When my husband deployed last, his daughter was 2 years old. She was so young that she didn’t understand and she doesn’t remember. She is now almost 6 years old and my husband will deploy again later this fall. We know she will remember this time. She’s going to miss him terribly so we’re trying to make the transition of him going away as easy as possible. We’re being proactive and doing several things now that will ease her into it when he finally does leave.
1. Communication. We’ve told her months ahead of time that Daddy is going to go away with the Army and he won’t be back for awhile. I’m sure she can’t fully wrap her mind around what’s coming but she’s very bright and we’ve decided to go ahead and share this with her. We felt it would be worse if we didn’t tell her and suddenly Daddy was leaving and she had no time to prepare and adjust to the idea. We encourage her to ask questions and we’ve been very open and honest with her.
2. Mail. My husband has started sending her postcards in the mail. He wants her to get used to them being pen pals. He sends her short notes and it’s a special thing just between the two of them. She loves getting mail and this will get her used to communicating with him in a different way. My husband is even planning on designing special postcards just for the two of them through Vistaprint. She’ll have a supply of postcards and stamps so she can send them anytime she wants to.
3. Talk, Listen, Connect. They’ve also started watching the Sesame Street DVD for deployments: Talk, Listen, Connect. We received a copy when we went to a Yellow Ribbon event but you can also get access to it on their website. The DVD is wonderful and really helps her understand what’s happening. They watch it together often and have started learning the songs. I challenge any of you to watch the song “Proud” and not tear up. I don’t think it’s possible. The website also has a lot of printables and additional resources and information.
4. Skype. My husband is going to start Skyping with his daughter since this will be one of their main forms of communication during his deployment. He wants to get used to using it before he leaves and wants her to be comfortable as well. Obviously, they’ll be able to actually see each other and when you have a little one growing up while you’re away, this can help soothe some of the ache.
5. Reassurance. We make sure we answer her questions and reassure her. She’s already begun to ask me questions about “when Daddy is away.” I know it’s starting to sink in. She’s a very bright little girl and not much gets past her. We do our best to make sure she knows that even though Daddy is going away, that she’ll still be able to e-mail, Skype and write to him and that he loves her very much.
6. Responsibility. My husband is an avid gamer. He loves video games and he often lets his daughter sit in the recliner with him and play games together. Before he leaves, he’s decided to give her his PS3 video game controller. He’ll ask her to take care of it for him and keep it until he returns. She will have something of his that she’s responsible for and that will remind her of the fun times they’ve had together. It’s obviously not a family heirloom, but it is something that will provoke happy thoughts and good memories.
This deployment is going to be especially hard on my husband and his daughter. They are incredibly close and it’s going to be extremely difficult for both of them. There will be tears and it will be very hard but we’re doing what we can now to help prepare her and make the transition as easy as possible. We’ll make it through with lots of love, support and…Skype.