29 answers

Help with a Sad Child

I am an Army wife, and sometimes that means my husband doesn't get to come home for weeks at a time. I deal with it the best I can, but I'm not sure my little girl knows whats going on. She is a big time daddys girl, when he gets home, the only thing she wants to do is be around him. He has left before and she seemed fine, but he left again a few days ago for thirty days and she has been acting alot different, she seems alot fussier and it seems like she is looking for him throughout the house at night, if that makes sense, she just wanders around and then comes to me crying. I let her hear his voice over the phone last night, and when we hung up she started crying, eventually crying herself to sleep. I'm wondering if anyone has been through this and knows a good way to handle it, or to help her to accept that he is gone but will be coming back. He leaves in August for Iraq and maybe by then she can accept it, she is just so young its hard to make her understand. Any advice would be great!!!

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I am a former Navy wife. We had 2 children going into the Navy & 2 more when we got out. My husband served on submarines, so he would be gone 3 months, home 3 months, and so on.

One thing that helped a great deal with our children was to video tape Dad reading books to them. They would get the book out that he was reading & follow along with him. He also recorded his voice on cassette tape and we could play it in the car while driving. If you know he's going to be gone say 30 days, you could buy 3 small gifts 'from daddy' and have her open 1 every 10 days. She's not to know there are other gifts or she'll want them NOW, LOL.

Some of our friends husbands served on the Nimitz. They knew how many days their husbands would be gone so they'd cut paper chain links for X amount of days. They would either, link them all together & remove one each day OR add one to each day & when he got home this chain would be decoration for him homecoming. On a submarine we couldn't do that, their missions were secretive (silent service and all) so we opted to add a chain and hide the links. That way if anyone came over, they wouldn't know if he was coming home in X amount of links or what. Also we didn't tell the children exactly when daddy was coming home since loose lips delay ships. So when I would pull that LAST link, we'd have a mini-celebration for it. That silent service thing was serious too. If we talked openly about their return date & word got back to command, they changed the return date & we didn't get the new date!

Anyway, I digress. Little gifts, pictures of him, reading stories on tape/video, making a paper chain link all helped with us. Another thing, if she likes to color, he could sit & color 'with her' on video as well. Then have him leave the picture he colored & when "he's done" you give it to her!

Being together with other military children will help too and the Mom's groups are helpful for you as well.

Best of luck to you & thank you to you & your husband for making this sacrifice for us!

1 mom found this helpful

I grew up in the military, so I know this must be hard on you. The last time my father left for a tour my younger sister was 2 and I was 12. To help combat the daddy blues he made a lot of tapes of him talking, singing songs and reading stories-this was almost 20 years ago so maybe a dvd would work better now lol. We would listen to them every night and sometimes during the day if she just really missed my dad. I also love the idea of a daddy blanket that someone else mentioned, I think thats great!

Something my sister thought at 2, and I dont know if this really helped but I think for her it did, is that our dad was always on a plane. When he left it was on a plane, so whenever she would see a plane she would say "Daddy! Japan!". Maybe if you could try and show your daughter something tangible about where her dad is it could help. Maybe buy a globe and point it out to her?

Big hugs to you and yours.

1 mom found this helpful

I have two brothers in the military that have both served in Iraq and both have young children. My one brother who has a daughter that was 5 when he went to Iraq, she is very much a daddy's girl too. They took a picture of my brother and ironed it onto white fabric. The took the cut out the picture of him and a piece of pink camo fabric for the back and made a pillow that my niece could take everywhere and hang onto when she went to sleep. It really helped her have her "daddy doll" with her whenever she wanted to feel closer to him. Hope this helps!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi H.! I know it breaks your heart to see your baby cry. I bet if you really think about, you know she cries for the both of you. My husband worked out of town a lot as well. We have 3 kids, and he had worked this way all of their lives. (He was injured in an accident 16 mths. ago, allowing him to be home for this time.) My husband will be returning to work fairly soon, and this time we have purchased a web-cam. I know this will help all of us. The biggest thing is that it's okay for her to cry. This is her natural emotions and she has to know that it's okay to let them out. Let her help you make different things for Daddy-cake, cookies, pictures. Another thing may be is to make a Daddy calender-take a picture of Daddy, laminate it and move it every day until Daddy comes home. Even little ones can understand this one. Reassure her that Daddy is away working for her & you and that's what Daddies do. That he is taking care of you and lots of others and that he has a very special job to do. Maybe you can make a little book about Daddy's job and read it every day. Pray about it, God will give you the right plan of action. Also, don't forget to let your man know how much you really love him, and appreciate him working so hard for you. He feels it all too, and doesn't want to be away. He's doing what he's gotta do, and knowing that you support him even though you may not like it that he's away, will help him be a better man, father, husband. Don't forget to keep those home fires burning! Be Blessed! :)

1 mom found this helpful

My husband is in the Marines and this is also our first child so I understand. He will be deploying again when he's a little over a year. I plan on getting a daddy doll for him. You take a picture and send it in with the doll and they send it back to you with his picture on it and she can carry it around everywhere. Another thing I plan on doing is going to Build-A-Bear and having my husband do a recording there. They put the recording in and everytime he squeezes it, he will hear daddy's voice. I know there are some programs for when the guys are deployed that will record your husband reading a bedtime story and then you girls could watch that every night before she goes to sleep. One of my gf's also put a picture of her daughter's dad right above her crib and every night they told daddy night night. Also, keep pictures of him up in the house and let her see him whenever she wants. Even though my son is only 9 mo, he definitely knows when my husband is gone. He looks for him too and when he comes home, he doesn't let him out of his sight. When my husband went to move the car, our son ran after him yelling DaDa! One thing that I think helps him is keeping the phone on speaker when dad calls and I show him videos and pictures of him on the computer a lot. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Of everything I did (overscheduling the kids to keep them busy, getting a webcam so they could talk to their dad in person) what helped my kids overcome their dad's last 15 month deployment was to make a "daddy blanket". I took pictures of each child with their dad and incorporated them into a 4x4 quilt. It gave my daughter who was 6 at the time of the deployment something to hold onto...as if daddy was giving her a hug. She used to carry that thing everywhere and still sleeps with it every night. She was still sad at times, and would start to cry for no reason except that she missed her dad.
If you check with your FRG, they may know a local quilt guild that will make those.

1 mom found this helpful

Dearest H.
My Heart goes out to all three of you and Ill be saying a prayer of Protection for your Hubby.
I am a Canadian and used to live close to an Air farce base most of my life .
I know that you dont relize this but even at your daughters young age every time your hubby goes out that door for yet another training trip . He Leaves her feeling reject and abondond.
And it sounds like she is picking up the changes in your spirit as well as his about his eventual Destination.
H. just dont close down any part of your heart to her. The only thing thats really gonna stop those tears or the tears of maney homes ripped apart bye that war is your hubbies safe resturn.
But for now when my daughters are feeling down a bubble bath works or making them feel loved acepted wanted and jusat plan pritty.
We as adults dont mean to do this but when there is uncertainty about our Futures wich there is because your sweety is headed into the thick of the battel we have a tendancy to shut down a part of our hearts or a part of our selves just to servive what may be comming and I think you and hubby may be both doing that
I know she is your Princess just continue to let her be that in your heart and take care of you and take time out for the same things like bubble bath
if you can lay your hands on a bible get it read and pray Psalm 91 over Hubby
It was King Davids prayer of protection and Maybve evcen read it to your daughter.
Please Keep me Posted on the two of you threw here Ok
Im Praying for you and the peace that Passes all understanding for you both

I know what you are going through. My husband left in November and our oldest(3 years old) can't understand why he's gone and when he will be back. I always let him talk to him when he calls, I have pictures of them in his room at his eye level and he has a large calendar that he marks off days until his daddy comes home. We also have a video of my husband reading stories to our sons. We also drive by the long term parking lot to look at my husbands vehicles, which my son loves to see. He actually asks to see them when we are out. I guess seeing his cars makes him believe that his daddy will be home soon and he said that he can't wait to ride with his daddy when he comes home. We also talk about what kind of weather it will be when daddy comes home(the temp and what kind of clothes we will be wearing), and talk about what we will be doing when daddy gets back(trips,activities, etc.) These things seem to help my son, but he still is a little sad at times. I know he really misses him, but I try to keep him busy with friends also. I wish you all the best and I know you will find what works best for your daughter. Take care.

I am a former AF wife and we had 1 child while we were with the military. I am not sure how lod your daughter is but some things that we did was: video tape him reading some of their favorite books (this was very important because that was their special time together when he was home, he would always read to her before she went to bed), phone calls when possible, lots of pictures (maybe even a little photo album just for her that she can take with her when she goes anywhere), care packages for dad that she puts things in, letters and cards home to her (if he is going to be out in the "field" and not where he can mail it, maybe he can write a few and leave them with you to "mail" when she is having a hard time), and web cams (the joys of technology). Hope some of these ideas help. I would also stress going to the Family Support Center and trying to reach out to other spouses with children for playdates, dinner dates, and support for each other. You need support too. Good luck and keep us posted on how she is doing.

My daughter had a hard time dealing w/her dad's last couple of deployments. She's usually ok w/in a week or two but in the mean time we keep lots of pictures of him around and she talks to him whenever possible. If he calls and leaves a message on the answering machine, I'll save it so we can listen to it when we feel the need. It also helps to start telling her about upcoming trips a few days in advance (daddy's going bye-bye or something similar works for our 2 year old) and make sure she has some one-on-one time w/him before he leaves.

It looks like you already have a lot of advise. My husband is a marine and he left for Iraq when our daughter was 9 months. Before he left, we took lots of photos of my daughter and daddy in cammies. I then got a map of the world and put it on the wall and surrounded the map with pictures of daddy and sally. I also marked where mommy and sally were and where daddy was. This seemed to help because she remembered who he was when he returned 7 months later.

My daughter was 23 months when daddy left for Japan for a 6 month tour. Again we did the same thing with the map. He also bought her a baby and "daddy hippo". She carried that baby hippo everywhere (even daycare). I explained to her that when she missed daddy to hug the hippo and daddy would feel close to her.

I would be careful about the calender idea. The marines are known for not being home on time and if your daughter has any knowledge of time, she will know he is late. The paper chain works well to hide the fact that daddy may be staying longer than expected.

I have always told my daughter the truth about where daddy is and what he is doing. They work dangerous jobs, and sometimes reality can bite you back with lies. I always tried to explain it to her at her level, but I told her that I missed daddy and I was not ashamed for her to see me cry when daddy left.

I also would tell her that daddy would call in a few days to get her excited. This helped with the tears when we got off of the phone.

I also know that there is a web site for "daddy dolls". I have not gotten one, but several other military wifes have and say they help with seperation.

H. - I don't have any advice but want to extend my prayers to you all. I appreciate your husbands service and hearing about your challenges makes me even more grateful. It's a hardship most of us can't understand.
I hope some other mothers have some useful suggestions for you.

My dad was military. It is just hard. I don't think anyone knows what a sacrafice the soldiers and thier families make. Just love her. Give her a picture of him for beside her bed or to carry with her. Let her draw pictures for him, that is how kids can express themselves. Let her talk about him, what they are going to do when he gets home, what her favorite things to do with him are, etc. She is hurting as are you. I know I would even have dreams about him. My dad did many tours some short, two long ones that I remember. I still remember the day we took him to the airport to leave for Vietnam. It makes me tear now just writing it. She will adjust because that is what military kids do. Just love her and reassure her. Best Wishes!

Hi H. B.

I am an Army Wife as well with 2 small boys Nicholas 4 and Nathan 1. I have had the same problem with Nicholas when he first started to figure out that daddy was gone for days at a time. My husband and I sat down with him and explained to him in his terms that daddy has to go camping for work to make money so we can have all the nice stuff we have. Also that while daddy is gone that Nicholas be mommies big boy and help. Also that it is ok to feel sad because you miss daddy but remember that daddy loves you. It might also help to get a map of the world so she can see where daddy will be and hang it on the wall with a picture of him. My husband left in Dec 28 2007 for Afghanistan. Another thing you can do is give your husband one of her toys that he can take with him to take pics with and send to her via email so she can see him that way too. You can call me if you would like to talk more.

S. Wells
Ft Campbell KY

I, too am an Army wife, so I know what you're going through. My husband will be deploying in November. I'm assuming your daughter is about 3 yrs old. My kids are 7 and 12. We have found that when they're very young like your daughter, the simplest explanation is easiest. His last deployment was '05-'06. Both kids knew that Dad was in the desert doing his job. You don't need to tell her about danger or your fears. It's time to take lots of 'action pictures' of her playing with dad, reading with him, eating together and watching her favorite movies or whatever they enjoy doing together. This can be a collection for her special Daddy album for the times she misses him. Let her know it's okay to be sad and miss him. This is a great time to start praying more. God bless! Write back if you'd like!

hi, H.. i am a former army wife, and when my husband used to leave, my son, would get VERY upset. the best thing i can tell you is just keep telling her daddy loves her and will be back soon. you can make a calender that counts down the days, giving her something to look forward to. you can keep a scrapbook that's just hers and daddy's, and show her pics. is this gonna be his 1st overseas deployment in august? when my hubby was gone, i let my son help me put together care packages, showed him a map of where his daddy was, let him color pics for him to send, then his dad would email pics of them hanging on his wall. every child is gonna react differently, no matter what age. eventually, though, she will adjust. i won't lie to you and say it will be easy, but be strong for your daughter, and talk about him everyday. i will pray for his safe return:) good luck!

I don't think you said how old she is, but to a child, a day is like a week would be to us, a week is like a month, & a month is like a year. When Daddy's gone, she 'senses' that 'something's missing', but probably not consciously. I'd recommend to keep her reminded of his 'presence' (look at photos, talk about fun times past w/him, reassure her that he's away from 'us' [emphasize YOUR sadness, too], but he loves us [from a distance, just as God does], and that he wishes he could be here, too -- he just can't be right now. Probably don't talk about his future extended absence until a few weeks or days before. Be as honest as you can without telling her more than she needs to know. She can also sense your sadness, so accentuate the positive!

God bless and happy parenting!

How old is your little girl, H.? My husband travels a lot too. My little boys are older...8 and 10 but he's been traveling their whole life. They definitely are used to it now but they still count down the days 'til he gets home. They ask everyday..."How many days until daddy gets home." Talking to daddy on the phone...and me just talking about daddy in general seems to help them. I keep them busy and I try not to look sad or seem like I'm sad about the situation...kids seem to mimic their parent's moods. I use the time to do things with my boys that my husband really is not fond of doing...eating out, shopping, crafts...etc.. That way he doesn't have to do it when he's home and it's something new for the guys. (Anything to keep their mind occupied.) Of course, they're school age now and have lots more activities and friends...so that helps, for sure. I hope this helps you out H.. Your little girl will eventually just accept this as your normal family routine. Saying goodbye and welcoming daddy back home will just be a part of her life. Make the welcome home times very exciting so she has something to look forward to. (Make a banner, bake a cake....etc...) Pray for him everyday so she has that peace of mind that God is watching over her sweet daddy too. All families are different and this is the one God has given to you and just make the best out of it and move on. I pray your husband stays safe while serving our country. You and your little girl are very blessed to have a hero among you. K. S


I got these for my girls. My 3-yr-old is also very much a daddys girl, and we are about halfway through a 15 mo deployment. I have a video of daddy reading to them and talking to them. A good way to explain it is to tell them "daddy is in (insert country) helping people. He will be home in lots of days." That has helped us alot. Good luck with this, watching your child go through this is truely one of the hardest things to do.

I'm not sure how old your daughter is, but maybe hanging a wall calendar and marking the day he returns by putting his picture there. Let her see or help cross out each day. That will build up her excitement on his return. And she is reassured that he'll be home. Also a video with him making special remarks to her. You could play each day. It must be hard for you as well. My husband left recently to visit his father in Texas just for 5 days...I have a 16yr old and an 11 yr old. They both prefer their Dad. With only girls in the hose missing him it gets tense! Praying that God will help during this transition.

how old is she?? That would be helpful to know before an answer can be given.

Dear H.
I am so incredibly sorry to hear about what your little girl is going through. Separation anxiety from a parent is such a tough thing. I am sorry that I dont have any specific advice as I have never been in that situation and cant imagine the pain you feel watching your daughter go through this. But I wanted to say THANK YOU for what you and your family are sacrificing for all of us in this country. Because we dont see what the families go through via TV coverage we dont think about this effect of the war as much. Is there any therapist support resources for your family? It sounds like this could have effects on her that she may need some professional help with.
My prayers are with you and your family. I will pray that your husband returns home safely very soon.

I am so there girl! I too am a Military Wife of 6 years and former soldier myself. The next time your husband is home you need to video tape him reading her stories and playing with her and just talking to her. That way she can see him whenever she wants. Also if you have webcam access I would use it. Sounds like your daughter is still a little one, mayber 1 or 2. The video will work wonders. If you have any video with him in it, it will work for now, but definitely tape him reading to her and playing with her. Hope this helps. ACS can help you with this and so can the military library.

Thank you to your husband and your family for your sacrifices for our country!!

I would try putting a photo of Daddy in her room, and maybe even make up a baby photo album of her, you and Daddy. They can be found in the store, or you can make one from an inexpensive brag-book size album, then firmly tape the picture windows closed. She will likely carry it around and 'read' it a lot. Also, they make stuffed toys that have a photo window on their tummy- you could give her one with a photo of Daddy in it. I know Avon sells a teddy bear like this. Perhaps you could make her a little pillow with the same idea in mind. Anything to help her feel closer to Daddy.
You should be able to find books about "When Daddy is away," especially if you live in a military town, as well.
God bless all of you.

How old is she? Her comprehension of what she's told about where Daddy is, why he's gone, and when he's coming back is certainly significant. A good face picture of him might be helpful. Let her look at it while talking with him on the telephone, to "tell him" goodnight at bedtime, etc. If she's not too young, a countdown calendar might be comforting too.

As an Air Force wife myself, we deal with the "daddy's gone" behavior. I constantly tell my 3 year old son that Daddy loves him very much, and agree that it's sad when Daddy goes away. I remind him that it is Daddy's job and sometimes he has to go far, far away to go to work.

I don't know what your religious affiliation is, but it has helped my son a lot to pray and ask God to "keep our Daddy safe while he is away from us." I started saying it with bedtime prayers, and now my son says it when he says grace before our meals, too.

When he deploys, you might want to make sure to get a quilt/pillowcase made for her that has a picture of him holding her so she can "kiss him goodnight" and "talk" to him. I know it's helped a lot of young ones during deployment. You should check with your FRG leader, as they should know where to go to have it done.

I'll pray for your darling daughter, for you and for the safety of your precious husband!
Maybe she and your husband could email photos and letters and talk on the phone often. My heart goes out to her! Maybe she could make things for him and his unit and she could send them to him. Maybe she'd feel as though she's helping her Daddy. Maybe she could even get other children involved. Maybe you could start a play group with military wives and children.
You have probably already taught her how to pray about her concerns. Jesus, Himself, will comfort her.
Please let us know how things progress with your sweet little girl and your fab husband-hero!

Hi H.. It is amazing to me how much your own heart can break watching your baby suffer. We are a military family as well and completely understand what you are going through. You've received some terrific advice. I would just add a couple of things that I know worked for my son (when he was 2 1/2 - 4).

1. Military One Source has a ton on information and help if you need it. One thing we have is a sesame street video where Elmo's dad goes away. It was helpful opening up a dialog about being sad and how to keep connected. You can get information at the following address: http://www.militaryonesource.com/skins/MOS/display.aspx?m...
2. I made a "Daddy & Me" book of photos that I gave to both my husband and my son. My son would look at it a lot whenever he wanted - night time, potty time, you name it. One wonderful thing that came out of it was it gave my husband & son something to talk about on the phone. Trying to engage a little one in conversation can be a challenge. My husband would ask my son to look at a certain picture & then they would talk about what they were doing, and how it is going to be fun to do it again when he got home.
3. Write a story. Write a story in first person, about feelings. "My daddy had to go to work. He will not be home for a while. I might feel sad. I might cry. That is OK. I can look at his pictures..." you get the drift. That simple language allows her to realize that the feelings she is feeling are OK and it can give her strategies for coping with the separation. Then red it to her as many times as she wants - it could become her favorite bedtime story.

Videos worked wonders for me too. Webcams are miracles if you have the ability. All of the other suggestions worked well - even if in a small way.
I'd like to say it gets easier - and in some ways it does. But, be prepared to wipe a lot of tears (& shed some yourself), deal with some behavior issues, and do lots of reassuring. My prayers are with you and your little one - they are the bravest of all.

Unfortunately, I don't have advice.I think the only thing you can do is talk about him and how much he loves her, but her level of understanding is a problem. I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am as an American for your husbands service, and for your strength as well. I will put your whole family in my prayers. God bless you all,

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