4 Things to Do with Your Kids to Prep for Deployment


Whether you (or I) like it, if your spouse (or you!) is in the military, separation is a big piece of this life. No matter if it’s a field exercise, trip to a training center, or a deployment- you will spend some (or a lot) of time apart from your spouse. Our family is no stranger to that reality. It’s a reality that has seated itself, quite unwelcomely, at our table more than a time or two. Deployment with kids hits on a different level. It’s hard to prepare them and help them cope. It can be overwhelming to say the least. So, if you’re in those planning stages, gearing up for a deployment, or if you’re looking for input for the next one: Here are 4 things to do with your kids to prep for deployment. I wish I could say they were all my own ideas, but sweet friends helped us prepare with many of these.

  1. Talk about “turns”

When I first learned of my husband’s upcoming deployment, I immediately reached out to friends who had younger kids go through deployments. This advice was so important as we started implementing specific language into our talks with the kids. We talked about how every Soldier must take a turn to leave. And sometimes it’s other kids’ dad/mom who has to take their turn and one day it would be their dad. We did our best to avoid negative connotations about deployment (trust me, they will find the negative all on their own). We simply talked about the job dad was called to and how that job has turns to leave. Some longer, like deployments, and some shorter, like TDYs. We started doing this long before we told them about the deployment. It gave us a good foundation to build on when the time came to tell them. “Do you remember how we talked about how every Soldier has to take a turn to leave? Well, now it’s going to be dad’s turn.” It didn’t make the conversation any easier, but it helped soften the blow.

  1. Make a Calendar

I wanted to make something for the kids to mark down the days of deployment. I turned to Shutterfly for that, but there are many sites you can use to make a calendar. Shutterfly was having a sale so that’s the one I went with.

I made a photo calendar with photos of their dad and our family. I included special one-on-one photos with dad on birthday months. I also wrote down all our special days: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc. As the deployment went on and we made plans to do some adventures I also wrote those on the calendar to help them have things to look forward to. The goal was not to dread how many days were in front of us, but to celebrate the days we had marked down and see how big that number got.

3. Make a Weekly Chain

My sweet friend Amy helped me with this one. When her kids were younger she made a weekly chain and hung it up. Every week on the same day the kids got to cut off a chain. I loved this. She personalized it by getting specific fun paper for different holidays (hearts for Valentine’s Day, Shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, red white and blue for 4th of July, you get the idea). I did not have time to go to the store before my husband left so I just used whatever paper I had in my craft stash. We alternate weeks of who gets to cut a chain off and it is a great way for the kids to conceptualize the time going by. They literally get to see their chain get smaller every week, getting them closer to dad and the end of the deployment.

4. Put up Special Photos

This was a big one for my kids. They wanted specific and special photos of their dads in their rooms. This was something to include them in the planning on. They got to pick their photo and frame and where to keep it in their room.

We also ordered Daddy Dolls (who has a military discount if you email them!). We opted in for the recorder as well so their dad left them each a sweet and personalized message that they can access with just the push of a button. These have become their most prized possessions. On hard mornings they take their daddy doll with them in their backpacks. I love it when I close their doors at night and I hear my husband’s voice from inside their room on the recorders.

Deployment is hard.

No matter how you try to slice it- it’s going to be one of the hardest things your family has to do. Even though we know they all have to take a turn. Even with calendars and countdowns and Daddy Dolls, it doesn’t take the place of dad or mom being home. Something I try to remind myself of is- I’m not the first to do it and I won’t be the last. Meaning there are a lot of spouses out there with a whole treasure trove of ideas, encouragement, and tricks of the trade to help you as you navigate helping your kids through a deployment. Keep digging mom. Dig into resources. Dig into encouragement. Dig into community. You’re going to make it. I promise.