When your partner is deployed, it can feel like you are a single parent. Although the situation is temporary, there are adjustments you will need to make: emotional, financial and household. Here are some guidelines and strategies that will help you parent while your spouse is deployed.
- Make a communications plan. Decide, before your spouse deploys, how you will communicate with one another and when and how your partner will stay in touch with the kids.
- Arrange for dependable child care. If you live on or near a military installation, look into enrolling your child in a Department of Defense Child and Youth Program. Programs include full-day, part-day, hourly child care, part-day preschool, and before- and after-school programs. Learn more at MilitaryChildCare.com. If you don’t live near an installation or if the child care centers on your installation are full, you may be eligible to receive fee assistance for off-base community child care programs. Visit Child Care Aware® of America for information.
- Get support. Contact your installation’s Military and Family Support Center to learn about local resources and opportunities for families of deployed service members. Get involved with your family readiness group to meet other people in the same situation. And take advantage of free, confidential non-medical counseling via secure live video. You and your deployed partner can discuss deployment concerns, parenting issues and more with a professional with a master’s or doctoral degree.
- Connect with neighbors and playgroups. Get to know at least three of your neighbors because you may need to reach out during an emergency. Don’t be afraid to turn to friends and relatives; they are part of your support system. Join a babysitting co-op or playgroup. You may find one through your installation’s Military and Family Support Center, a local house of worship or a community recreational facility.
- Learn and practice stress management techniques. Call Military OneSource 800-342-9647, for information on stress management techniques. You can also ask to speak with a health and wellness coach to learn more about how healthy eating and regular exercise can contribute to the overall well-being of your whole family.
- Get organized. Write down appointments, birthdays, family and school events, and anything else you need to remember on one central calendar. Sit down with children once a week to go over the upcoming schedule and discuss everything you need to do to prepare.
- Simplify. Try to plan meals that will have leftovers you can use for another meal. Also, plan a week’s worth of meals before you go grocery shopping to cut out last-minute trips to the store. Group your errands so you can do them during a single trip. Let your child choose one of the absent parent’s chores as his or her own.
- Keep predeployment routines. Children thrive with routine, so stick to the schedule. However, plan a special outing every now and then. Be consistent with discipline. Your child may test to see if you’ll bend the rules with one parent gone.
- Be honest. Share appropriate information about the deployed parent’s location and assignment. Answer your child’s questions honestly but in an age-appropriate way.
- Take care of you. Most importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself. If you get enough sleep and exercise and eat well, the adjustment to life with your partner away will be easier for you and your child.
Parenting without a partner requires stamina and patience, however, with a little planning and support, you will succeed in your mission at home just as your service member does in his or her job.