How Do I Prepare My Toddler for His Dad's Deployment?

Updated on March 19, 2011
A.M. asks from Spanaway, WA
25 answers

I'm guessing I'm not the only military mama in this area. My husband is preparing to deploy and this is the first time my son will experience a deployment. I was wondering if anyone had any advice on how to help my son remember his dad and somewhat understand that he's gone, but he's coming back, etc.

We've only been in Washington since last June, so any other info anyone wants to share about the area (good parks, child-friendly activities, dog-friendly areas) would also be appreciated.

Thanks!

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So What Happened?

I am very grateful for the outpouring of concern and I feel a lot better about the impending deployment. We are taking lots of pictures and making lots of videos. Thank you so much for everyone that contributed to my post. It's good to know that I'm not the only one dealing with this and it's great to get advice from others that have experienced the same thing. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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K.M.

answers from Seattle on

Look at this site:
http://www.sesameworkshop.org/tlc/

It is a sesame street video about Elmo's Daddy deploying. It is free, and awesome! My son loved it! And it helped me explain to him that Elmo was going through the same thing.

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M.D.

answers from Seattle on

Hi,

I couldn't help but have to respond. I am not a military wif, but my hubby does go on long trips adn a few times for a month or two. My boys are now 7,5 and 2. One of the things that made it easy was having a ruteen. For everything. Letting them talk on the phone with Daddy even as babys just to hear his voice when we could. I also keep a pic of Daddy in there room when he is goen a long time. Each boy has a stuffed animal from him to keep them safe. Jsut like daddy hugging them all night in there beds. Mostly just be there so he knows he is safe. You will be saprised how well he does.

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J.M.

answers from Seattle on

My exhusband was military and deployed when our daughter was 9 months old and it was rough, no lies! BUT, we went to build a bear and had daddy stuff a bunny with a recording of his voice saying stuff like "daddy loves you and misses you" and she got used to sleeping with that each night for a year! Alot of recordings, reading books on tape from the daddy to baby, video recording. It really seemed to make it easier on my daughter!

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D.C.

answers from Bellingham on

The military actually produced an Elmo DVD to help children understand, ask at the Family service center. A friend of mine found a doll that instead of a face has a spot to put Dads picture. My favorite is making a paper chain for each week they are deployed. Inside the chain has a statement about Dad or a promise of what Dad will do when he gets home. They can see the chain getting shorter and know the time until Dad is back grows shorter to. Have your husband read several stories on video or record on tape so you can read along.

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C.R.

answers from Seattle on

I am an army wife as well. We are getting ready for my husbands second tour to iraq this fall. We have a one year old boy. And i too have the same concerns as you. I am going to start recording him and his daddy together, i am going to start taking more pictures of him and his daddy. we also tell our son everyday that daddy has to go away for awhile but he will come home soon and we will be very happy to see him. it helps alot by just doing that.
hope all is well with your husband.

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R.B.

answers from Portland on

I am not military but most of my family is far away. My sister shows her kids pictures of us and tells the kids what is going on with us and every time I see those kids they are still bonded to me and my husband.
You also could make a book with pictures of Daddy and baby doing different things together and part of the book shows Daddy going away and ends with Daddy coming back home.
You could read it together every night and even add pages if your husband sends you new pictures and lets you know what he is doing over there.(If its not too top secret or scary)
Hope this helps!

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K.G.

answers from Seattle on

My husband is on deployment right now and the things that are helping her are a "daddy pillow" and getting to see and talk to him on the webcam. I don't know what base you are at, but there should be lots of activites on base for you to attend and your ombudsmen should be able to direct you to a lot of fun local activities. We just talk about Daddy everyday and try to see him whenever we can. The pillow is great because it has Daddy's picture on it and she hugs it every night when she goes to bed.

Good luck to you!!! We are almost half way through this deployment - yeah!!!

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G.C.

answers from Seattle on

Hi there, I too had a husband in the military, but we had no kids, but I had a lot of friends who did. Have your husband reading some of your son's favorite books while filming him, so maybe at night or when you want to you can easily pop it in and he can watch his daddy..he can sing him songs etc...I hope this helps. Also for you, have him buy cards for say every saturday that he is gone and have him sign them (you can do this too) mark the envelopes with dates, if any holidays or anniversary are there put buy cards as well. It gives you something to look forward too and makes the week go by faster knowing you have that to open.. You can send him off with his favorite treats. I used to make homemade beef jerky for him to eat out to sea. Stuff they can't get that makes it feel like home for them.. Take care and stay in touch with other wives, go to the functions, it really helps and makes the time go by faster and you also realize you aren't the only one going through it...Keep a journal or do a blog that he can read. I know alot of the boats these days have computers... and he can also read it when he gets home too..
G. :)
A LITTLE ABOUT ME:
married for 22 years, retired navy wife did 17 patrols Not all in a row, thank goodness...have 8 cats love to sew. I call myself a starving artist. here is my blog: www.catnapinnprimitives.blogspot.com

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M.S.

answers from Portland on

Have you ever heard of Daddy dolls? They are awesome!!! I believe a military mom came up with these for children of deployed daddys. Go to www.daddydolls.com They are about $30 for a large one, but well well worth it. They also have voice recorders in them.

I also suggest that you have your husband read a few books to a video camera so that your baby has a movie of dad to watch as often as he wishes. This way he can remember his voice (which will make phone calls way easier and more meaningful). He needs to be able to make the connection between his face and his voice.

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C.R.

answers from Portland on

Hello,

Just wanted to say hello to another military momma. I too am new to the area but my husband has been in the military for 17 years now.

We have faced many deployments in that time. The first one my son was barely five months old and luckily it was only a 6 month deployment but it did take some time to get used to Dad again.

The last two deployments my boys were older but they still had problems understanding when Dad would return. We kind of knew when he would return so we put together a jar for each of the kids with one Hersheys Kiss for each day until Dad returned. Of course I had to keep up with the ever changing exact day of return but it was easy to add or subtract a few "Kisses" as need be when they were asleep.

It was just a little something to help them actually see the time going by as the jar started to become more empty. My youngest did not have a good sense of time so telling him Dad will return in __ days did not work.

They got one "Kiss" from Dad every night and it was also a time we talked about their feelings. It is very hard on children and even though your son is young he will know that he misses his Dad. It's good to talk about it as much as the child can and let him know it's ok to have those feelings but that Dad loves him very much and is doing his job to protect us and if he could he would be home instead.

If you don't care for candy you can do fruit snacks, etc. You can also put an X on a calender as each day passes but that can be tricky if you don't have an exact date of return and if you haven't figured out yet, the military is all about surprises and things can change a hundred times before it actually happens. : )

Also one thing that my kids loved was before Dad left he read some of their books onto video so they could watch one and follow along with their book every night before bed. That does take a little time before hand on your husband's part but the joy it brings to the child is well worth it.

I don't know if you know about militaryonesource.com or not but it's a great website with lots of tips, etc. There may be something on there that can help too.

That's all I can think of for now but if anything pops into my head I certainly will let you know.

Good luck, the time ahead will be trying but you can do it. Military families are VERY STRONG and can do just about anything and military moms are a special breed. If you ever need anything, feel free to email me at [email protected]____.com

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C.E.

answers from Portland on

When my dad was in Vietnam, for a year, I was 9 months old when he left, and almost 2 when he returned. My mom had an 8x10 picture framed of my dad that was "mine". It was a picture of him in uniform, as that was what he would be wearing when he got off the plane on his return. I was able to carry the picture around, kiss it, etc. We said goodnight to dad, said good morning to dad, said our prayers with daddy. Mom says I recognized him, and called him dad right away! I still have that picture, in it's original frame, and something warm and fuzzy still connects for me, whenever I look at it!

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C.B.

answers from Seattle on

When I lived far away from my grand babies, my daughter put our picture on the fridge where the grandson could see it and that way every time he went by, he would be able to see us and when we went to see him, he new who we were and it was like he saw us all the time instead of once a year,

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M.B.

answers from Richland on

Many people have listed some great suggestions (make a video & a photo album). I would like to expand on them slightly. My hubby did 12 years in the Navy, 8 of it away from home. For several years of that time I was also the Ombudsman for our command and helped keep the families connected with their sailors. My suggestions are:
1. Make a photo album of your husband and include pictures of him with your son.
2. Besides having a portable "book of daddy" make sure there are pictures of him around the home, on the wall, on the fridge.
3. Have dad record the outgoing message on your answering machine, and even if you're home let the machine answer every once in a while...hearing his voice will be good for you too!
4. Make a video, but don't make it just hubby. Include clips of father/son playing together, daddy getting ready for work, the whole family eating dinner. Everyday things that he's used to seeing now. Your son will enjoy seeing himself on screen as much as daddy and it will help him when daddy returns to know that they are supposed to be together.
5. For now you can also let your son be a helper in getting daddy ready for his trip. Let him throw daddy's socks in his bag, or bring his boots to him.
6. Make daddy a book too. Include some pictures, a drawing from your son, and stash your own note in somewhere.
7. My hubby and I also had a "secret" word that we include on messages. I have no idea where it came from or what started it but we put "Awvu" in our messages. For us this meant "love you" and was a way to authenticate our messages. Our oldest two boys would also include this in messages and phone calls when they were young.
I hope this helps and best wishes on your military adventure!
~M.

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K.M.

answers from Seattle on

my husband is also deploying this year and we have an 18mth old and one due in june. I know it is not going to be easy. my friends who have went through the same thing always made sure that the kids talked to daddy when he called and showed them pictures and made things to send and talked all of the time about him. the kids went through some tough times missing their daddy's though. i really dont look forward to it at all. as for parks, there is a cool one called priest's point and one called tumwater falls.

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M.A.

answers from Seattle on

At that age it is going to hard, but for me we talk about anyways, we talk about how daddy willbe leaving, we drew picture of where daddy was going, and that he will be gone for awhile, take your child to the deployment classes they have on base, if they have some, thing vary from base to base as far as the activites, but it is going to be hard or it may not be, but while he is gone keep his mind off daddy being gone if you have friend set play dates. Call the family advocay and see if they have books on it. It will be hard but it is better that he is young, for my daughter she was 6 and it was hard and now he is gone again and she is 9 she is better but she does get tired of him leaving.

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D.P.

answers from Albany on

Hi!
I'm also a military wife and SAHM to my 15 1/2 month old daughter. We just went through my daughter's first deployment and missing daddy. She was 9 months old when he left so he was afraid she would forget all about him. TRUST ME...he won't forget his daddy. Julia ran up to her daddy when she saw him and has been his constant companion whenever he's not at work. Some suggestions on what to do to keep your son's memory fresh and happy of daddy: have your husband read some books on tape, either a video, or just a voice recording, since you said your son loves to sign so much, video your husband signing some things to him..."I Love you", "I miss you", "Good Night, Good Morning", etc...I hope this helps and good luck to you, too. Keep yourselves busy and it will go by quicker than you think.

D.

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P.V.

answers from Spokane on

Well I am also a military wife. My husband deployed a year a go when our son was 1 1/2. I was really nervous about it not knowing how our little one would react, not seeing daddy on a daily basis. The day my husband left I took a picture of him and our son together thinking this would be a way for my son to never forget daddy. Let me tell you it was the best thing ever. I printed the picture for my son and we had it in the living room at arms reach for my son so that he can get it when ever he would like. My son would constantly have the picture in his hand saying daddy and would talk to it and give it a kiss good night every night. Not only that but when my husband would call he would always talk to our little guy.
I am about to have another baby boy in a month and my husband will be deploying this May :( all we can do is be strong and always let our kids know that thier daddys love them and think about them all the time because you and I know thats what they do.
Good Luck

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J.F.

answers from Medford on

My husband is in the Marine Corps and I can tell you that it will be difficult. First, your husband can help prepare by creating things for your child that will help your child connect with him, like videos of him reading a story to your child, creating a book of pictures that show things they've done together (you'll "read" it like a story).

I usually prepare my kids for deployments about a month before he leaves. Let them know that daddy has to go somewhere for his job (doesn't need to know all the details but just that they are not going to be home every night) and always remind them that daddy will be back. You'll be amazed at how young children adapt to change...just remember to keep structure and a schedule going. Kids need that most especially during a big change like this.

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M.M.

answers from Anchorage on

Hi there, I wrote about a project to do for your kids using photographs and a "fictional" story of adventures in a recent email newsletter.

Hire a photographer to do photos of you guys doing every day things together. And I mean making breakfast together, tying shoes, playing outside, changing shirts on the child, cuddling, walking along and doing the one-two-three-wheeeee (one parent on each side holding child's hands, and swinging him), etc. If you are on a budget, find a college student who is majoring in photography. Chances are, she will be looking for a project similar to this. Do slip her a bit of money, though; college students are usually poor.

Anyway, have 4x6s made of all of your favorite shots. Get yourselves a scrapbook and write an adventure story about the 3 of you guys and what you did that day. Have Dad help write it too, in his own printing. Then also record Dad reading the book, with a *beep* to signify turning the page.

This is something that will help your child remember Dad. There is also webcams and email and such; thank goodness in this day and age we have this modern technology.

I'm a military wife, too. I'm very grateful that there have been no deployments as of yet, but there always could be.

Best of luck and know that I am grateful to your husband who is willing to serve our country, and I am grateful to you for supporting him. May God bless you.

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D.S.

answers from Anchorage on

Hi there!

We have been through several deployments and more to come this year. I am not sure where you are though there are several things you can do to help your son with your husband leaving. One is take several pictures of them together and make him his own little album to do whatever with, also talking photo frames with a message from your husband on it he can play is nice, my girls really like theirs. We went to build a bear one time and he had a special animal and a message box put in it for them from him. They did this together. Also, you can take some video of your husband reading to your son, playing with him and talking to him and play them for your son while your husband is away. Also, he may not understand all of it, though a calendar can help also, with stickers for special dates he can look forward to even though your husband is gone and when he will return approximately if you have a date. We are stationed at Ft. Wainwright, Ak. and if you just need someone to email send me one, I may not respond fast though I will respond. I have two girls one 6 now and 3,deployment is never easy and you can expect some adjustment issues two weeks after he leaves and on avg. about two weeks after he returns, this is from my experience. Your son is young and therefore that will make it slightly easier. Also, try to keep your routine if you have one. They say that helps. Not sure because our routine always changes when my husband deploys. Talk to your son about daddy going away and have him talk to your son whenever he is able to call home. Most important stay busy and active with friends and family if possible. If I can think of anymore to share I will post again.
Take care.
D.S. I am also a SAHM. My email [email protected]____.com.

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B.S.

answers from Spokane on

When my husband deployed my oldest daughter was 3 and my son was 14 months old. I found that at this age the little ones have a very limited understanding of the whole concept. My three year old kind of understood, but as for the younger ones, they don't get it much. What we did was make a chain for how many days he was going to be gone (make sure you add extras, just in case). Every night we took a ring off the chain. We took the chain with us everywhere if we went and stayed somewhere else (like we went to my in-laws and to my parents a couple times). We also said good night to Daddy's picture every night. We talked a lot about Daddy and took lots of pictures to send to Daddy. I would let the kids talk to him occasionally when he called also. As for me, I kept a journal of what was going on each day and sent it to my husband when I finished it and then started another one that he read when he got home. That helped him stay updated on everything that was going on as if he were home! Good luck, and remember that there is lots of support around here if you want it. I know of a couple things to do, if you are looking for something just let me know.

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C.T.

answers from Anchorage on

take videos of daddy reading books or talking to your son - he can watch them everyday or whenever he wants...

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G.R.

answers from Spokane on

Hi AM – You have gotten some good advice already & I hope all of this helps. When my husband deployed my oldest was a little over 3yrs & my youngest was almost 1yr. There were some tough times for all of us but one major thing that helped me was not being afraid to ask others for help. This is not only about your child remembering Dad but you surviving as well. If you have a tough time with it then your child will pick up on that. In your post you said you were fairly new to the area. Have you gotten involved with a local church? If so they too can be a great support system and maybe someone from there can even give you a break now & then with your son. Have you checked out these websites? http://www.militaryonesource.com/skins/MOS/home.aspx and http://www.imalreadyhome.com/ both have some great ideas & suggestions. The Military OneSource has the Elmo dvd and they will mail you a copy for free. For my boys it was harder on the 3 yr old because he was older and knew Dad was gone. Our younger son did not seem to notice as much. He was gone for 18 months but both boys knew Dad when he got home. Depending on where your husband is deploying he most likely will have e-mail available. We were able to do the instant messenger and even had a webcam hooked up on our side so he could see me & the kids. That was such an amazing link for all of us. My husband said it was the best thing & helped to keep him grounded to do his missions. Before he left we had a photo taken with him holding each of the boys so they could have that in their room above their beds so Daddy was always watching over them. He was also able to e-mail photos of himself home & the kids loved to look at those. Another suggestion would be get connected with your local FAC office & FRG even if they are not connected with your husband’s unit they can be a good resource for you but also a connection to others locally who may be in the same shoes. Just take it one day at a time & you all will make it through with flying colors. By keeping communication open your son & you will have a stronger connection to his Daddy. Take Care

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J.J.

answers from Seattle on

there is a really good movie for kids that helps military families deal with deployments. it helps kids understand why dad or mom is gone. it's called talk, listen, and connect. you can find it on militaryonesource.com, its free. it's what i play for my daughter when daddy goes to leave. we have been here since 2006. Playdates always are good also. it keeps them happy. Hope it helps

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H.C.

answers from Stationed Overseas on

This has been a huge help for us: http://www.theprofessionalbaby.com/?p=371

It helps you record stories with ease, that can be viewed on the iphone, computer or ipad. Absolutely awesome! His voice and face are in the house daily because of this.

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