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If you are a service member leaving your child with a caregiver during deployment, doing some planning and organizing in advance can help make adjustments easier for everyone.
The following tips can increase the chance of a successful transition and help things run smoothly while you’re away.
Cover the basics:
- Establish a family care plan. A family care plan is a required deployment readiness document that lists the child’s caregivers during a single or dual-military parent’s deployment. It should include necessary information and documentation such as powers of attorney and other legal forms, health records and medical information, financial and logistical arrangements, details on how to access installation services, and any other information a caregiver might need to manage the household and care for children while the service member is away.
- Prearrange your child’s finances. Don’t forget some extra cash for unexpected items like new toys, prom pictures or other fun money. You can set up an allotment or direct deposit to the caregiver’s account with the pay clerk at your unit’s personnel office or use the myPay online service.
- Explain how relationships change. Talk to the caregiver and your child about how their relationship will change. At first, it may be difficult for your child to see the caregiver as a confidant or authority figure, especially if they are not used to seeing each other often.
- Keep your child at home. Deployment may be easier for children if they can stay in their own home. A non-military caregiver may move into your military housing to care for your child during your deployment. Discuss this option early in the process to prepare your child and the caregiver for changes and adjustments.
- Track behavioral changes. Let the caregiver know your child may have behavioral changes while you are gone that are normal. Younger children may become clingy and fearful. Older children may act out, have trouble paying attention or experience sleep problems. Make sure your child’s extended family, teachers, coaches and religious leaders know about your deployment so they can offer support. If these behaviors don’t go away over time, the caregiver may want to seek help from Military OneSource, installation Child and Youth Behavioral Military Family Life Counselors, the installation Military and Family Support Center or civilian support services within the local community.
- Make notes about routines. Knowing what the normal routines are can help your caregiver get settled and prevent unnecessary conflict. Maintaining normal routines can help provide a sense of stability for children during transitions.
- Check in often. Establish a regular time for phone calls and internet chats for the caregiver and for children. Let the caregiver know how to reach you if your children need to talk to you. This is important for maintaining relationships during and after deployment.
Moving a child to the caregiver’s home
If moving your children is necessary, the following tips can help make the transition easier.
- Make the new home child friendly. A safe place for youngsters to play or a quiet study zone for older youth are just two ways to help your child adjust to a new home.
- Find out about school admission requirements. When children change schools during a parent’s deployment, they may need their immunization records or may make a move up to the next grade in a certain class. Learn more about available support for helping children change schools, from school liaison and special education support to the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. You can also read more about ways to stay connected to your child’s teachers during your deployment.
- Look for similar programs in the new location. If your child has special needs, make sure a move doesn’t disrupt services by accessing services such as an Individualized Education Program or a 504 plan. Learn more about military special education and child care resources such as the Exceptional Family Member Program, or EFMP. Your installation school liaison can assist you with making your child’s transition a smooth one.
- Make sure your high school student doesn’t miss graduation. Your local installation school liaison can help with all of your education-related questions and issues, including making sure your teen stays on track for graduation. Work with your installation school liaison to verify the out-of-state high school’s graduation requirements. Contact the new school’s administrative office before your senior enrolls to ensure your teen has taken all the required courses, or can be registered for the necessary classes, to graduate on time.
- Emphasize equal treatment. Caregivers may have their own children at home. If the caregiver’s children get sent to their rooms for disobeying, the caregiver might want to establish similar consequences for your child to be fair and avoid resentment. Discuss this with your child and the caregiver.
- If possible, introduce your child or teen to people in the new environment to make the transition easier. It’s always nice to know someone when you move. Ask your installation school liaison about the youth sponsorship program, and check out more ways to help your children cope with moving.
Tips for a sudden deployment
Planning is especially important when deployment happens suddenly. In this case:
- Choose an interim caregiver. Ask a trusted neighbor or close friend to fill in as an interim caregiver until your child’s predetermined caregiver can take over. Be sure to name the interim caregiver in your family care plan and include a special power of attorney for the interim caregiver.
- Maintain an emergency fund. To be sure you have immediate funds for your child should a deployment pop up quickly, create an emergency fund. Speak to a financial counselor through your installation Personal Financial Management Services office located at the Military and Family Readiness Center. You can also call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647, schedule a live chat or find OCONUS/international calling options.
Planning ahead and preparing as a family can help everyone adjust a little more easily to the changes that deployment brings. Whether you’re on your first tour of duty or your fourth, Plan My Deployment helps you, your family members and loved ones prepare for – and stay strong and connected – through every phase of deployment.