As 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.
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!”
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.”
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.
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. #oldschool
What tips or tricks have you used to help your family cope with separation??