How To Support A Military Family Facing Deployment
Military deployment is tough on families. Over the years, research has shown that deployment is linked to poor mental health, behavioral problems in children, increased divorced rates, and higher suicide rates. And while additional studies have shown that families are often able to rebound once the service member returns and becomes reintegrated into family life, it doesn’t negate the hardships that are experienced while they’re away. If you happen to know a military family and are wondering what you can do to help as the United States prepares to deploy some 3,000 troops to the Middle East, continue reading.
Offer to do school drop-offs or pick-ups Occasionally
Families rely upon systems and routines to keep the household afloat. When one parent is removed from the equation due to deployment, it can throw a family’s entire routine off, as it is now up to one parent to keep the entire household running smoothly. One way that you can help to take a load off their shoulders is by offering to occasionally drop the kids off to school in the morning or pick them up in the afternoons.
Offer to have their groceries delivered
Many major grocery stores now offer home delivery options. Filling up a digital car full of items you know that the family could use and having them delivered directly to their doorstep is a gesture that will save them both time and money.
Offer to cook a meal
Few things say “I’m thinking of you” like a nice home-cooked meal. In addition to warming the hearts of the meal recipients, you’ll also be taking a task off of an already busy family’s to-do list.
Stop by for a visit
When one member of the family is suddenly gone, it can feel lonely for those who are left waiting for their return. You can add a little joy by stopping by for a movie night, game night, or just to say hello. Of course, be sure to call ahead and ask if it’s okay.
Offer to babysit
It can be really tough to run errands or take care of certain household tasks with one or multiple children in tow; however, that is the reality for many families when one parent is deployed. You can lend a helping hand by offering to watch the kids for a few hours while the remaining parent catches up on tasks or enjoys some much-needed alone time.
Be a listening ear
The stresses of deployment can bring an array of mixed emotions to families, so a listening ear is always appreciated. Listen to their frustrations and fears without interrupting. Try not to compare what they’re going through to something that similar that you have have been through. Unless you’ve been in their shoes, you’ll never truly understand their plight. Choose your words wisely.
While you’re there to be a listening ear, allow the family to steer the conversation as it relates to the deployment. Now is not the time to play therapist or try to get into their heads. If the family feels comfortable enough to open up about their concerns or emotions concerning the deployment, they will bring it up first.
There’s nothing like facing a challenge and having a Negative Nancy come along to ruffle your feathers, trigger anxiety and cause you to worry about things that never even crossed your mind with their doom and gloom comments and their nervous energy. Try to remain optimistic and positive during your interactions.
Send a care package
Another great idea is to put together a care package for the deployed service member. Snacks, condiments, toiletries, games, and books are all useful items to include.
Spend special days together
When holidays or birthdays come up and a loved one is still deployed, it can be hard to feel like celebrating. Help make special occasions feel just as special by planning a small gathering or party to mark milestones.