavior is "normal" and really not related to Daddy being gone.
Be proud of the job that your husband is doing...less than 2% of the citizens of our country are committed enough and brave enough to join the military community and fight to keep our country safe and free!!! Please thank your husband for me for his service to our country...and please accept my thanks to YOU too...being a Military Wife/Mother is a very tough job!!!
If you ever just need to vent to someone...or just need someone who understands, to talk to...please feel free to message me...I would love to be your shoulder to cry on!!!
God Bless you M....and God Bless your Husband.
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A.P. answers from Denver on November 17, 2010
I am not a military mom. I can only imagine what you are going through. The only reason I write is my mother-in-law was a military mom of three and I asked her what she did to get by, as her family was in Germany so not much of a family support system available. She said she had to find an other soldier's wife (with kids) that was deployed at the same time since they are the only ones who will ever understand what you are going through. I think this would be the same for your children. I don't know but I am sure there is a play group somewhere or you could start one that would allow you and your children to be around others who understand the sacrafice you and your family are making for this country.
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