Our military kids are known for being super resilient, but even the most seasoned “brat” can have a tough time adjusting to a deployment. And as parents, we long to make the experience a little easier for them. Many of us ask ourselves, “what can I do to help keep their mind off of this separation”, or “how can our family stay busy so the time won’t seem to drag on?” We asked our group of wonderful contributors for their best ideas for keeping the kiddos busy during deployment. What items would you add to this list?
Contributors: Rebecca Alwine, Erin Whitehead, Tia Johnson, Stacey Shade-Ware, Ingrid Herrera-Yee, Lucha Reyna, Stacy Huisman, Rebekah Sanderlin, Cyndia Rios Myers
1) Take a map and pick places close by (that you can travel to in a day) and plan one trip for every month the service member is gone.
2) Have your service member make an envelope for every week (or month) they will be gone with a suggestion for an activity or an age appropriate task and reward.
3) Words, words, words! Find a book series they enjoy reading and make sure the next one is waiting for them when they finish the first. Send the service member the same series, it will give the parent and child something interesting to discuss during calls or through email.
4) Utilize summer camps in your area. Installations may have day camps available.
5) Have older kids take turns making/planning dinners for the week. This can give them a real sense of helping “take care” of the family.
6) Let your kids plan entire care packages, all by themselves.
7) Plan one big trip during deployment, perhaps right at the halfway point.
8) Set a family fitness goal: run a 5k or walk 100 miles, etc.
9) Grandparent Camp: If your kids have grandparents who are willing, able and trustworthy, consider letting them spend a week away with them.
10) Journaling can be very helpful. Have the kids write what kind of day they have, highlights, special memories, etc. They can even do a scrapbook type journal. When the deployed parent returns it is fun for the whole family to sit down and look at together!
11) Extra Curricular Activities: Many installations and communities offer a wide variety from cooking classes, to music lessons and sports. Encourage them to try something new!
12) Try a new recipe every week or month. Assist kids in searching the internet for something different to experiment with!
13) Us this time to tackle a project with your kids like going through their rooms and finding toys to donate to a local charity.
14) Get them started on a savings account, and then offer them the opportunity to earn small amounts of money to deposit each week. At the end of the deployment they can see how much they were able to save!
15) Volunteering: We know that giving to others can help us pass the time and can also be very fulfilling. It is the same with kids!
16) On the flip side, don’t overwhelm them with too much distraction. Allow them time to process their feelings and have a bad day on occasion if they need one.
17) Write down a bunch of “rainy day” activities on notecards and put them in a bucket. When they are having a tough day, pick something from the bucket to do that day.
18) Find other families who also have a service member deployed and schedule a meal or play date once a week. There is comfort in being around people who are going through the same thing as you are.
19) Make a countdown to the return date. There are tons of ideas online and on Pinterest for different ways to do this. Or, let the kids create their own system!
20) Help kids set an individual goal to accomplish during deployment. Read 5 books, start learning an instrument or a foreign language, improve on a skill they already enjoy.
21) Make a deployment bucket list as a family: Places to go, movies to watch, projects to complete.
22) Instead of a countdown, a count UP might work better for your family. Seeing how far you have come, instead of how far you still have to go.
23) Chore charts: Allow kids to take bigger roles in the running of the household while the deployed parent is away. Gives them a sense of helping, and personal responsibility.
24) Create deployment traditions, things that you only do when the service member is deployed. Examples: weekly fondue night, game night or certain family adventures to local museums, zoos, etc.
25) Plant a garden! It can be flowers and herbs or veggies. Let the kids help research what grows best in your area and select the items to plant.
photo credit: www.photopin.com