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Helping Children Cope with Deployments and Reunions

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What can children expect during a deployment?

Although children’s reactions will vary with their personalities and ages, a parent’s deployment will almost always cause challenges for children. Parents wonder how the separation will affect their children and how they can help them through this time. The deploying parent wonders how to continue being a supportive parent while away; the parent at home worries about handling added responsibility. Certain steps and activities can help prepare your children for deployment. These tips are designed to help parents and children connect by building trust and cooperation within the family.

First, no matter where you begin, take small steps. Instead of concentrating on the total length of deployment, break up the time into manageable chunks. Military leaders and family readiness groups identify three stages of deployment: pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment and reunion.

Second, design your family action plans according to the three deployment stages.

Third, be flexible. Change is part of military life. Try to be patient if your spouse receives new orders, especially if the departure date is moved up. Do your best to adjust your plans.

Resources for Children

Military Kids Connect: Offers an online community for military children (ages 6-17) that provides access to age-appropriate resources to support children coping with the unique psychological challenges of military live.

Sesame Street for Military Families website

Sesame Street mobile apps developed in partnership with the Defense Department and DCoE.

For more information and additional tips, read helpful articles from DCoE and Real Warriors:

DCoE Blog: List of blog articles related to military children

DCoE Blog: “Help Kids Tackle Stress with Mindfulness”

Real Warriors: “Preparing Children for Deployment”

Real Warriors: “Helping Children Cope During Deployment”

Real Warriors: “Transitioning Through Reunion”