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Keeping Occupied During Your Loved One’s Deployment

children talking to deployed father

You and your service member have said your goodbyes. Maybe you have already sent out a care package or two. Now what? Even if you’re used to your loved one being far away, a deployment can make the gulf between you feel even wider.

Below, find ways to stay occupied during your loved one’s deployment.

Prepare for Deployment

Your service member’s orders have arrived. Now what? Learn what to expect and how to support your service member before they deploy.

Managing your well-being

As a friend or extended family member of someone serving in the military, it’s not unusual to feel highs and lows at times when your service member is deployed. Taking care of yourself, seeking positive experiences and finding ways to bring balance to your life may help you cope throughout their deployment.

  • Stay in touch. If you and your service member agreed on how to stay in touch during the deployment, follow that plan. Regular communication establishes a comforting routine and may raise morale for everyone.
  • Take care of yourself. Do things that bring you joy or relax and calm you. Whether it’s signing up for a class, playing a sport or practicing deep-breathing exercises, try to make it a regular part of your schedule.
  • Seek out people who have experienced the deployment of a friend or loved one. There’s comfort in being around others who know what you’re going through. Look for online support groups or reach out to your community’s veterans organizations. Consider contacting the installation Military and Family Support Center or service member’s unit family readiness group to check about information lists or events for friends and extended family. If your service member has a spouse or partner, try to connect more often. You may be feeling similar emotions and can be a good source of support for each other.
  • Lean on members of your community and strengthen bonds with your family to better take care of yourself and others. Learn about ways you can help children feel more secure with this Sesame Street guide to building community.
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Learn how tapping into the power of the military spouse community can help spouses deal with the stress of deployments, relocation and other MilLife challenges.

  • If there are children in your service member’s life, talk with them about the deployment. Children may have questions or fears. Emphasize your loved one’s training and how well prepared they are for the mission. Find the duty station on a map and look up information together about that part of the world. Find ways to keep children in touch with their service member.
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Learn about Thrive and the programs it offers for military and civilian families, how it can help families manage deployment and how its resources help address deployment concerns and issues.

  • Understand your stress and anxiety. You may go through several stages of emotion throughout your service member’s deployment. Learn more about deployment to ease some of your uncertainties and questions. Find someone you trust who can listen to you or find a professional who you can speak to you to help with your stress.
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Take some time to think about what brings you joy. What restores calm when you feel anxious or upset? Do you have special routines that you find comforting? Write these down so you will have them ready when you need to lift your mood or reset.

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Your first support community is your family unit, and the wellness of your family depends on the wellness of each family member.

Preparing for homecoming

When your loved one’s deployment nears its end, your thoughts may naturally turn to the day when you will see each other again. Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare for your loved one’s return home.

    • Follow your service member’s lead. You may be tempted to throw a big celebration, but your service member may prefer something more low-key. Find out what your service member would like before planning for the homecoming.
    • Involve others in reunion preparations. Share the fun of planning with family members and friends. Children, especially, can benefit from being part of the preparations. Check out the Sesame Street for Military Families Homecomings page for age-appropriate resources.
    • Be prepared for the unpredictable.
      Plans can change at the last minute due to delays, scheduling conflicts and emergencies. Try to stay flexible and have a backup plan.
    • Manage expectations. Give yourself and your service member time and space to readjust during this period of reintegration. Learn about the stages of reunion and reintegration so you will know what to expect.

    Despite your pride in your loved one’s service to the country, some days may be difficult during the deployment. Remember to take care of yourself and tap into your support system when you need to talk.

    Visit Plan My Deployment to learn more about each phase of the deployment cycle, how to prepare and what to expect.

    Stay informed about military life and how to support your service member and your own needs as a friend or family member by subscribing to the Friends & Family Connection eNewsletter.

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