When Daddy’s Deployed: Ideas to Help Your Kids Cope!

Deploying with ChildrenAs soon as Andrew got his deployment orders, I anxiously set about finding ways to help our children (especially two and a half year old Madeline) understand what it would mean for them and ways keep our family connected during the time their Daddy was away.

Here are some of the things we’re using to help our children cope with their Daddy’s deployment…

World Map — We hung a giant world map in our family room a while back, but this was the first thing we referenced when we told Madeline about Andrew’s deployment. We showed her where we live and told her that Daddy would be flying on an airplane, across the ocean, all the way to Iraq with his soldiers. Because he’s so far away, he won’t be able to come home for a very long time. Most mornings, when we go downstairs, Madeline heads over to the map saying, “Mommy, SHOW me. Show me where my Daddy go!” I believe the visual reminder has helped to clarify things for her.World Map

Countdown Calendar — As I did for Andrew’s last deployment, I made Shutterfly desk calendars (one for him and one for us) to cross off each night. “We made it through another day!”Deployment Countdown Calendar

Kisses From Daddy — One of my favorite (and Madeline’s) things we introduced into our new deployment routine are nightly kisses from Daddy. I filled up a jar with enough kisses to equal the amount of days Andrew will be gone. Every evening, after dinner, Madeline runs to her jar for a Hershey kiss and a real kiss from Daddy, by way of Mommy. “Daddy loves you SO much!”Kisses From Daddy

Daddy Bear — The weekend before Andrew left, we made a big deal of taking the kids to the mall for a memorable family date. We got hot pretzels and brought the children to Build-A-Bear to make a Daddy Bear (complete with camo uniforms) to hug whenever they miss their Daddy. Andrew recorded a personal message for each bear, so that they could hear his voice on-demand. I know it means a lot to her, because I hear this message at least ten times a night over the baby monitor: “Hi, Madeline! It’s Daddy. I love you so much, and I’m thinking about you right now.”Daddy Deployment Bear

Recorded Books/Songs — In the days leading up to the deployment, Andrew read and recorded over 30 books onto my phone for me to play for the children at bedtime. He also recorded a couple Hallmark Storybooks that the kids got for Christmas. Madeline loves hearing her dad’s storytelling, but I think she loves his lullabies even more. (Note: Don’t forget to upload your stories/songs onto your computer, so that they’re saved in more than one place.) Also, the USO partners with a great program, United Through Reading, that allows deployed parents to record themselves reading children’s books aloud onto DVD for their loved ones. Worth a look!

Pictures and Videos — Madeline already has photos of Andrew hung in her room, which she points to every morning. But in addition to that, before he left, I set about capturing the mundane, day to day of life with Daddy — pictures and videos of him with the kids — on my phone. During times when Maddie’s really missing her dad, I just pull out my phone so she can watch a video of a tickle-fight with Daddy or surf through photos of them sharing a bowl of cereal. It never fails to put a smile on her face.Deploying with babies

Pictures for Daddy — I printed off photos of our family from my Instagram feed using Social Print Studio, laminated them, punched holes into them and hung them onto a key ring to make a small, pocket-sized flip book for Andrew to take with him. That way, even if he’s somewhere without technology, he’ll never be without his family. #oldschoolPrinstagrams

What tips or tricks have you used to help your family cope with separation??

What Pre-Deployment Looked Like For Our Army Family

The morning he deployedPre-deployment was a painful but also really lovely time for our family. We put so much effort into making Andrew’s last days home fun and memory-filled (especially for Madeline), that they ended up being some of our best days yet. There were dance parties, snuggles, late bedtimes, tons of kisses, favorite foods, too many desserts, geography lessons, extra bedtime stories, tickle fights and daddy/daughter dates, plus quiet whispers in the dark, tears, hand-holding, I-love-yous and lots of photos and videos.Daddy and littlesDaddy and BabiesCrazy kids and DaddyThe impending deployment forced our family to focus inward during what could normally be a very frazzled, stressful and isolating time. And even though, today, we’re minus one here at home, we’re definitely stronger than ever.
The Wilhelm Family

making memories with our military brat.

USO Experience for Military Familes The Fort Bragg USO treated local military families to a free performance of The Sesame Street/USO Experience today. It was Madeline’s very first show. It seemed appropriate during this- the month of the military child- to celebrate Madeline (and her peers) and all that she has endured and accomplished during her short life in the military.

It still strikes me as surreal sometimes that we’re raising a military brat, that Madeline’s childhood is already so different from my own. She is not even two years old, and she has already called two states home (Georgia and North Carolina). She has learned how to initiate a FaceTime call on her own to far-away family. She has flown on an airplane more times in the last two years, visiting family and friends, than most people do in their entire lives. She has made necklaces out of boot blousers, been packed into a rucksack and traipsed around in nothing but combat boots and a diaper. She knows to stop and stand quietly when saying goodnight to the flag. She says bye-bye to her daddy any time he walks out of a room, probably because she has missed him for more than a quarter of her life (20+ weeks away at training/schools/Army stuff since she was born, which is lucky considering most children have had a parent deploy in the last two years).

So while it felt a little funny for her first-ever show to be about making new friends when your family has to move again, it also felt right. I am grateful to Sesame Street and the USO for remembering the needs of military families and for bringing us such a fun opportunity to make memories at. (Also- thanks for the awesome light-up Elmo spinner!)
Military family at USO's Sesame Street LIVE