Deployment can be challenging for all family members, including your teen. Patience, communication and extra care can go a long way in comforting a teenager who is dealing with deployment. Knowing how to respond as a parent to the feelings associated with deployment can make this transition smoother for everyone.
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Plan My Deployment is a planning tool that helps service members and families manage and build resilience through every phase of deployment.
Take time during predeployment to talk logistics and feelings
Use preparation time during predeployment to make connections with your teen’s teachers and coaches, talk through concerns with your teen and make a plan for staying connected during deployment.
- Have a family discussion. Talk to your teen about how your deployment may impact the entire family, including how it affects each family member. Discuss any changes to their routine and responsibilities, how you’ll handle communication during deployment and any fears and concerns they may have about something happening to you.
- Plan alone time with your teenager before you deploy. Allow your teen to plan special activities, or just spend time relaxing together before you go.
- Swap keepsakes. Carrying something special from a loved one is a great way to stay connected during deployment. Trade sentimental items, and explain the significance of the items you choose. Consider keepsakes such as pictures, notes, recordings or other special mementos.
- Encourage teens to share feelings. Let teens know that you want to hear their concerns. Know, too, that teens may not want to share their feelings. It’s OK if they need space.
- Develop a relationship with your teenager’s school counselors, teachers and coaches. Tell them about your deployment, and ask them to watch for signs that your teen may be struggling.
- Remind teens that they are not alone. Show teens that talking with others can help them feel less alone. Encourage yours to participate in military youth programs.
- Suggest ways for teens to deal with stress. Recommend that your teen keep a journal, write stories, create artwork, exercise or listen to music to help manage stress.
- Make a list of resources available to your teen. Keep a list of hotline numbers and ways to connect with a counselor.
BENEFITS & SUPPORT SERVICES TO HELP YOUR TEEN
Maintain connection during deployment
Every deployment is different, but use these suggestions to help you and your teen manage stress, build resilience, stay connected and more while you are away.
- Stay in touch with your teen by email, text, phone or video chat. Ask about school, homework, friends and extracurricular activities. Consider playing online games together as a fun and low-key way to stay connected.
- Encourage your family to maintain a stable routine at home. Reassure your teen that it’s important to continue participating in their usual activities. Like younger children, teenagers find comfort in routines.
- Stay connected with your teenager’s school counselors and teachers during deployment. Get updates about classes, homework, testing and any issues your teen may be having.
- Find a way to participate virtually in your teen’s activities while deployed. Consider livestreaming a basketball game or watching a recorded piano recital or play.
- Approach conversations from your teenager’s perspective. Keep communication open by letting teens bring up topics that interest them.
- Share information about military actions as appropriate. Respond delicately to your teen’s questions about military actions and current affairs, and avoid dwelling on negative media coverage to help lessen your teen’s anxiety.
- Be careful not to expect your teen to “be in charge” or be the “man” of the house while you are deployed. Extra responsibilities can instill a sense of worthiness and pride, but watch for your teen becoming overextended.
Be prepared for readjustments after you return
Reuniting with your teen after a deployment will be exciting and may require re-adjustments. Help prepare your teen prior to your return for what to expect to help make reunion and reintegration easier for you and all family members.
- Give your teenager time and space to readjust. Discuss what’s been going on in your teenager’s life when you return from deployment. Try to listen in an open and nonjudgmental way. Start with topics you enjoyed discussing during deployment and branch out to other things that might be concerning your teen.
- Help teens recognize that their emotions are normal. Acknowledge that deployments and reunions can cause a variety of intense emotions in teens, especially if your return is unexpectedly delayed. Help teens process what they’re feeling by sharing some of what you’re feeling.
- Plan some one-on-one time with your teenager after your return. Just like before you departed, plan a special activity you can share or just spend time relaxing together.
- Contact your installation Military and Family Support Center for resources to help make homecoming transitions smoother.
Connect your teen to extra support anytime
The Military and Family Life Counseling Program can help your teen manage stress or anxiety associated with parental deployment and return home, as well as other challenges. Program counselors are licensed with a master’s degree or higher and have passed criminal background checks. Licensed counselors can help with:
- Changes at home, such as deployment, reunion, divorce and grief
- Self-esteem issues
- Communication and relationships at home and school
- Life skills, such as problem solving and adjustment
- Behavioral issues, including bullying and anger management
Contact your installation Military and Family Support Center for assistance with locating counseling for your child. Ask if there are child and youth behavioral counselors at any of the following locations near you:
- Child development centers
- Youth or teen centers
- On and Off-installation schools
- Military youth summer camp
- Department of Defense Education Activity schools
- Defense Department Summer Camps
School liaisons offer a variety of education support including help connecting you to a child and youth behavioral military and family life counselor near you. Contact your installation school liaison for assistance.
Know when to seek mental health support for your teen
If your teenager continues to have trouble adjusting before, during, or after the deployment cycle, don’t hesitate to contact your physician or a mental health professional. Be sure all family members know how and who to call on, and make the call if any of the following behavior continues for more than two weeks:
- Inability to resume normal classroom assignments and activities
- High levels of emotional response, such as continued crying and intense sadness
- Depression or appearing withdrawn and non-communicative
- Expression of violent or depressed feelings in “dark” drawings or writings
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Lack of attention to personal appearance
- Drug or alcohol abuse
Deployment can be an opportunity for you and your teen to better understand each other. By keeping an open dialogue and helping your teen learn to manage stress, you can ensure your deployment transition is successful.
Resources, benefits and support services for Helping Teens Deal With Deployment
BENEFITS & SUPPORT SERVICES FOR HELPING TEENS DEAL WITH DEPLOYMENT
ARTICLES AND EXTERNAL RESOURCES
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