Many families face the challenge of a parent who travels for work, and you may be wondering how you can best stay connected to your loved one while he or she is away. Military families, in particular, face unique challenges when it comes to staying connected during long periods apart, such as during deployments.
Call, text, email, and video chat options are widely available these days and should be used whenever possible. During long deployments or separations, keep in mind that you will not always be able to stick to a schedule. To avoid disappointments, don’t set a weekly time for communication. Instead, take time at the end of each call to plan for when you can next talk to your loved one. Vary your communication methods, so you aren’t relying solely on one technology that may be unreliable. Have a back-up plan for times when technology prevents the use of one form of communication.
Keep in mind that younger children may not be developmentally ready for long conversations and may be distracted by seeing their own face during video chats. Help them with a simple script, such as asking their parent about his or her day, telling the parent about their own day, and saying “I love you and miss you.” Recognize that not every conversation will be meaningful, but your loved one will appreciate the effort.
Aside from current technologies, don’t forget that there are many other creative methods of communication that allow families to stay connected:
- Snail mail. A handwritten note or letter will make your loved one’s day brighter.
- Record a video message for the children to watch when they are missing their parent.
- Record the parent reading a favorite bedtime story.
- Share photos of what’s happening in your daily life.
- Trace a photo of the parent’s hand. Hang it on the refrigerator, so your child can high-five it when something good happens.
- Keep a journal of life’s little moments to share stories about a child’s successes or funny things he or she has done or said.
- Send a care package of special things. Let the children be involved in what is sent, and be sure to ask the other parent how he or she enjoyed the package.
Ehmke, R., & Ehmke, R. (n.d.). Staying close during deployment. New York: Child Mind Institute. Retrieved August 2017 from https://childmind.org/article/staying-close-during-deployment