As a service member, you will benefit from some planning and organization when you leave your child with a caregiver during deployment. The more information everyone has, the better.
Making sure you cover the basics:
Follow these tips to increase the chance of a successful transition and things will run smoothly while you’re gone.
- Establish a Family Care Plan. This plan is an essential document for deployment readiness that lists the child’s caregivers during a single or dual-military parent’s deployment. It should include necessary information and documentation like a power of attorney and other legal forms, health records and medical information — including prescription schedules, school and other contacts, and information on how to access installation services — including the commissary and exchange.
- Prearrange your child’s finances. Don’t forget some extra cash for items like prom pictures and other fun money. It’s easy. 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 disciplinarian, especially if they are not used to seeing each other often.
- Keep your child at home. Your deployment may be easier for your child if he doesn’t have to move away. 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 guardian for changes and adjustments.
- Track behavioral changes. Let the caregiver know your child may have normal behavioral changes while you are gone. 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 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, the Military and Family Support Center on the installation or a civilian support services within the local community.
- Keep the routines. Remember routines may change for everyone. This may help with the adjustment. Knowing that the child watches Sesame Street in the morning can help deflect major meltdowns before waffles are served.
- Check in often. Establish a regular time for phone calls and internet chats for the guardian and the child. Let the caregiver know how to reach you if your child needs to talk to you. This is important for maintaining a relationship during and after deployment.
Moving a child to the caregiver’s home
- Make the new home child-friendly. A safe place for youngsters to play or a quiet study-zone for older kids are just two ways to help your child adjust to a new home.
- Find out about school admission requirements. If your child changes schools during your deployment, he may need his immunization records or a move up to the next grade in a certain class.
- Look for similar programs in the new location. Ensure a move doesn’t disrupt services for your child by accessing services such as an Individualized Education Program.
- Make sure your high school student doesn’t miss graduation. Check with the out-of-state high school’s administrative office before your senior enrolls. He or she may not have taken all the required courses, such as state history classes, to graduate on time.
- Emphasize equal treatment. The caregiver may have his or her own children at home. If the caregiver’s children get sent to their rooms for disobeying, the caregiver might want to establish the same consequences to 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.
Added 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 Program or call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.
Make sure your deployment transition is successful by planning ahead. With a little organization, everyone will adjust more easily to the changes that deployment brings.