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Staying Connected When a Military Spouse & Parent is Away
Kids’ Turn San Diego honors all military families and thanks you for your service!
Members and families of the United States military commit to serving our country, work long hours, and experience many moves and deployments. Whether this is your first time away, or your 10th, being away from home can put a strain on the family. Staying connected while away doesn’t have to be stressful!
In honor of Veteran’s Day and the Month of Military Family Appreciation, Kids’ Turn San Diego encourages all families to stay connected during times of separation. Here are some suggestions:
1. Create a realistic communication plan
Military service orders are sometimes vague, and the member will not know if communication via phone, text or internet will be possible. Instead of worrying about the details, create a plan with those at home for how they will communicate with the family member who is away.
Schedule a weekly family meeting time where each family member contributes to the Family Journal, a Family Memory Book, a Family Memory Box or a Family Poster. Whatever you choose, during your family meetings, each family member contributes by writing a note, drawing or adding a picture or tape/glue/place something about the week into the journal, book, box or poster.
This may seem silly but wait until your service member returns home! They will get to see everything they missed while away. What a great way to watch your children grow up and learn about all their adventures!
2. Have fun documenting memories and developmental milestones
Find a jar and decorate it with your children or by yourself if your children are too young. Then, whenever something exciting happens, write it down or have your children write it down or draw a picture. You can also slip pictures, crafts, and other items to share in your jar. Items in the jar could be shared during calls and then presented to the service member when they return home. Remind yourself and your children, your service member will need time to transition back into the family. Presenting the jar so they can check it out any time they are ready is a great way to help everyone transition back together.
3. Use the internet or your smart phone to stay connected
Create a shared iCloud account, Vimeo account or google drive where you can upload recorded videos and pictures. Document first walks, first words, and every moment that you love about your child. We all do this so why not share it! Uploading is easy, free, and can be quickly done through a smart phone or computer. As parents, we all take the pictures and save them to our phones. Take the extra step and share them on a shared drive or account so your service member gets to enjoy each video and picture as they are happening and when they are able to view them.
4. Write letters to stay connected
Sending letters is another way to keep in touch! If your little ones aren’t ready to write yet, you can have them draw pictures to mail. The great thing about snail mail is that you’ll have a physical reminder of each other’s love to hold onto!
Short notes or letters can be written by everyone, even the service member. Mail may be slow and could take a month to arrive, but so what! A written letter is a treasure, no matter when it arrives. Save them all! Children will feel important and loved when their parent returns home and pulls out all their letters and then when children show you all your letters, you’ll feel important and loved too. Being away doesn’t have to mean that you miss your children growing up, it just means you participate differently.
5. Keep relationships strong
For military families, it’s not just about the kids. The parents matter too! Stay connected with your spouse in creative ways. For example, the spouse at home could play your wedding song every month on the day you got married or look at your wedding pictures and then share the memory with their spouse during a phone call or text or write the memory in their Thinking About You Book (which could be a spiral notebook or composition book or a special journal you choose). For the spouse who is away, figure out something you’re able to do monthly on your wedding date and then tell your spouse about it during calls, emails, texts or in your Thinking About you Book. If you’re able to keep a Thinking About Your Book or Journal, great, if not, find a different way to share, even if that means sharing when you get home.
Since we know communication can be challenging when a service member is away, brainstorm creative ways to stay connected. Here’s another idea to try. Everyone sees the sky at night so maybe look at the stars on the same date each month and know that your spouse is also looking. This could bring comfort and connection.