There is no larger sacrifice than giving up quality time with your family. Missed time holding your wife’s hand during labor, witnessing your child’s first step or watching your son’s team win a championship game can’t be replaced. After all, it’s moments like these that make up the “meaning of it all.”
For the deployed in our nation’s armed forces, this sacrifice isn’t made alone. Soldiers’ husbands, wives and, most of all, children bear the heartbreak of “living without.” Deployment is a trying time for kids that long to be with the absent Mom or Dad they need.
Yet, just like anything else, there are ways to make the best of it. These activities are sure to make deployment much easier for an affected child:
Writing letters is so five years ago. With Skype, anyone can create a free account and instant message, talk or video-chat with a loved one. This is a perfect tool for separated families, as it allows a child to actually see their deployed parent. Not only will he/she receive the benefits of a phone call, but each person will also get to see the facial expressions and special smiles that are too hard to live without.
2. Letter Tree
First, the child creates a tree trunk and decorates it with about ten leaves (or more). After explaining the sentimental value of sending something special to a deployed parent, have the child decorate each leaf with a special note. Once the soldier receives the mail, he/she can write back on the opposite side of the leaf. Strategically mail the leaves separately so that the last leaf is sent just before the soldier returns home. Thus, the tree will become filled with less “to Mommy” or “to Daddy” notes and indicates that a grand return home is nearing!
3. Family Pillow Case
This is a no-fail gift for a deployed parent. And, it’s fun for kids to make! The thought of knowing that their Moms/Dads will be cuddling up to their personal creation is almost as endearing as it is for the parent to receive. Have the children write their “I love you” notes on the pillow, draw pictures and stamp their hand-prints wherever the chose.
When you don’t sit down and reflect on everything that’s going on, it’s easy to overlook or forget the little moments. A family newsletter is a fantastic way to keep an overseas soldier in the loop about everything going on at home. Be sure to be creative and use a lot of humor. Don’t forget to include family pets and embarrassing moments.
5. Deployment Map
When a child vicariously travels with their deployed parent, it establishes a closer sense of connectivity. This activity is especially great for older children because as the oversees parent experiences new places and new things, the child can learn about them along the way. It also makes conversations even more exciting!
Sending recorded videotapes and audiotapes are not only fun for kids to make, but can also ease homesickness for the parent and child. Recordings permanently mark moments that are becoming family history. Not to mention, the recordings are fun to watch together when the parent finally returns home. It allows the parent to be a part of these cherished points in time.