Parenting has challenges at every stage of life. When a son or daughter is a member of the military, one of those challenges might include deployment. Even if you’ve had a deployed spouse, the terrain of being the parent of a deployed service member is unfamiliar.
A few tips from Julie LaBelle, military wife and mom of a Marine, for parents of deployed service members:
- Support your son or daughter’s decision to serve. As the parent of an adult, your role is supportive and–only when asked—advisory.
- If your deployed son or daughter is married, stay in communication with his or her spouse as well. Defer to your son- or daughter-in-law and be supportive of the family during deployment.
- Connect as much as possible but keep your messages positive. Fill them in on what’s going on, and use discretion when sharing negative news.
- When family gatherings happen, let them know they are missed without making them feel they are missing out.
- Send letters, pictures, and care packages occasionally. Send items that are practical as well as treats. Include healthy snacks.
- Stay informed about your deployed son or daughter, but don’t obsess over the latest news, or lack thereof.
- Engage in activities you enjoy. Surround yourself with hobbies and interests. Stay healthy and exercise frequently.
- Journal or find a personal or private way to communicate your thoughts.
- Develop your own support network. If you can, find another parent who’s been there and can guide you. Or find someone with whom you can share a common bond.
- Consider joining an organization like Blue Star Mothers of America, a group that connects the parents of service members with chapters all over the nation.
Julie LaBelle endured time apart from her husband, Ed, and son, Alex, who each deployed as Marines. She shares her deployment experience as a coauthor of Stories Around the Table: Laughter, Wisdom, and Strength in Military Life and author of My Dad’s Deployment: A Deployment and Reunion Activity Book for Young Children.