The world’s uncertainties can be very stressful and frightening for military families. Children may experience the following reactions to news about a deployment:
- Fear: “What if something bad happens?”
- Helplessness: “There’s nothing I can do about any of this.”
- Anger: “Why does my (dad/mom) have to go?”
- Confusion: “What is happening? I don’t understand this.”
- Loneliness: “I don’t want you to go.”
Behaviors you may see prior to your departure:
- Aggressiveness: At home, at school, or with playmates or siblings.
- Misbehaving: Unusual acting out or oppositional behavior.
- Regression: Bedwetting, sleep disturbances, thumb-sucking, tantrums.
- Withdrawal: Unusually quiet or reclusive behavior, or disinterest in activities or friends.
- Clinginess: Often present in young children who are experiencing separation anxiety.
- Changes in eating or sleep habits.
Suggestions for helping your children adjust to your departure:
- Talk to children on their level. When trying to explain complicated concepts to young children (such as why you are being deployed), use examples from children’s books, stories, or even cartoons. With older children, it may help to introduce the subject, explain what’s happening, and wait to see if your child has questions.
- Encourage children to talk about the situation and ask questions. If the discussion seems to upset your child, you may want to have several short conversations over time. Follow your talk with a fun activity, like playing a game or reading a favorite book together.
- Be honest about how long you may be gone. Avoid making predictions about your return date or about how often you will be in contact.