How can I help my younger children deal with their older brother's deployment?
When your son or daughter in the military is deployed, you probably have many emotions. It's natural to feel proud of his or her service and courage. It's also natural to feel sad or worried about the separation you'll endure, and concerned about your child's safety and well being.
When parents are so busy dealing with their own complicated emotions, it's easy to overlook the worries that younger siblings might have. But your other children are affected, too.
That's why it's important to include all family members in the process of preparing for separation. Siblings have a need to say goodbye, too, each in their own way. They also need to know that even though they might not see their brother or sister for a while, there are ways to keep in touch and think of each other. Decide how you'll do this. Maybe you'll plan to keep an old-fashioned scrapbook for certain things, use email, texting, online chat, or video calling to communicate, or create a web-based photo album you can share.
Encourage your kids to verbalize their concerns and questions so you'll know where answers and reassurance are needed. Talk about how you'll help each other through this difficult time.
Remember that kids can sense your stress and anxiety even if you don't talk about it. It's far better to let them know that they're not alone in their worries. By sharing your feelings, you can help them feel comfortable talking about theirs as well.
While your son or daughter is away, create some new, enjoyable routines or activities with your other kids. Institute a family game night, story night, movie night, or make-your-own-pizza night. Spending positive relaxing time together keeps you feeling close, and can make it easier to cope with the difficult period of deployment.
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: January 2012
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