The toddler years can be hard for any parent, but add a deployment in there, and it may feel like your life has been wholly tossed upside down.
If as an adult, you find deployments hard and stressful, imagine on those little ones that cannot fully comprehend why their parent is gone. It is a perfect recipe for stress.
I know what it is like, I currently have a two-year-old and a deployed spouse.
Knowing that you are the only one there to change diapers, to cook and clean all the while watching the kid/s. The fact that no one is coming home later tonight to give you those ten blissful moments in the shower.
That feeling of how am I going to survive this, or even more simply how will I survive today? Normal. Don’t worry. You will survive simply because you have to. That toddler that is driving you nuts, that doesn’t understand why mommy or daddy is gone needs you. That is the driving force behind the best motivation to keep going.
As hard as all of this is on us, we must stay grounded. I learned that one of the most important things for me this deployment other than keeping my sanity was to keep somehow my son connected to my husband.
Here are some things that have worked for us:
1. Facetime/Skype- There is nothing more satisfying and heartwrenching as seeing your child’s face light up when they see their parent on the screen. It takes all of me to not sob uncontrollably. The joy they get out of those few and treasured ‘face to face’ calls are amazing. Some have more chances of these than others, but be sure to stress to your spouse how important and significant this is for your child’s emotional connection to them.
2. Videos – Afraid they are missing something amazing in your child’s life? Record it and send it via email. It may not be the same as having them there, but they will at least not miss those precious moments.
3. Making countdown boards – Sure dates can change, as we know, nothing is ever set in stone with the military. But having a form of a countdown for your child can get them to grasp the fact that the parent is indeed coming back home. Using a jar with marbles is a great visual for them to use and understand.
4. Books – There are many books out there for kids on deployments. There are also many books out there for spouses to read. I love ” I love you near and far.”
5. Recordable books – If your spouse is usually the one to read your child books, then this is a great thing to have. They can record themselves reading the book, and your toddler can still have mommy/daddy reading to them every night. This is one of my favorites.
6. Recordable bears – This is kind of like the book, but this has a more personal aspect to it. A cute message for your child, or a simple I love you recorded in their voice. Great way for the toddler to feel connected to their parent. This is the one we have.
At the end of the day, the goal is simple, keep your sanity as much as possible and help your child feel connected to their parent as much as possible during such a difficult time.
If you have any more tips, please comment below. I love to hear what everyone else does!