Timesharing is hard enough when both parents are physically present, so imagine what it is like to have one parent far, far away. This is the reality for thousands of families in America when their co-parent is on military deployment to another country or American territory. Sometimes a family will only get a week’s notice before the deployment date. So, learning what to do long before anyone receives orders to mobilize is definitely our recommended course of action. McCart and Tesmer want to share a few tips on co-parenting plans for military deployment.
Coping with Deployment is Tough for Kiddos
When a parent leaves on deployment, it can be very confusing for kids. This goes double for ones aged younger than 10. Your child will likely need time to adjust to their new reality and they might feel a little confused about what exactly is happening. The most important thing to do if your co-parent deploys is be as transparent as possible about timelines and the co-parent’s whereabouts. This will help make the situation less abstract, and the more concrete it feels, the easier a kid can digest what’s happening. Here are a few tips to guide your child through that process:
- Talk about the parent that is deployed. You can share memories with the kids or go to your co-parent’s favorite place and make an afternoon of it. You could recreate a special dish they make or you could coordinate calls with the deployed parent. Whatever you do, do your best to ensure the child feels that co-parent’s love.
- Take note of behavioral changes. If they are toddlers, they might throw fits and tantrums or act out in other ways in response to the co-parent’s departure. Pre-schoolers might have lapses in thumb-sucking, toilet training, or emotional regulation. Teenagers might become distant or angry. It’s likely for any school-aged child to perform differently academically and behaviorally in school. Do your best to notice any changes in your child; the earlier you can help them, the better.
- Reassure them about safety. No matter how old or young, your child will likely understand to a degree that deployment can be dangerous. Tell them they are safe with you and the trouble is far away. If they seem concerned about the co-parent’s safety, make them aware or remind them that the military has strenuous training to prepare for deployment. The situation won’t last forever, and your child will need to hear that.
- Create a coping strategy with them. This one is a little tricky as each child will have different needs. A safe space could be talking with their siblings, a therapist, or you. Coping could be an activity they can access to calm them down like physical movement (dance, sports, ect) or simple meditation. Consider any groups or resources in the area like Military Kids Connect, which provides age-appropriate resources for kids during the deployment process. Again, this tip is easily the most fluid because the right solution will differ depending on age, finances, family structure, and the child’s emotional regulation process. Talk to them about their needs and prioritize their feelings when you plan for the length of deployment.
We have years of experience with the needs of families who are serving or retired from the military. Please visit our website for all family law-related issues if you’re interested in learning more. Our law firm at McCart and Tesmer is well versed in all types of family law, including special needs children, estate planning, and much more. If you need legal expertise, get in touch with us today to set up a free consultation!