Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, your federal medical school,
Bethesda, Maryland • www. usuhs.mil
Continued on reverse side
Helping Children CopeDuring Deployment
This fact sheet contains useful informationfor you — parents and family caregivers — tohelp children cope during a parents’ deployment.Experts in military medicine and family traumawho understand the impact of deployment onfamilies have written this fact sheet. It is in theform of commonly asked questions followed by their responses. It is important to remember thatwhile deployments are stressful, they also provideopportunities for families to grow closer and stronger.The best way to help children cope is to 1) reassurethem that the
deployed parent is
to do his/her job; 2) explain to children that
they, too, have a job
aspart of the family at home who supports our troopsand our nation; and, 3) communicate in ways thatchildren can understand according to their age (seesidebar on page 2:
Communicating with Childrenduring Deployment
Commonly Asked Questions from ParentsAbout Deployment
Q. What is the best way to prepare children for deployment?
. Parents must be honest, and focus on their children’ssafety, security and continuity of routine. If deploymentwill change the child’s lifestyle such as moving, living withgrandparents, or changing childcare, school or community activities, the child needs to hear of these things in advance.
Q. How else can we reassure our children about adeployment?
. First, parents should digest the information
they communicate it to children so they can deliver it in a calmand reassuring manner. Second, children worry about the
of the deployed parent. It is important to let childrenknow that the deployed parent is
to do their job.Third, it is important to communicate in a way that yourchild will understand based on their age.
Q. How do children signal their distress?
. Stress affects children like it does adults. Childrenmay complain of headaches, stomach distress and sleepdisturbances. They may display moodiness, irritability,low energy, and have more dramatic reactions to minorsituations such as stubbing a toe. It can be difﬁcultsometimes to sort out normal distress and more seriousproblems. If in doubt, seek medical advice.
Q. Are there ways to reduce stress on childrenduring the separation?
. Yes, one very positive way is emphasize to your childrenthat they have a job that is as REAL as that of the deployedparent. Stress is often the result of feeling helpless or unsureor unclear about a new role or situation. It is important toreinforce that doing well in school, helping out at home andbeing cooperative is a skill set that is part of
job, onethat is valued and unique to their being a military child.When children do their job they help support their parent’smission.
Q. How should school problems be handled?
A. If there is concern about a child’s behavior at home,parents should notify the school. Many parents may bereluctant to call attention to their child by warning schoolofﬁcials, but it is important for the school to be alert toany unusual symptoms. If a child has had psychiatricissues before the deployment they are more likely to haveproblems as a result of the deployment. It is important totalk to your child about any acting out, and get them todiscuss their feelings and issues. Your child’s school or yourprimary care doctor can arrange for counseling services.
General Tips for Communicating with Childrenof All Ages
Be careful about sharing your emotions with children.Some parents share too much (losing control in frontof kids) or share too little (no emotion or giving the