When dad's at war: while their parents are deployed overseas, kids at home learn to cope with the uncertainty.(Cover story): An article from: Junior Scholastic
- Preschoolers (3-6 years) might think their parent was deployed because "I was bad." They may react with toileting issues, thumb sucking, sleep problems, clinginess, and separation anxiety. They may also be touchy, depressed, aggressive, or complain about aches and pains.
- Very often, preschool and school-age children also worry about the safety of the parent at home. (One deployed Dad says that his Oldest Son assumed the role of the provider of safety. He assumed the father figure role during his time away from home.)
- School age children (6-12 years) may perform more poorly in school. They may become moody, aggressive, or whiny. They may get stomachaches, headaches, etc.
- Teens may become angry and act out. They can also withdraw or act like they don't care about things. Adolescents may also not like new family roles and responsibilities after the deployed parent returns home.
Tearfulness, sadness, talking about things that scare them
Anger toward people, picking on minority groups
Getting irritated and fighting with others
Changes in sleep patterns, trouble sleeping
More clinging behaviors at home, not wanting to go to school
Physical complaints (stomachaches, etc.)
- Provide extra attention, care, and physical closeness.
- Understand that they may be angry (and perhaps rightly so).
- Limit exposure to news, especially when news repeats and is violent. Younger children should be shielded from this kind of news as much as possible. It will needlessly increase their worry of events they don't understand.
- Respect your child's timing and ways of coping. Very young children may want to close their eyes or just go out and play. Don't confront children or force them to talk about things when they don't want to.
- Keep an open door for the absent parent or loved one. Talk with him or her as often as possible, and for important dates like birthdays, holidays, etc. Talk about what it will be like when that person returns and what it would be like if they were here now. This is really important for younger children who may not understand why their loved one is not here.
- Help your children develop and enjoy fun activities. Distraction can make time go by faster.
- Stick to routines and plan for upcoming events.
- Suggest positive and creative ways of coping for older children and adolescents (create scrapbooks and videos, write letters, take photos).
- Discuss things. Let kids know they can talk about how they feel. Accept how they feel and don't tell them they should not feel that way.
- Tell kids their feelings are normal. Be prepared to tell them many times.