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Maintain Family Strength When Both Parents Deploy

Deployed Husband and Wife

Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Roadell Hickman

Deployments can take an emotional toll on any family. However, for families with young children and two parents who serve, deployments can pose unique challenges. That’s especially true when both parents deploy at the same time. Fortunately, it’s possible to get through dual-parent deployments with planning, patience and determination.

Preparing Your Children

Whether it’s your first deployment as a family, or your family has experienced a handful of them, your children may feel distress and sadness. Use the following six steps to help your family manage separations:

1. Coordinate With a Caregiver
It’s very important to plan with the person who will care for your children in your absence. Discuss expectations and parenting guidelines with the caregiver.

2. Prepare for Emergencies
Unplanned events can happen during a deployment to either you or your family back home. You may not like to think about these situations, but it’s important to be prepared for your family. Leave instructions for your children’s caregiver, update your will and fill out important documents such as:

  • Family care plan (including communication contact plans)
  • School and medical forms
  • Power of attorney
  • Access letters
  • Record of Emergency Data (DD Form 93)
  • Beneficiary information
  • ID cards for service members and children

3. Develop a Budget
This will help better provide for your children financially while you’re away. Budget money to cover expenses like:

  • Food
  • Childcare
  • Medical costs
  • Clothes
  • School supplies
  • Communication costs such as phone calls, letters and care packages
  • Recreation and fun

4. Talk With Your Children
You don’t have to share everything, but keep your children in the loop. This will give your children time to get used to their feelings about the upcoming changes and ask questions. Helpful tools for explaining your deployment can be found at the Sesame Street for Military Families website. Military Kids Connect is another valuable resource available through the Defense Department.

5. Keep Routines Talk to the caregiver about routines, rules, comfort items and special activities to help ease the transition. Keep family routines as consistent as possible until the day you leave. Discuss and practice new schedules or changes that will occur during deployment, such as:

  • Transportation to and from school
  • Before and after school activities and care
  • Living arrangements
  • Pet care

6. Plan Ahead to Stay in Touch
Plan how you will communicate with the caregiver and your children while you and your spouse are away. Include back-up plans in case your first choice, like calling or emailing, is unavailable. Since you can’t always be in contact, give the caregiver suggestions for talking with your children about you, your absence and your return. The caregiver should encourage your children to talk about you while you’re deployed. This can help them face any fears or sadness caused by the separation when you aren’t in touch.

Preparing Yourself

In the scramble to get your children ready, don’t forget to prepare yourself and your partner. Visit Military OneSource for information about deployments and check with your unit for additional resources. You can also use the following tips to strengthen marriages and build strong family units:

  • Focus on the positive
  • Make communication a priority
  • Look toward the future
  • Rely on friends and family for support
  • Recognize the importance of a transition period

Remember, reaching out is a sign of strength. If you or a loved one needs additional support, contact the Psychological Health Resource Center 24/7 to confidentially speak with trained health resource consultants, call 866-966-1020 or use the Real Warriors Live Chat. You can also visit our “Seek Help, Find Care” page to see a list of key psychological health resources.

Additional Resources

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